Women and men generally have different fitness and supplement needs. This stems from different body needs and different fitness goals. While women and men can often use a lot of the same products, the best protein powder for women that are recommended by professionals.
For example, the mass marketed whey powders aimed at bulking up and gaining weight are simply not suitable for women – they’re designed for men with men’s bodies in mind (some of them have 60 grams per scoop!). This article is aimed at identifying which is the best powder for women.
The primary distinction between supplement for men and for women is serving size. Women shouldn’t be consuming a shake that has 100% of their daily recommended amount of dose in one serving.
Now, there are a lot of different types of fitness supplements, but powder is a very important one so you want to make sure you get the right one. We can typically use the same product as men, but you have to be careful with serving size.
Generally when women are looking for powder, there are two main purposes: meal replacement or post-workout recovery. These shakes are great for these two purposes and we highly recommend them.
Your body burns more energy breaking down protein so getting lots of it in your diet can actually help lose weight. It is also the essential ingredient in rebuilding your muscles so it will help tone muscles.
However, since these two goals are slightly different, the top powder will depend on which of these goals you’re looking for. That’s why we’ve divided our analysis into two main sections, below.
We should also note that this article deals specifically with powders but we’ve also reviewed a number of other products for women.
Check out those articles if you’re looking for supplements in either the bar or pre-made shake form.
Best brand for Post-workout recovery for women:
The first category we’re looking at is post-workout recovery shakes. A good post-workout recovery shake for a woman should help you tone and rebuild muscle, without making you bulk up.
After a workout your muscles need both protein and carbs. You body is totally depleted and it needs to refuel.
Protein’s role in recovery is what makes it the primary supplement for most exercise/training programs.
What makes the shakes so great post-workout is the fast absorption by your body. You want to drink your shake within 0-30 minutes of your workout – this is when your muscles need it the most.
While you could go and eat a piece of meat, this won’t get to your muscles nearly as quickly as a shake.
You want powder with roughly a 4-1 ration of carbs to protein. This can vary a bit, but this is a good ratio to shoot for.
Women also don’t need much more than 20 – 30 grams per scoop so I would avoid them that contain upwards of 40 grams per scoop and anything described as a “gainer”.
We have two recommendations for post-workoutnutrition that work great for women:
1. Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard:
- Fast-absorbing whey isolate (which means it gets absorbed efficiently)
- 24 grams per scoop!
- Excellent value – great price for a high quality product
2. Vega Sport Performance:
- 25 grams per scoop
- All natural, plant based product (helpful if lactose intolerant)
- While its a bit more expensive, they avoid the use of artificial sweeteners, and other preservatives. See our more detailed review of this powder here.
- 8.7 / 10 rating on bodybuilding community.
3. Dymatize Elite:
- Great powder with no fillers or extra sugar, etc.
- Fast acting it gets to your muscles to aid in recovery.
- Best value of the three on the list -depending where you buy from, it’s usually a few dollars cheaper than other powders available.
- The only drawback is maybe taste – some people do complain that it doesn’t taste that great. But I recommend the vanilla flavour – it’s pretty neutral so taste won’t be an issue. But don’t expect it to taste as good as some of the other sugar-filled products on the market.
If you know you’re looking for a whey, we get into some more detail about them in this article. But overall, these two supplements will serve you well for post-workout nutrition.
You don’t necessarily need a whey protein, but a lot of people recommend it. Vega is one of the few non-whey type I recommend for post workout.
Best Brand for Women Looking for Meal Replacement:
In addition to post-workout recovery, these shakes can be a great tool to supplement your diet even when you haven’t just worked out.
Women need a certain amount of dose each day and studies indicate that upwards of 50% of women don’t get enough dose each day.
If you don’t eat a lot of meat, it can be hard to fill your daily dose needs. They are also great because they make you feel full and stay full for longer.
Meal replacement them will differ from post-workout powders because they will be seeking to replicate the nutritional profile of a complete meal instead of trying to simply get protein to your muscles ASAP.
Ideally, they will have enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients so you can actually get everything your body needs.
Your body needs about 0.4 – 0.85 grams per pound of body weight. Determining where you fall on that range depends on your activity level.
So someone that is extremely active may need closer to 0.85 grams per pound of body weight while someone that is totally sedentary may need only about 0.4 grams.
For a 130 pound woman, that’s 52 – 110 grams (110 would be very high and likely too much for most women).
This is not an exact science and your supplement intake will always vary from day to day. There are also different ways to calculate it.
But figuring out how much supplement you need is helpful in determining how many shakes you should be having and how much nutrition should go in each shake.
If you’re getting about 35 grams a day and your body weight and activity level dictates you should have about 60 grams, then a shake giving you 25 grams is perfect.
If you’ve already had enough for a given day, you can still have a shake but just leave out the powder. After all, if you take too much supplement your body won’t be able to process it.
When looking for a meal replacement powder, you don’t really want one of the fast-absorbing whey isolate powders discussed above.
You want something that is digested slightly more slowly and will keep you feeling full for longer.
Here are our top recommendations for the best brand for women seeking to make a meal replacement shake:
1. EAS lean 15:
- 15 grams, 100 calories per scoop
- A mix of both whey and casein type so you get both fast and slow absorbing protein – this will help you stay full for longer
2. Garden of Life Raw Organic:
- Garden of life’s is one of the best natural supplement on the market. This product is Organic; Non-GMO; vegan; dairy free; lactose free; and gluten free. If you’re looking for a natural meal replacement powder, this is a great choice.
- It comes in 4 flavours: original, chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla spiced chai.
We’ve also written more on meal replacement shakes, including a detailed vega one review, which we definitely also recommend. Overall, you’ll want to pay attention to the number of calories, the amount of sugar, and the amount of it.
When shopping for it, women should pay attention to the different types. There are a number of different types.
They are all slightly different and serve different purposes, depending on what your goals are. This information should help you decide which of the above powders are best for you.
1. Whey protein:
It comes from milk. About 20% of it found in milk is whey protein. This is generally the fastest absorbing nutrition you can get. That’s why it’s generally recommended for post-workout recovery.
It quickly sends your muscles the amino acids they need for recovery. If you have lactose or dairy allergy, I would recommend that you stay away from whey nutrition. See the Optimum nutrition post-workout powder discussed above for a good example of a powder product.
2. Soy Protein:
It is a complete type that is totally plant-based. It has the added benefits of also having compounds that regulate cholesterol and fight heart disease. However, soy products should be limited so I’d caution against over-doing it with soy protein. That being said, it is still an excellent source of it.
Like whey protein, casein is also found in milk. It’s a slower absorbing it so it’s not really designed for immediately after your workout.
In fact, it can keep releasing amino acids for up to 7 hours after consumption. As with whey protein, since it also comes from milk, stay away from casein if you have a lactose or dairy allergy. This is ideal for a situation where you need slow absorption.
4. Other plant-based proteins:
A number of products include proteins from plant sources like brown rice, peas and hemp. These are great sources but they are not complete proteins on their own.
However, when they’re combined they have a complete amino acid profile and are quickly absorbed by your body. They are a great alternative for people with allergies to soy or lactose or for people that are vegan.
Other Considerations when picking right powder:
This is a matter of personal preference. I’ve come accustomed to buying the vanilla ones just because they aren’t strongly flavored.
I find that some of the brands can taste pretty bad, so you have to be careful. Go for the least strong flavor so that you can add different ingredients for taste.
If you’re trying a new brand, get a smaller container size so you can try it and see if you like the taste. But overall, I generally don’t expect powders to taste really great. If they do, it’s usually because they have lots of sugar in them, which is something I don’t want
II) Pre-made Shakes vs. powder:
I like to control what goes in. If you get a good powder, you can add whatever else you want and make sure none of the extra preservatives are in there. That being said, you can get some good pre-made shakes that have healthy ingredients.
III) Protein Serving Size:
As discussed above, many powders are designed for men who require larger serving sizes. You can see on any powder exactly how much is contained in each scoop.
Depending on your body size, you’re not going to need much more than 20-25 grams in a shake after your workout. If you’re using it as a meal replacement, this will obviously depend on the rest of your daily intake.
But I also wouldn’t go much higher than 20-25 grams. While some people think that “more is better” that’s not really the case and your body won’t be able to process much more than that amount in one sitting.
IV) Quality / brand name:
Unfortunately, not all brands are created equal. They are not so strictly regulated by the FDA so they don’t have the same standards everyone might expect. That’s why I like to stick to some of the more established brands and not try brands that are too new.
Well those are our thoughts on protein powders. Do you have any favourites? If so, leave a comment below and let us know!