Historically, protein powders have been most commonly associated with young men looking to bulk up in an effort to reveal their inner Arnold. But protein powders are not just for insecure guys. They’re a good idea for anyone looking to achieve a leaner, stronger physique. And they can be particularly beneficial for women, who typically get less protein in their everyday diet than men do and often suffer from protein deficiencies (1).
There are so many protein powders for women on the market today that sifting through them all is a daunting task. But not to worry. We’ve done the research for you and below is our list of the 10 best protein powders for women.
1. Gym Vixen Whey
Gym Vixen Whey (also known as Gym Vixen Sexy Whey) is 100% pure whey isolate which makes it the best kind of protein powder there is for building lean muscle mass. Each serving contains 24 grams of whey protein, plenty of digestive enzymes and a low 96 calories. There is zero sugar, zero saturated fat and zero carbs. That means it’s right up your alley if you’re on a low carb keto diet.
You might be surprised when you taste it that it contains zero sugar. But it’s true. That agreeable taste is actually achieved by using sucralose, natural cocoa powder and various natural and artificial flavorings. If your goal is to build a lean, strong physique Gym Vixen Whey will give you the best chance to do so. Not for vegans.
2. Nature’s Bounty Complete Protein & Vitamin
Nature’s Bounty Complete Protein & Vitamin formula is designed to provide you with a more complete nutrient package than you’ll get with most other protein powders. There’s vitamins C, D, B1, B2, B6 and B12 as well as folic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium and the list goes on and on. There’s also probiotics and digestive enzymes which can help alleviate digestive disorders (2).
Each serving provides 15 grams of whey protein, which wisely takes into account that a 130 pound woman does not require as much protein as a 200 pound man. You’ll have to look far and wide to find a more well-rounded protein supplement and the cherry on the cake is that the flavor is surprisingly agreeable. Nature’s Bounty has a well-deserved reputation for producing high quality vitamin and mineral supplements and they put all of that expertise to work here.
3. FitMiss Delight Protein Powder
FitMiss Delight is an all-in-one protein powder for women that provides a safe and effective way to lose weight, gain muscle and recover quickly following strenuous workouts. This is whey protein so it’s not for vegans but for everyone else it’s an outstanding blend of the various nutrients an active woman needs to lose fat and replace it with lean, durable muscle.
There’s plenty of digestive enzymes to promote absorption, vitamins and minerals to provide well rounded nutrition and just enough fiber to keep things moving. It’s also gluten free and each serving contains only a single gram of sugar. So it’s not going to throw your blood glucose levels out of whack.
4. ARIA Women’s Wellness Protein Vanilla
Each serving of Aria Women’s Wellness Protein contains 15 grams of a soy/whey protein blend. It provides a wide ranging amino acid profile which serves all your muscle building needs. There’s zero cholesterol, zero saturated fat and a scant 5 grams of carbohydrates, which is what you want to see if you’re on a low carb diet.
Aria blends well with whatever beverage you want to use as a base with very little of the chalkiness that plagues some lower-quality protein powders. And the taste is not bad. Which, if we’re being real, is about the best you can say of a protein powder. If you need any more reason to consider Aria Women’s Wellness protein powder consider that it’s among the most affordable high quality powders out there.
5. Her Natural Whey Protein Powder
Her Natural Whey provides a robust 20 grams of whey protein in every serving. It’s also low in calories, low in fat with just 2 grams and has just 3 grams of carbs so it’s just right for low carb dieters. There’s a smattering of vitamins and minerals as well but the star here is the 20 grams of natural whey protein isolates and peptides.
That’s more than you’ll get in most other women’s protein powders and is intended to meet the needs of a new generation of women intent on achieving a higher degree of overall fitness. Her Natural Whey is designed specifically to help you build lean muscle mass. And to that end it will hold up its side of the bargain. Now all you have to do is get out there and do the work.
6. Six Star 100% Whey Protein for Her
Each serving of Six Star Whey Protein for Her contains 16 grams of pure whey protein designed to help you achieve faster recovery from your workouts and to build lean, durable muscle. Each serving contains only 90 calories so it’s not going to wind up sitting around your waist as long as you hit the gym.
There’s a generous probiotic profile to enhance bioavailability while on the opposite end of the spectrum there’s almost no sugar and zero saturated fats. Six Star is 100% gluten free and produced in the USA to rigorous quality control standards. With plenty of branched chain amino acids to aid in muscle building it’s a solid choice to complement your workouts.
7. Tone It Up Organic Protein Powder for Women
With zero saturated fat, zero trans fat, zero carbs and zero sugar along with 15 grams of vegan-friendly plant based protein Tone It Up Organic Protein Powder for Women is focused on helping the vegan woman achieve the same degree of lean muscle mass as her non-vegan counterparts. Finding an effective vegan friendly protein powder isn’t easy.
Many are laden with all kinds of counterproductive additives and genetically modified organisms in an attempt to make them taste better or work more effectively. Tone It Up however is not only vegan it’s also gluten free, Kosher and contains zero GMOs. This is serious protein powder for women in serious pursuit of better overall health.
8. Jamie Eason Signature Series Whey Protein Isolate
If you’re finding that the amount of protein you’re getting from most women’s protein powders is not enough to keep up with your needs Jamie Eason Signature Series should be on your shopping list. Each serving provides 25 grams of pure whey protein isolate that gets right to work repairing damaged muscle tissue in the wake of a vigorous workout and building new, leaner, more powerful muscle tissue in its place.
There’s a modest 150 calories per serving, zero trans fats and only 3 grams of sugar. It’s also low in cholesterol and contains only 6 grams of carbohydrates, so it won’t disrupt your low carb diet.
9. Her Whey Ultimate Whey Protein Isolate
Her Whey Ultimate Whey Protein Isolate provides a best in class 28 grams of whey protein isolate that’s rich in BCAAs. Branched chain amino acids are proven to speed up recovery from strenuous workouts and to build lean, powerful muscle.
Whey protein also has the added benefit of helping reduce blood lipids (3), which provides a range of secondary health benefits. Each serving provides 5 grams of the aforementioned BCAAs along with vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, calcium, zinc, iron and selenium and folic acid. It’s also low in carbs, low in fats and contains zero sugar. If you’re looking for a great way to add lean, powerful muscle here it is.
10. Vega One Organic All-in-One Shake French Vanilla
The final item on our list of protein powders for women is this one from Vega One Organic. Each serving of their All-in-One shake powder is comprised of 20 grams of plant based protein derived from peas, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. It’s certified free of genetically modified organisms, contains zero gluten and is completely devoid of all dairy and soy. This is a high potency vegan-friendly protein powder that also provides 8 essential vitamins and minerals and just happens to taste pretty good as well.
What are the Benefits of Protein Powder for Women?
The potential benefits of protein powder for women are many and the potential negative side effects few (more on that later). The one caveat that always accompanies protein powder use, however, is that it must be accompanied by an appropriate amount of exercise. That said, here are just some of the potential benefits:
- Increased muscle growth – This is the number 1 reason both women and men use protein powder. Those who don’t experience muscle growth while using protein powders are typically those who do not engage in vigorous resistance training. At the same time if you engage in regular resistance training such as weight lifting and you don’t increase the amount of protein you consume your results will also be disappointing.
- Reduced body fat – A study (4) published by the National Center for Biotechnology Research found that whey protein supplementation decreases body fat without having a similarly negative effect on muscle mass. The study also strongly suggested that taking a protein shake after strenuous resistance training helps to build fat free mass better than carbs or any other dietary mechanism. Increasing protein intake and decreasing carbohydrate intake, while increasing the amount of exercise one does leads to reduction in adipose tissue (fat) and a leaner, more muscular body.
- Faster recovery – If you’ve pushed your muscles to failure during strength training it’s important that you give them the nutrients they need to rebuild. And the faster the better. Protein shakes are a great way to speed up the recovery of muscles after a workout and to help build larger, stronger, leaner muscle tissue in place of the damaged tissue.
- Less muscle loss from dieting – Some women combine protein shakes with food restrictions as a way to lose weight and build lean muscle mass. The good news is it works. The even better news is that even if you are not working out, using protein powder while dieting can help prevent the loss of muscle mass that often accompanies food restrictive diets.
- Increased metabolism – Supplemental protein combined with exercise can help increase the amount of lean muscle in your body and decrease the amount of fat. Since muscle tissue exhibits robust vasculature it requires your body to increase its metabolic rate to keep it properly nourished. Fat on the other hand is essentially inert and so has no discernable impact on your metabolism.
- Increased protein synthesis – Having a protein shake in the hours immediately after a strenuous workout helps to elevate the process of protein synthesis (5). This in turn helps the body repair damaged muscles. Remember, protein is the foundation of muscle growth. In the hours after a workout your muscles are crying out for protein to help them recover. Give it to them.
- Increase protein intake – On average women take in slightly less protein than men. As such supplemental protein, with or without exercise, may be necessary for maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your muscles strong and vital as you age (6). If you exercise regularly, regardless of your age, you should be consuming more protein than the average woman anyway. Protein powders can provide it.
How to Pick the Best Protein Powder?
While picking the right protein powder isn’t rocket science there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before you take the plunge. For instance, if you are vegan or vegetarian you’ll want to steer clear of whey or casein protein powders as they are derived from dairy products. Conversely, if you are not restricted by what you can eat and are interested in sculpting a muscular physique whey and casein are the best choices for that.
Beyond that, the primary considerations are things like taste, cost and how well a particular powder mixes with your chosen liquid. Some mix well. Others can be very gritty, regardless of how long you leave them in the blender. Some cost considerably more than others. But beware, discount protein powders often contain a ton of sugar and/or salt to make them taste better and are commonly derived from genetically modified sources.
As for taste, well, you don’t drink protein shakes for the taste. You drink them because they’ll help you achieve a higher level of overall health and perhaps achieve that highly sculpted body you’ve always desired. If your protein shake also happens to taste good that’s just a bonus.
What are the Different Types of Protein Powder?
Manufacturers glean the protein they use in their powders from a variety of different sources. Many are vegan and vegetarian friendly while others are derived from dairy products. Whatever your particular dietary needs though there’s a protein powder to fit the bill.
- Whey Protein – Whey protein is often considered the best choice for weight loss and body sculpting because it’s a complete protein, which means it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids. It’s great for building lean muscle, reducing body fat and helping you recover faster from strenuous workouts.
- Casein Protein – Like whey, casein protein is derived from dairy. Also like whey it is considered a complete protein. Although it is not considered particularly fast acting it is prized for its ability to help you build lean muscle mass.
- Soy protein – Of all the various plant proteins soy is the only “complete” protein. As such it’s great for building muscle mass and aiding in recovery. If there’s a downside to soy protein powders it’s that they are sometimes genetically modified, which isn’t going to sit well with many vegans (7).
- Pea protein – Pea protein is a popular choice for manufacturers because it’s less expensive than some other forms of protein. It’s not a complete protein however, and pea protein powder has a reputation for being a bit gritty.
- Rice Protein – Rice protein is a good source of B vitamins and fiber. It’s also a good choice for people who are food sensitive. It is not a complete protein but it does an above average job of helping to build muscle mass (8), so it’s popular with food sensitive bodybuilders.
- Egg Protein – Egg protein is an outstanding source of supplemental protein. Egg whites are almost all protein while the other parts of the egg are rich in a variety of nutrients. Egg protein is also a complete protein which makes it an excellent choice for bodybuilders or any woman seeking a leaner, stronger body. It is also rich in branched chain amino acids that drive muscle growth.
- Hemp Protein – While hemp protein is derived from the same family of plants that marijuana is derived from there is no THC in hemp. So you’re not going to cop a buzz by drinking a hemp protein shake. You will, however, cop some iron, fiber and potassium along with your protein.
Will Protein Powder Just Make You Fat?
There’s a fair amount of concern out there – not all of it unfounded – that drinking protein powder shakes won’t do much except bulk you up and make you fat. The fact is however, this shouldn’t be a concern as long as you combine your protein shakes with a robust exercise regimen. Protein shakes by themselves won’t build muscle or help you lose weight. It doesn’t work that way.
The way it works is that you engage in strenuous exercise that burns calories and stresses your muscles. The burning of calories helps you lose weight and then protein from your shake moves in and helps rebuild your damaged muscles bigger and stronger than they were before.
Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Protein Powder?
Protein powder is a fairly benign product with a lot of potential upside and not a lot of downside. The most common concern is that you make sure your exercise routine is making efficient and effective use of the protein powder you’re ingesting. If you’re taking in more than your body is using you’re going to start putting on weight, and not the good kind of weight. Beyond that there is some evidence protein powder may:
- Increase insulin resistance – Studies have suggested (9) that whey protein may increase the body’s natural insulin resistance to potentially unhealthy levels. Other studies contradict these findings. But it’s a potential issue you should be aware of.
- Put stress on your kidneys – This notion has been banging around gyms for decades but it doesn’t seem to have much basis in fact. One study from 2011 conducted on rats suggested there may be something to the kidney/protein powder scare (10). But it also suggested that resistance training can counteract any negative effects from excessive protein intake.
The Bottom Line
While the exact type of protein powder you choose will depend on your specific dietary requirements (if any) as well as what you hope to achieve by consuming it, (as well as how much you are willing to spend) most women will benefit from some type of protein powder supplementation.
The 10 best protein powders for women on our list represent the crème de la crème of current protein powders and are sure to provide you with the high quality, bioavailable protein you need to attain and maintain a higher level of overall health. Just remember that consuming large amounts of protein powder without exercising isn’t likely to do anything but deposit weight around your midsection.