Nutrition

The Complete Guide To Protein For Women

Can women benefit from protein supplementation? Yes! Do women have different nutritional needs to men? Yes! But most of the information out there about protein and nutrition is geared towards men, and more specifically men who want to build muscle and ‘bulk up’.

Not only is the female body different, but most women’s workout and weight loss goals are likely different as well. This IdealFit complete guide to protein for women is specifically designed so you don’t have to trawl through the Internet to find out what’s best for you and your body…

Why Women Need Protein

Protein is one of the most important parts of all of our diets, but the majority of people don’t fully understand why, or even how much protein we need each day. As a Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, I have helped countless women reach their health and fitness goals by improving the way they eat. I’ve separated this guide into four simple sections so you can find everything you need to know about protein:

  1. Are You Getting Enough Protein?
  2. Myths Uncovered: Protein Intake and Women
  3. Why You Need More Protein
  4. How To Get More Protein In Your Diet

woman with toned abs and roll mat holding idealfit shaker half-filled with idealfit whey protein isolate for women

1. Are You Getting Enough Protein?

If there’s one thing we constantly hear about, it’s getting enough water. Every day I see more and more advice about how much water we should be consuming every day, whether for weight loss or for general health or to help us focus better at work. More and more of us are understanding the importance of staying hydrated and chances are – if you’re serious about staying fit and healthy – you’re probably on top of your water intake, which is great!

But do you ever hear people talk about getting enough protein in the same way? I definitely don’t. And yet getting enough protein is just as important as getting enough water, especially for women who live healthy, active lifestyles.

Important to note here: active doesn’t have to mean “bodybuilder” or “marathon runner”. Active can mean a busy mum who runs around with the kids, as much as someone who hits the gym 2-3 times a week, or even just someone who lives a full and action-packed lifestyle!

Protein in all of these cases is essential fuel for our bodies when we are active and even more so when working towards a fitness goal. So, how do you know if you’re getting enough protein in your diet? Are there clear signs or ways of measuring your daily protein intake?

Signs you might not be getting enough protein

Craving sugary foods

Sugar cravings can seem like a normal part of everyday life, but did you know that they could be caused by a lack of protein? Protein plays an important role in keeping your blood sugar stable and a protein deficit can cause your blood sugar to spike, tricking your body into thinking it needs sugar NOW and this craving – often paired with a feeling of fatigue or tiredness – can leave us reaching for a sweet treat to perk us up.

When our sugar levels spike or slump, our bodies crave high-sugar foods like chocolate, cupcakes and sweets. Consuming more protein can help stop these sugar fluctuations and their resultant sugar cravings in their tracks. Get enough protein in your diet throughout the day and your blood sugar levels will be more stable; as well as this, you might find yourself craving the sweet stuff less often than before.

You’re stressed

Did you know that when your body is stressed, it released hormones which can actually break down your muscle tissues? Crazy, right?! It’s no wonder that stress makes us feel so terrible and leaves us feeling emotionally and physically drained. And I’m not just referring to frustrations at work, screaming kids, traffic jams or the whole of Christmas.

Exercise also counts as physical stress on the body. Believe it or not, a good workout at the gym causes the same stress hormones to be released. Exercise is undoubtedly good for you, but it does make physical demands on your body, particularly if you push it further and further each time.

To stay healthy and maximize the effects of exercise, then, we need to ensure we are consuming enough protein to support recovery post-workout. Consuming enough protein can also have a positive impact on your stress levels and make you feel less anxious overall.

You want to lose weight

We all want to look and feel our very best and many us might be thinking about losing a couple of pounds from time-to-time. But did you know that when you drop calories in an attempt to lose weight you can also accidentally reduce your muscle mass too?

Have you ever heard the term “skinny-fat”? It’s when someone looks thin but has no muscle tone or definition. They aren’t overweight, but they are also not fit or particularly healthy. ‘Skinny-fat’ happens when you cut calories and don’t get enough protein! When you reduce your caloric intake, you should actually increase your protein intake to ensure that you can maintain the lean muscle mass that makes your body look it’s very best.

One thing you don’t have to worry about is ‘bulking up’. Trust me, as a woman, it’s not something you need to think about. Increasing your protein intake will make you look more toned and lean; certainly not bulky! Another great benefit of getting more protein in your diet? Eating more protein will actually make cutting calories even easier by making you feel more full. Protein fills you up better than anything else, so you might find yourself craving fattening foods less often.

You’re tired

If you find yourself feeling exhausted after a perfectly normal day or after finishing a workout, a protein deficit could be the culprit. This is because protein fuels your depleted muscles: your body doesn’t just use carbs for energy, it also uses protein and fat, and protein also helps to rebuild your muscles. When you work out – or simply live your everyday life! – you break down muscle fibres, and your body uses protein to repair those fibres and build them back up.

Aging can also be a factor: as you grow older, you may actually need more protein than you did as a younger woman. And that goes double for women who stay active as they get older! (Of course, if you’re suffering from chronic unexplained fatigue, you should see your doctor first).

Nearly all of us suffer from some daily stress, and if you do tough workouts as well, you’re further stressing your body with exercise. And who knew that you might be able to curb sweet cravings with more protein?! Upping your daily protein intake might make it easier to resist the can of Coke that’s been calling to you from the drive-thru, or the half jam sandwich that your kid left behind at lunch. Plus, protein can help you get the toned body you want and even give you more energy!

So why do so many women neglect their protein needs? The answer is simple, really: women aren’t informed enough about just how important protein is in their diets. Most of us need to inform ourselves about what we active women really need in our diets.

Now, let’s take a look at some harmful myths about protein that convince women they shouldn’t be consuming as much of it as they should.

2. Myths Uncovered: Protein and Women

Okay, ladies, be honest: how many of you flinch slightly as soon as you’re told to eat more of anything? That’s what I thought. As women, we want to stay lean and slim, and we’re conditioned to believe that consuming more of anything could make us put weight on. Isn’t salad the way to go when you want a lean body?

Most protein myths revolve around this mistaken belief that a woman’s diet should be all about whittling down the calories until there’s barely anything left. But there are even more myths about protein out there. We’ve uncovered the top myths about protein to help you uncover the truth.

Myth Number 1: Taking protein will make me bulk up (like a man)!

By far the biggest myth out there about taking protein supplements is that they will quickly bulk you up to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1970! And yet, let me tell you girls particularly: just adding more protein to your diet will not make you look like a male bodybuilder. Just because male bodybuilders love protein doesn’t mean that protein will make you, a woman with totally different hormones, bulk up like one!

Despite our differing body compositions, men and women metabolise protein similarly. Protein is a macronutrient that everybody needs to build and maintain lean muscle. And lean muscle is what gives you the sleek, toned (and feminine) body you want. In all honesty, taking male hormones, not just protein, is what will make women look more like men, and protein just does not contain those!

Myth Number 2: Protein will give me Osteoporosis!

I’ve seen this one all over the internet lately. Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, is a concern for most women as they grow older; after all, women who have passed menopause are the most at risk for this disease. Luckily, getting adequate amounts of calcium and doing weight-bearing workouts, like strength training and jogging, can prevent its onset.

The worry about protein and osteoporosis is that protein might somehow leech calcium from the bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. This protein myth arises from protein increasing the body’s acidity and thus the body utilising calcium from bones to neutralize that acid, when, if anything, calcium strengthens your whole body – your muscles, as well as your bones.

But while we’re on the subject of osteoporosis, women do need to make sure that they get enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent it. A protein supplement made for women like both IdealFit Lean Whey Protein and the Women’s Vegan Protein both include extra calcium and vitamin D to contribute to strong muscles and bones.

Great, so normal protein supplementation can help both our bones and our muscles. How much protein should we get every day and where should we get it from? Let’s cover that next.

Myth Number 3: Protein only comes from meat

This is a big reason why many women don’t get enough protein. Protein only comes from meat, right? and we’ve all seen the reports that say we should be cutting down on meat, right? Well… half right. Gorging on meat – especially red meat – can have adverse health effects, true. It’s not true that protein only comes from meat. It’s true that as far as supermarket sources of protein go, meat, seafood and dairy products, have more protein per ounce than other foods.

Luckily, however, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan protein sources: beans, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, and most nuts, for instance, all are relatively high protein non-meat, and non-dairy food sources. However, these sources also come with fat and carbs that you might not need – or want – to add to your diet. Consequently, if these are your only sources of protein, you ought to plan them into your eating accordingly.

What is the best source of protein then? You’ll find lots of conflicting opinions about this, but the lowest-calorie, easiest to digest, and most concentrated source of protein is probably a protein supplement like IdealFit Whey Protein Isolate Powder. An isolated whey protein source like this is quickly absorbed and adds relatively little to your overall calorie intake: you simply don’t have to add more meat to your diet to get more protein!

Myth Number 4: Too much protein is bad for you

Your body can only utilise a certain amount of protein every day for repairing muscles, building muscles and doing everything else your body does to maintain its health. Just like vitamins, your body cannot absorb, use, or store an unlimited amount of protein. It hasn’t been proven that anything negative happens when you consume more protein than you need. There isn’t even a set “maximum amount” that you should consume per day. A doctor consulted for an article on this subject in Muscle & Fitness said, “Despite the frequently expressed concern about adverse effects of high protein intake, there is no evidence that protein intakes in the range suggested will have adverse effects in healthy individuals”, where the range suggested was much higher than recommended daily amounts.

So, yes, it is possible to consume too much protein. But is this something you should worry about? Probably not. You’re far more likely to be getting too little protein than too much…

protein yoghurt surrounded by strawberries, apple slices, banana slices, blueberries and walnuts

3. Why You Need More Protein

You need protein to sustain your body’s most basic functions. You need protein for your hair, nails and skin. You need protein to fuel your workouts. Protein can also help you to get slim, help you to stay lean, help you to recover more quickly and boost your immune system for better overall health.

Become Slimmer

If anything is going to persuade you to increase your protein intake, this has got to be it! Even if you’re not locked in an epic struggle with 2 or 3 stone to lose, you still might not be 100% satisfied with your body. We’re all looking to improve (including me) and an increased protein diet can help you get the results you’re looking for.

First of all, everything we eat causes something called “thermic effect” as we digest and metabolise it. A food’s thermic effect refers to how much energy your body has to burn to thoroughly break that food down and convert it into energy. Proteins have a higher thermic effect than any other type of food, which means that your body has to work harder to metabolise it than other foods.

Because of the higher thermic effect of protein, you’ll even burn more calories after a high-protein meal than after a lower protein meal. It’s only a slight increase in your metabolism, but it’s another example of how protein can help you drop fat quicker – similar to how you continue to burn calories for a while after a workout.

A recent study in Women’s Health even found that dieters who ate twice the recommended daily amount of protein, while reducing their overall calorie intake, lost more fat than those who didn’t increase their protein intake! The dieters who ate the usual amount of protein only lost 41.8% fat, compared to 70% for those who ate more protein.

Obviously we all want to burn fat and not muscle, so this is a big argument for getting more protein into our diets. Adding protein helps you keep the lean muscle that sculpts a toned figure, while burning the fat that can cover it up.

Stay Lean

We all know that maintaining your ideal weight can be just as difficult as achieving it in the first place. Luckily, upping your protein intake can help you maintain a lean body, not just achieve one. Most importantly, protein maintains the lean muscle that you’ve worked so hard to get. When you’re eating fewer calories, adequate protein will ensure that you keep that hard earned muscle and toned body.

There’s another mechanism, too. When you consume more protein, your body releases more of its own protein, called peptide YY. This protein helps to regulate your appetite, preventing you from overeating. Peptide YY helps people eat the right amount of calories when they need them. So not only does protein help fuel your workouts and lower your body fat, it can also keep you on track with your healthy eating!

Not only can protein maintain your muscles, it also helps you avoid unhealthy foods. How? By helping you feel fuller: remember how protein takes more energy–and therefore more time–to metabolise? That translates to a longer time between eating and feeling hungry again when protein is a part of your meal or snack. And that means that you’ll be less tempted by foods that pack the pounds right back on.

Faster recovery

How important is recovery from your workouts in your everyday life? If you’re anything like me, you’ll say VERY. If you can’t recover quickly from your most challenging workouts, then you can’t be at the top of your game. And you need to be performing at your peak for more than just the gym! What about watching your kids’ football practice, dashing to the supermarket between appointments, or staying alert on the job all day?

If you can recover quickly, you can live your healthy life to the max. And protein is absolutely essential for speedy recovery. Protein aids muscle adaptation during post-workout recovery by:

  • Helping your body repair muscle fibers.
  • Promoting new protein generation in muscles.
  • Restoring depleted energy.

Although hydration should still be your main focus before, during and after a workout, protein further speeds up muscle recovery after a tough workout.

Boosts immunity

We’ve already talked about how your body needs protein to build and repair its muscles. Well, guess what? Your body needs protein to build and repair everything, and that includes your immune system!

The antibodies that help you fend off and destroy bacteria and viruses that make you sick are actually made of protein, so your body needs protein to build and maintain your immunities. Plus, the things you eat to get protein tend to be rich in other immune-boosting nutrients like zinc and magnesium! Nuts like cashews and almonds, for instance, are full of these vitamins and minerals, so the next time you’re snacking on trail mix, remember that you’re getting protein, zinc and magnesium all at once.

The amino acids in complete proteins (more on those later!) help boost your immune system by strengthening your cells against infection from bacteria and viruses. Interestingly, the best protein for enhancing your immunity isn’t meat or fish: it’s whey protein, the protein source you tend to find in protein supplements like the IdealFit Whey Protein range.

In summary, then. you need protein to banish fat, keep and build your sleek lean muscles, recover from your workouts and to keep your immune system running strong. There are serious benefits to adding more protein to your diet, especially high-quality whey protein.

4. How To Get More Protein In Your Diet

Why do women often not get enough protein? Of course some of the reasons are listed in the “myths” above. But another reason is that we all have a preconceived idea of what a “healthy” diet is, and that idea often excludes the best sources of protein. When was the last time you thought of a steak or a protein shake with peanut butter as diet food?

Well, I have some nutrition news for you. Juicy steaks and peanut butter smoothies can fit right into your healthy lifestyle and help you feel great and look lean. Let’s take a look at the kind of protein you need and why.

Remember how I mentioned “complete proteins” earlier? There are actually two kinds of proteins: complete and incomplete. A complete protein contains all of the amino acids your body needs, whereas an incomplete one doesn’t. To build and repair muscles and other tissues, your body needs all of those amino acids, not just some of them.

Where to get complete proteins

Animal sources of protein such as meat, fish and dairy are all complete proteins, while many vegetarian protein sources like beans, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins. This means that these incomplete proteins have to be paired with other protein sources to become complete. For instance, black beans and brown rice, or peanut butter and whole wheat bread. Sounds great, but it could mean adding a lot of carbs to your diet, which isn’t the best option for everyone.

In short: animal proteins are already complete and many vegetarian proteins aren’t. That’s why a lot of athletes rely on whey protein to supplement their diets. They want to get plenty of complete proteins without the added carbs that come from vegetarian proteins!

Whey protein is sourced from dairy, which makes it a complete protein. High-quality whey protein isolates like those in IdealLean Protein Powders are complete proteins that can be easily added to your day without having drastically up your food intake.  Speaking of which… let’s talk about exactly how much protein you need every day, based on your weight and your lifestyle.

How much protein do you need?

Most sources instruct you to calculate your protein needs by body weight, like in this simple chart.

Okay. So according to this chart, an “active woman” weighing 140 pounds (10 stone) should be consuming 84 grams of protein every day. And a “competitive athlete”–we might say a very active woman of that same weight–should be consuming 105 grams of protein every day.

This chart from POPSUGAR Fitness does the math for you if you can find your weight:

This one’s a little more clear, breaking activity levels down into three easy categories: sedentary, active, and extremely active. The average woman who works out is probably “active,” and if you’re working out every day or following a serious fitness or weight loss regimen, you’re probably “extremely active”!

Other sources recommend even more protein, multiplying body weight by 0.8 or by 1 to determine the number of grams of protein a woman should eat every day! Personally, I recommend multiplying by 1. That would be 140 grams for a 140 pound woman! That might sound like a lot, but hang on in there!

As a nutritionist, I’ve included a variety of protein-rich meals in my 15 Day Challenge plan: IdealLean Protein breakfast smoothies, eggs with extra egg whites, chicken salads, turkey wraps, and delicious whey protein or vegan protein dessert smoothies with peanut butter. These protein sources provide you with diverse nutrients that your body needs when it’s working hard to burn fat and build muscle.

But if you’re upping your protein intake and relying only on regular foods to get it, you’d have to eat at least six servings of salmon every day, or more than three cups of Greek yogurt! That’s a lot of food to pack in during a single day, not to mention a little expensive. And what’s more, it’s a lot of calories.

This is another reason why lots of active women rely on protein supplements to reach their daily protein needs. One serving of IdealFit Lean Protein contains 0 fat, 0.7g sugar, and 1.42g carbs at only 103 calories, which is a pretty fantastic tradeoff for 23 grams of protein!

Let’s wrap it up!

Now that we’ve busted the myths about protein, cracked the code of how much you need, and explored the best ways to get plenty of it into your everyday diet, you’re ready to start recovering faster, burning fat, and getting toned. A high-quality whey protein supplement can help you get enough protein to take advantage of all of the benefits, without adding too many calories to your healthy diet!

Protein will help you to recover after a workout, and help you on your way to a lean and toned body but in order for that to happen you need to working hard in the gym and in the kitchen and the secret ingredient I use to help you get a lean and toned body? IdealFit Lean Protein Powder.

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2018-03-16 16:13:21By Sophie Seddon


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22139561

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/basics/definition/con-20019924

http://authoritynutrition.com/is-too-much-protein-bad-for-you/

http://www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/can-you-get-too-much-protein-part-i?page=3

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/should-you-double-up-on-protein-to-lose-weight

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/women-and-protein-your-complete-guide.html

http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/the-role-of-protein-in-exercise-recovery

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1558S.long

http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-for-runners/post-run-recovery-starts-with-protein

http://www.today.com/health/7-easy-ways-boost-your-immune-system-2D80554874

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/boost-immunity-by-eating-right

 

 

 



Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer

Certified nutritionist, personal trainer and head ambassador at IdealFit.


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