Protein shakes have finally started to become a popular option among women looking to lose weight, get into shape, and stay healthy overall.
There are a lot of factors to consider before picking up a jar of protein powder, though – and there’s a host of common question most girls have: Will it make me gain bulk? Will it help me lose weight? What if I get enough protein already? What’s the best shake to drink?
Thankfully, modern science finally has some answers for you. Let’s see what the lab-coats have determined.
Why Women Shouldn’t Fear Protein
A surprising number of women are afraid to boost their protein intake out of fear of how their bodies might gain bulk.
Without an intense weight training routine specifically designed to build massive muscles (and, honestly, some steroid enhancement), you’re not going to get bulky, turn into the Hulk, or lose your feminine composition. The genetics just aren’t there.
So, if you’re worried about gaining excessive muscle tissue, you can relax. What about gaining fat, though?
It’s true that if you eat exactly what you consume now, plus add a protein shake or two daily, you’re likely to gain weight. That’s because protein (like any other food source) has calories, and if all you’re doing is upping your caloric intake, that energy has to be stored somewhere in the form of fat.
Don’t let that disappoint you yet, though. If you don’t increase your calories, but simply change your macronutrient ratio to include more protein (which can certainly be from powders or shakes), you have a better chance of losing fat. Just be careful to keep the overall calories in check as you raise your protein intake.
Retaining Lean Muscle
In a study published by the FASEB Journal, women who consumed high protein diets during weight loss lost a similar amount of pounds compared to the control group, but of those pounds lost, significantly more of it was fat.
These study results help remind us of something very important to keep in mind: The results most ladies want aren’t specifically based on weight loss, they are based on fat loss. You could lose enough pounds to hit your goal weight on the scale, but if a lesser amount of that weight loss is actual fat, you still won’t have the body you want.
Most problem areas are actual fat. By losing pounds from things like lean muscle mass and water weight, like many fad diets produce, you still won’t get rid of those problem areas that drive you crazy.
Metabolism is Key
By doing everything you can to preserve muscle, you’re doing yourself a huge favor by increasing the amount of calories your body burns naturally. Since women who eat more (or supplement) protein are likely to have more muscle mass, they also end up with a higher resting metabolism.
By making wise diet decisions, it’s almost like these women get the fat loss benefits of exercising every day, without doing anything different. Retaining your muscle mass as you lose weight can make a huge difference – and can even help stop you from “plateauing” once you hit a certain weight.
The Right Amount of Protein
In a strange phenomenon called a paradoxical reaction, if you increase your protein intake beyond a certain point, it actually works against you from a weight loss perspective. Studies have only shown this when protein is increased to a very, very high amount, so unless you’re just going crazy with the stuff, you probably don’t need to worry about this specific issue.
However, keep in mind that protein is also a source of calories (which can come from either proteins, fats, carbs, or alcohols). Always shoot for balance. If you want to keep your calories the same, but consume more protein, you’re going to have to eat less carbs and fats to make up for it.
Consuming too much protein can even be unhealthy, placing excessive strain on your internal organs. Like most things, there’s an ideal balance to aim for. So, how much protein should women consume on a daily basis for optimal health?
From a basic nutritional standpoint, the average lady in a first-world country consumes way more protein than their bare minimum requirements. But, for weight loss / maintenance purposes, most people end up consuming much more than the basic requirement.
A common rule of thumb (specifically for women) is to take your body weight in pounds, and consume 75% (3/4ths) of that number in grams of protein per day. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, 75% of that is 105 – under those guidelines, you would aim to consume 105 grams of protein per day.
Making Shakes That Taste Delicious
Many nutritionists warn against simply replacing meals with protein shakes, and not without good reason. They are a fine way to supplement your protein intake, but they don’t have the vitamins and nutrients necessary to avoid developing deficiencies if regular meals aren’t consumed as well. They are fine as a snack, but try not to replace entire meals with them.
With that in mind, the healthiest shakes are going to be ones that combine the protein powder with real food for added nutrition.
Get your blender out and try mixing your favorite protein powder with some of the following real foods. Not only is it more nutritious, it tastes much better!
– Greek yogurt
– Strawberries and Bananas
– Apples and Spinach (You get the nutrients of the spinach, while the apple covers up the taste!)
– Wheat germ or ground oats (for whole grains and fiber)
– Dark, antioxidant-rich berries
What other healthy foods do you want to try, but hate the taste of? Get creative! You can even add brewed green tea, or local honey if you suffer from allergies.
What’s your favorite shake? Let me know in the comments!