Protein for beginners: 4 basic rules
Best protein powder for women 2022
Looking for the best protein powder for women? While the majority of protein supplements have previously been designed with male exercisers in mind, many brands have responded to the market gap by creating female-specific products.
What the expert says: “In my clinical practice, what I find is that women often have a low protein breakfast and then not enough protein at lunch time to keep them full for the afternoon. This can lead to snacking later.” — Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian and director of CityDietitians
Protein plays a crucial role in the body. It’s essential for muscle building and tissue repair, as well as maintaining good skin health, balancing hormones, and supporting immunity and metabolism. Some benefits of protein apply specifically to women. For example, this nutrient is involved in building and shedding the lining of the womb. Not to mention, protein is particularly important when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
At the same time, hitting your daily protein requirements is not always easy, especially in between work, childcare and hobbies. But that’s where protein powders step in, providing an easy and convenient way to boost your intake of this crucial nutrient, no matter how busy your life gets. Unlike our general guide to the best protein powder, this guide contains products specifically with women in mind. From digestive-friendly options to metabolism-supporting ingredients, read on for our tried and tested round-up.
Why you can trust Live Science Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Sophie Medlin Consultant Dietitian Sophie Medlin a consultant dietitian and the Chair for the British Dietetic Association for London. Sophie has expertise in gastrointestinal and colorectal health. For this piece, she offers advice on what to look for in the best protein powder for women.
The best protein powder for women, tried and tested
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1. Innermost The Lean Protein The best protein powder overall for women Specifications Serving size: 40g Servings per container: 15 Calories per serving: 148kcal Protein per serving: 29g Carbs per serving: 4.5g Sugars: 1.1g Fat per serving: 1.2g Flavors: Creamy vanilla or smooth chocolate Today's Best Deals View at Innermost (opens in new tab) Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Complete amino acid profile + Contains inulin, which has been linked to lower levels of visceral fat Reasons to avoid - Only available in one (600g) size - Limited flavors
What users say: Users love Innermost The Lean Protein. One reviewer wrote, “My favorite whey protein! The vanilla one is delicious plain, or blitzed with spinach into a smoothie. The chocolate one is a great dessert substitute with almond milk or greek yogurt. Lovely texture and smooth.”
If you’re worried that adding protein powder to your diet will make you ‘bulky’, Innermost’s The Lean Protein could be a great option to set your mind at ease. This particular product is crafted for those looking to slim down, and contains ingredients to support fat metabolism. It is also formulated to reduce cravings and maintain energy levels.
A single serving of The Lean Protein contains an impressive 29g of protein and 1g of inulin (a type of dietary fiber). It also contains 750mg Acetyl L-Carnitine, a non-essential amino acid necessary for transporting fat to the body’s power-generating mitochondria. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to use fat effectively as a source of energy. Other ingredients include 500mg Pomegranates, 500mg Yerba Mate and 250g Bilberries. All of these ingredients have been linked to weight management and improved glucose control.
Innermost The Lean Protein is suitable for vegetarians, as well as being GMO free, gluten free, soy free, halal and low sugar. Overall, it’s one of the best protein powders we’ve tasted. There’s no artificial taste, it’s creamy and it blends extremely well.
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2. MyProtein Impact Whey Protein The best budget protein powder for women Specifications Serving size: 25g Servings per container: 40-200 (depending on bag size) Calories per serving: 100 Protein per serving: 19g Carbs per serving: 3g Sugars: 1g Fat per serving: 1g Flavors: 15, including vanilla, fruity cereal, mocha, salted caramel and chocolate brownie Today's Best Deals View at Pro Bike Kit (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Myprotein (US) (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Budget friendly + Wide range of flavors and sizes Reasons to avoid - Contains artificial sweeteners - Whey protein concentrate less easily digested than isolate
What the users say: Reviews for MyProtein Impact Whey Protein are largely very positive, with users commenting that it mixes well with water, milk, oats and yogurt. Negative reviews tend to focus on the flavor of the protein, which does seem to vary, so we’d recommend purchasing a few of the 0.55 lb samples before committing to a larger size.
MyProtein’s Impact Whey Protein is certified by Labdoor, the independent supplement testing company, for quality and value. Available in 0.55 lb, 2.2 lb, 5.5 lb and 11 lb bags, and frequently discounted on the MyProtein website, it’s one of the most wallet-friendly items in our round-up.
Bear in mind that the powder is made from whey concentrate, rather than isolate, which tends to have a slightly lower protein content (up to 80% protein by weight, compared with 90% from isolate) and slightly higher amounts of carbohydrates and fats. It can also be slightly harder to digest than whey isolate. Having said this, at just 3g of carbohydrate per 25g serving, MyProtein Impact Whey is pretty on par with most of the whey isolates in this guide. It also includes 3.6g of glutamine and all the essential amino acids, including 4.5g of BCAAs.
Impact Whey Isolate does contain natural and artificial flavoring, as well as sweeteners. However, we found it holds its own with water or milk, and there are a huge array of flavors to choose from. Our favorites include strawberry, chocolate brownie and sticky toffee pudding, but it's worth buying a few smaller packets to find one you like.
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3. Misfits Vegan Protein powder The best vegan protein powder for women Specifications Serving size: 30g Servings per container: 20 Calories per serving: 110 Protein per serving: 20g Carbs per serving: 5g Sugars:<1g Fat per serving: 2g Flavors: Vanilla, chocolate, cookies & cream, salted caramel Today's Best Deals Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Great taste + Contains added vitamin B12 Reasons to avoid - Only one size available - Limited flavors
What the users say: Users love Misfits Protein Powder, with many commenting that it is one of the best tasting vegan protein powders they have tried (and we agree). The product scores 3.7 stars out of five on Amazon, with one customer noting: "This product tastes great as a shake, mixed with porridge or yoghurt, and helps to get protein and stay full for longer."
For those watching their calorie intake, Misfits Protein Powder comes in at just over 100 calories per serving whilst still packing in 20g of plant-based protein (a combination of pea and sunflower).
But what really sets this powder apart from other plant-based options is that it provides 3g of dietary fiber, as well as 6.5mg iron (36% of your daily value) and 3mcg vitamin B12 (125% DV). The latter is especially important for those following a vegan diet, as vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products such as meat and eggs. One daily serving could therefore save you having to take an additional B12 supplement.
Better still, the packaging is also biodegradable and even the ink used is eco-friendly. Misfits works with Climate Partner to offset its emissions and aims to be plastic-free by the end of 2022 too.
The powder has a good level of sweetness and a pleasant, subtle flavor that works well with a wide range of ingredients. We tried the chocolate flavor, which was rich without being too sickly. However, we found it didn’t blend all too easily, so you may need to invest in the best protein shaker to make sure it’s well mixed before serving.
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4. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides The best protein powder for women, for healthy hair, skin and nails Specifications Serving size: 30g Servings per container: 14 or 28 (depending on size) Calories per serving: 110 Protein per serving: 20g Carbs per serving: 5g Sugars:<1g Fat per serving: 2g **Flavors:** Unflavored and chocolate Today's Best Deals View at Bed Bath & Beyond (opens in new tab) View at iHerb (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Collagen supports skin, hair and nails + Unflavored Reasons to avoid - Not suitable for vegetarians - Not designed for muscle gain
What the users say: Users seem to love Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. One reviewer wrote, “I’ve only been using it for a month and my skin is much more hydrated and softer. My fingernails are stronger and growing longer for the first time in my life.”
If you’re looking to support skin, hair and nail health, you might want to opt for a collagen supplement over a whey or plant-based protein powder. In this case, Vital Proteins’ Collagen Peptides provides 20g collagen per serving, as well as 80mg hyaluronic acid and 100% of your daily value of vitamin C.
So what is collagen good for? According to a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Dermatology (opens in new tab), hydrolyzed collagen supplementation could support skin hydration, elasticity and wrinkles. These findings were consistent across 19 different studies.
Vital Proteins claims the powder can dissolve in hot or cold liquids, including coffee and smoothies. We found it worked really well in hot beverages, but there was definitely an odd taste if we just mixed it with cold water, despite it being ‘unflavored’. You also need to give it a good stir if you're using it in hot drinks to make sure it doesn't come clumpy. But rest assured, it does dissolve completely.
Being made from bovine hide collagen peptides, this powder is unsuitable for vegetarians, although Vital Proteins do offer a marine collagen alternative if you’re pescatarian. However, a draw is that it’s available in 5 oz, 9.33 oz, 20 oz containers, as well as portable stick pack versions that are easy to take on holiday or to work.
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5. Vega Protein Made Simple The best protein powder for women, to use in smoothies Specifications Serving size: 26g Servings per container: 10 Protein per serving: 15g Fat per serving: 2g Carbs per serving: 6g Sugars: 6g Flavors: Vanilla, dark chocolate, caramel toffee, strawberry banana Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Competitive Cyclist US (opens in new tab) View at (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Minimal ingredients + Suitable for vegans Reasons to avoid - Only 10 servings per container - Lower protein content than other brands
What users say: Users seem to love Vega Protein Made Simple. One user wrote, “The texture when blended into smoothies isn’t noticeable or chalky like some other protein powders.” Another wrote, “The texture of the powder was good, easy to dissolve, etc. I literally have no complaints besides the fact that it doesn’t come in a larger size! I would also like my scoop size to be worth 20g of protein instead of 15g.”
If you’re after a clean, plant-based protein powder that’s free from ingredients you can’t pronounce, then Vega Protein Made Simple is a great option. The powder contains just five ingredients: pea protein, organic cane sugar, coconut cream powder, natural flavors and sea salt.
Despite containing real sugar, the flavor isn’t too sweet or sickly. We tried out the dark chocolate flavor, and although it wasn’t quite as rich as we would have liked, it was really natural tasting and the mixability was fantastic, both with liquid and stirred into oatmeal. But we think this protein really excels when added to smoothies. Try blending it up with a cup of almond milk, half a banana and a few ice cubes.
Admittedly, the protein content per serving isn’t as high as other brands, at just 15g per serving. However, you could add an extra half scoop if you wanted a bigger protein hit. There’s so much to like about this simplistic powder, but it’s frustrating that most retailers only sell it in 9.2 ounce containers (10 servings). However, the vanilla and chocolate flavor are available in XL tubs, which will last you 38-39 servings. If you prefer the strawberry banana or caramel toffee flavors, however, you’ll have to settle for the smaller container.
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6. Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein The best gut-friendly protein powder for women Specifications Serving size: 33g Servings per container: 20 Protein by serving: 22g Fat per serving: 2.5g Carbs per serving: 2g Sugars: 0g Flavors: Vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chai, unflavored Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at iHerb (opens in new tab) View at Target (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Packed with gut-friendly probiotics and digestive enzymes + Certified organic, non-GMO and vegan friendly Reasons to avoid - Relatively expensive - Limited flavors
What users say: Users seem to love Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein. One user commented, “It doesn’t get any better than this. Super-clean and great tasting”, while another said, “It mixes thoroughly, tastes great and digests easily”. Negative reviews are hard to find, but they tend to come from users who prefer a slightly sweeter tasting powder – Garden of Life is more on the natural side, for those who don’t have as much of a sweet tooth.
Featuring 22 raw and organic sprouts, Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder is a great source of complete protein, including all the essential amino acids your body needs to build lean muscle.
Not only this, it contains gut-friendly probiotics and digestive enzymes, which break down our food into nutrients so our bodies can absorb them. This makes it a great choice for women with IBS or gut problems. It also contains vitamins A, D (400IU), E and K to support immune health, as well as calcium, zinc and selenium – so you’re definitely getting extra bells and whistles with this premium quality product.
We tested the vanilla chai flavor. The powder is quite dense, but this is unsurprising given its made from plant-based protein sources. We really enjoyed it stirred into a morning bowl of oatmeal, although it does make it incredibly thick, so it’s worth adding it in before your oatmeal has thickened too much on its own. It can be a little bit chalky if you don’t mix it well, so make sure you have the best protein shaker on hand if you like a liquid shake.
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7. Transparent Labs 100% Grass-fed Whey Protein Isolate The best premium protein powder for women Specifications Serving size: 33g Servings per container: 20 Calories per serving: 120 Protein by serving: 28g Fat per serving: 0g Carbs per serving: 1g Sugars:<1g Flavors: 9, including cinnamon french toast, strawberry, french vanilla and chocolate peanut butter Today's Best Deals View at Transparent Labs (opens in new tab) Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Very high protein + Easy to digest Reasons to avoid - Expensive - Not Suitable for vegans
What users say: The product scores 4.5 out of five stars on the company’s website. One reviewer wrote, “I think I finally found a protein that is not only clean but also tastes great! It is so easy to mix and I love the salted caramel flavor. It doesn’t taste like chemicals like other protein powders do.” Negative reviews tend to focus on the foamy consistency once shaken, with one user writing, “I end up mixing the shake before my workout, stick it in the fridge, and come back so the foam relaxes.”
If it’s a super high-protein, low-carb powder for women you’re after, you can’t find a much better macronutrient ratio than Transparent Lab’s 100% Grass-fed protein. It packs in an impressive 28g per 32g serving, whilst containing less than 1g carbohydrate.
The whey protein isolate is also made from grass-fed dairy cattle that aren’t treated with growth or steroid hormones. The result? A clean protein powder with minimal lactose that’s easy on the stomach. It’s also free from artificial sweeteners, preservatives and coloring, plus gluten-free and non-GMO.
The texture is super fine, which means there’s no grittiness or unpleasant, bitter aftertaste. Some users note that it can get quite foamy, but we didn’t find this to be an issue with the cinnamon french toast flavor we tested. In fact, it held its own when mixed with water, and we found the flavor moreish, without being sickly sweet.
How we test protein powders at Live Science
All of the protein powders in this guide have been tried and tested by the Live Science team. Firstly, we disregard any products that have excessive levels of artificial sweeteners, additives or preservatives. We also look at the texture of the powder, including how well it mixes into water, milk, and foods such as oatmeal or smoothie bowls. Finally, comes the taste test, where we determine whether the taste is reflective of the flavor, unusually bitter or particularly sweet. Packaging is also noted, based on sustainability and convenience.
How to choose the best protein powder for women
Protein powders are not regulated, so it’s important to source products from reputable suppliers, like the ones in this guide. Yasi Ansari, a registered dietitian, recommends looking for “a product that has been third-party tested, for example by NSF or Informed Choice”.
She adds: “There are a lot of products out there that contain protein powder but also have added artificial sugars and sugar alcohols. Sometimes these can cause gastrointestinal discomfort – gas, cramping, loose stools. If you’re taking a protein supplement, look out for these symptoms.”
Sophie Medlin also says she looks for a product with as few ingredients as possible. “I am a big fan of whey protein isolate for my patients because it is lactose-free and usually doesn’t have any other ingredients, but contains the right blend of amino acids for muscle building,” she says.
When it comes to the best vegan protein powder, she recommends looking for a blend of protein sources to make sure that all amino acids are covered. “Again, I would prefer for this to contain as few colorings and flavorings as possible, but this is much trickier in a vegan protein product because the protein sources can have strong, unpalatable flavors,” she says.
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The nutritional information will also display the macronutrient ratio per portion. If you’re looking to build lean muscle, while shedding body fat or maintaining a healthy weight, then you’ll want to go for one with a lower carbohydrate and sugar content, and a high protein content – ideally around 20g per portion.
The benefits of protein powder for women
Women need protein for so many reasons. It helps to:
Reduce appetite and hunger levels
Increase muscle mass and bone strength
Reduce cravings and desire for late-night snacking
Boost metabolism and increase fat burning
Maintain weight loss
Support hair, skin and nails
Build and repairs cells in the body
When it comes to weight loss in particular, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (opens in new tab) found that overweight women who increased their protein take from 15% to 30% of their calories ate 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything. So if you’re looking to shed a few pounds without restricting yourself, investing in the best protein powder for women could be a good idea.
When to use the best protein powder for women
So when is the best time to supplement with protein powder? A review published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (opens in new tab) suggests protein should be eaten before and after training. During the hour after completing a workout, eating enough carbs and protein also gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they lost through training and make available protein and amino acids for rebuilding and repairing muscle.
Ansari also suggests you should "keep an eye out for a time of day when it might be difficult to get enough protein” too. If unable to add a protein-rich meal or snack, she says, consider incorporating a supplement. For example, if you tend to rush breakfast, why not grab a protein shake, or stir some powder into a bowl of oatmeal?
Pairing your protein powder with carbohydrate for a post-recovery snack can help you to achieve maximum results. If you’re using a low-carb protein powder, make it with almond or rice milk and eat a piece of fruit. If made with water, also eat a couple of handfuls of whole wheat crackers or a slice of wholegrain toast with sliced banana on top. This will provide a high-quality post-workout snack.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.
A Beginners Guide to Protein Shakes
As a way to get a bit of extra protein in your diet, there's no doubt that protein shakes are a useful supplement. So why do so many gym bros mainline shakes without an action plan? We've got a breakdown of the science of shakes to ensure you get the best out of your supps.
Best for… pre-workout
A pre-workout shake is most effective if drunk around half an hour before you start your session. If you don’t begin your workout until hours after you’ve downed it, you’re unlikely to see any real benefit. And don’t pick a shake that’s purely protein-based. “A shake with high protein and low carbs is not ideal,” says registered sports dietitian Karen Reid. “A lack of carbs can leave you more at risk of muscle damage.”
Don’t expect your shake to do all the work for you, either. “In terms of maximising muscle accretion, your progress is driven entirely by your workout,” says Ursula Arens, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. Use a shake to get pumped, primed – and push yourself that little bit harder.
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Best for... post-workout
There’s a time and a place for fat, and after your gym session is not it. Again, a shake with some carbs is a good option, as carbs catalyse an insulin spike in your body. This speeds the movement of nutrients into your muscle tissue. You’ll want to pick the right shake too. One with a high proportion of whey protein, is best – it’s the fastest digesting protein there is and gets straight to work on your muscles.
Those exercising regularly and intensely should be looking to get two grams of protein per kg of their bodyweight per day – or even slightly more. But chugging endless pure protein isn’t a good idea. “Once you get to a certain point, having more does not help,” says Arens. What’s most important of all is downing your shake as soon as you can after finishing your workout. “It’s all about hitting those time windows,” says Reid.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein Powder £2.29 SHOP NOW
Best for... before bed
A protein shake around an hour before you hit the sack is optimum, but some might find they need it a little earlier in order to sleep comfortably. A casein-based shake – which works through your body very slowly – is perfect. “You’ll be feeding muscle at a time when your growth hormones are elevated, so it’s a great time to get the best stimulus,” says Reid.
If you don’t want to splash out on shakes, a large glass of milk and a banana are a fantastic inexpensive alternative. Milk contains a mix of whey and casein protein and will stimulate muscle growth through the night.
Protein for beginners: 4 basic rules
Protein is an essential part of performance nutrition – that’s nothing new. But when it comes to finding out what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat, the entire topic gets a lot more complicated. If you want to know the basic – yet important – principles of protein intake, we’ve gathered some simple rules below to help you reach your #ProteinGoals without getting overwhelmed with all the other unnecessary information.
Rule #1: 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
Sounds complicated – isn’t. Of course the recommended daily protein intake all depends on your individual circumstance – for example your goal, weight, height, gender, level of physical activity etc, BUT if all this performance nutrition stuff is new to you, the amount recommended above is a good minimum to aim for at the beginning.
To give you an idea of how much protein this is, here’s roughly how much you will find in the following common foods:
Tuna (100 grams canned in water): 25.5 grams
Chicken (100 grams breast, cooked): 30 grams
Tofu (100 grams): 8 grams
Lentils (100 grams cooked, without added fat): 9 grams
1 egg: 6 grams
1 egg white: 3 grams
Does this mean you have to use a calculator every time you prepare a meal? No. If you’re active, 1 or 2 protein shakes a day as well as a combination of meat or fish for lunch and dinner and a breakfast that includes foods like yogurt or eggs, should give you enough protein to reach your daily goals.
Rule #2: The less legs the better.
This basically means, the less legs the animal has from which the protein comes from, the better it is for you. Fish and white meat poultry are obviously the best options because fish don’t have legs at all, and chicken or birds only have two – we told you this wouldn’t be as complicated as you thought, right?!
Rule #3: Protein should be included in every meal.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, your protein intake should be split up over the entire day and included in all meals. And that’s not just to help you reach your daily needs. Protein also helps stabilize your energy, makes you feel fuller for longer and boosts your metabolism. That’s why the more meals you eat that are high in protein, the less likely you are to be hit with constant cravings in between. #AllDayEveryDay
Rule #4: Stick with whey protein for the time being.
With so many different kinds of protein powders on the market, it’s easy to get confused and carried away. We’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t need all those supplements. At least not for now. When it comes to buying your protein powder, choose one that’s basic and natural with no additives or strange ingredients. When it comes to consuming it, we recommend 10-30 minutes after a training session when your body is in breakdown and your cells are in need of nutrients. Blend one scoop of whey protein powder with a banana and some of water for an easy, yet efficient post-workout recovery shake.