There is a misconception amongst women that protein will make them look bulky, or somehow create unwanted muscle mass. Let me start with some education on the basics of ‘protein’ before getting to some myth busting…
What is protein?
Proteins are macronutrients, chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds. There are 20 amino acids, nine of which are referred to as ‘essential’. These essential amino acids cannot be manufactured in the body and have to be obtained through food. Common animal sources of these are meat, fish, eggs, dairy, with incomplete vegan sources coming from foods such as whole grains, pulses, legumes, soy, leafy greens, and nuts. Whey protein in particular has been noted as the most bioavailable complete source of protein, meaning it is the most easily digested and utilised source of all essential amino acids.
Why is it especially important for women?
Any woman with functioning hormones will be no stranger to cravings. These tend to lean towards more sugary, low-protein foods. Whilst carbohydrates and fats are needed for energy, protein is essential for stabilising energy levels, as well as the growth and repair of cells within the body such as neurotransmitters and hormones- not just muscle cells! Unlike carbohydrates & fats, your body does not store protein so there is no reservoir to draw from when running low. This in turn puts muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood under threat from insufficient protein uptake.
Why protein could mean the difference to your fat loss goals
If you find that you’re constantly hungry throughout the day, chances are you may not be consuming enough protein in your meals. Protein takes a lot longer to digest than carbohydrates, meaning you’ll stay fuller for longer if you base a large portion of your meal around protein. It is also the hardest to digest of the three macronutrients, or in other words- has the highest ‘Thermic Effect of Food’ (TEF). The body actually requires energy to break down and utilise protein, so essentially you burn calories during the digestion process. Therefore those on a high protein fat loss diet could potentially see faster results than those on a low protein diet. Back to the myth busting…
Why protein will NOT make women look bulky
Even when consuming sufficient amounts of protein paired with a heavy and intense weight training program, it is still extremely difficult for women to build large amounts of muscle mass. We simply do not possess the amount of testosterone needed to stimulate large amounts of muscle growth. As mentioned before, protein helps the growth and repair of muscle cells. The body is only capable of developing a certain amount of lean muscle mass per day. Any excess protein consumed through your diet gets converted and used as energy, or excreted. If anything, consuming protein will simply make us women look and feel stronger, leaner, and healthier! The ‘bulkiness’ which most women tend to confuse with muscle gain is usually a result of one consistently consuming too many calories in general, in turn resulting large amounts of fat mass developing on top of muscle. Provided a woman is sticking to a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle, becoming ‘bulky’ is the least of anyone’s worries!
Who benefits from protein?
In simple terms- All of us! However for those who are active, breaking down muscle tissue becomes inevitable. Therefore protein becomes an even more essential macronutrient to repair and protect muscles, as well as supporting bones and joints from breakages, strains, and sprains. Given that whey is the most bioavailable source of protein, whey protein shakes can be a great supplement as a means of providing the muscles with an instant dose of protection. Whey protein also contains an immune boosting tripeptide called ‘glutathione’, so whether you’re undergoing intense exercise or not, supplementing with it could provide you with the immune boost you need to keep those colds at bay!