Women today are exploring a number of options to add protein or protein supplements to their diet. Women Fitness brings you a complete resource to know what protein options for available for women.
Millions of people take sports supplements hoping for a range of health benefits like healthy pre workout supplements, for weight loss or for muscle building. But some supplements are being sold illegally and can be very harmful. Sports supplements have become increasingly popular among gym-goers. People who are interested in fitness and improving their physique may opt for supplements that can enhance their muscle growth when combined with exercise, such as weightlifting. They may also look for ways to control their appetite when they’re trying to lose weight, as part of a bodybuilding diet.
Female specific supplements promote women health and hormone support to ensure a fit and healthy lifestyle. Women’s health products are designed with the female in mind and the supplements cater more appropriately for women fitness. There are a range of products available ideal for a range of fitness goals including, building muscle, burning fat, or maintaining overall general health.
Milk does more than make your bones strong. Whey protein, which derives from cows’ milk, is highly absorb-able and linked with a variety of health benefits. Learning more about these advantages could help you decide whether investing in whey products is worth your buck. Although whey protein is generally considered safe for adults who tolerate dairy products, says the Mayo Clinic, studies are ongoing. For best results, seek pre-approval from your doctor or dietitian regarding supplements.
There is a growing industry in sports nutrition supplements available on the high street and online. Illegal supplements, including some claiming to be “fat burning” or “slimming”, have been linked to a small number of deaths. Despite being illegal to sell, there is evidence that these are still available to buy online, mainly from suppliers based outside the UK.
It’s important to be aware that products sold from a website or supplier based outside the UK or Europe may not pass the same safety standards as those within Europe.
Building muscle through protein
Protein is an important part of our diet and is key to building and maintaining all types of body tissue, including muscle. It contains amino acids, the building blocks used for muscle growth. Protein powders, available as shakes, bars and capsules, are one of the most popular muscle-building supplements. They are legally available to buy over-the-counter as well as online. They are marketed as helping to promote your body’s muscle growth, aid metabolism (helping with weight loss), help you reach peak physical performance, boost energy and fight the ageing process.
“Users may choose to take them before, during and after training to enhance performance and improve recovery, add them to meals to boost their protein or drink them between meals as a high-protein snack,” says Azmina Govindji from the British Dietetic Association (BDA). “But they could get the same benefits from introducing high-protein foods to their diet as snacks or adding them to their normal meals to enhance the protein content. Although protein shakes are convenient, not all of them are suitable to be used as a meal replacement, because they don’t have all the vitamins and nutrients that a balanced meal would contain.”
This means that bodybuilders who turn to protein supplements, instead of simply eating protein-rich foods, could be wasting their money. There is also evidence that, in the long term, consuming too much protein can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and can also worsen existing kidney problems. The Department of Health advises adults to avoid consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein (55.5g for men and 45g for women).
Protein-rich foods include:
- red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork
- poultry, such as chicken, duck and turkey
- dairy, such as milk, yogurt and cheese
Types of protein options
Whey concentrate is one of the most basic forms of protein that is found in many protein tubs on the shelves of supplement stores. People who are looking for an inexpensive protein source will find tubs of strictly whey protein concentrate with a lower price tag.
This is a great starting point for beginners and those looking to add protein to their diet without making your wallet lighter. Some people will find though that they have a hard time digesting the concentrates and will end up feeling a little gassy and bloated.
Whey concentrate can be used both pre and post workout and can also be used as a snack in between meals. This is not a preferred source of protein to be used at night.
If you are looking for a protein that will slowly breakdown over the course of several hours that you can use as a meal, or better yet right before you go to bed then casein protein is definitely the way to go. Before bed if you take in casein protein you will stay anabolic throughout the night and will be able to utilize the protein in your body.
Casein takes anywhere from 5-7 hours to fully breakdown which keeps your body absorbing and utilizing the nutrients even while you sleep. People also use casein during the day to help stay full and to keep a constant supply of protein in your body to supply the muscles with proper nutrition for hours after drinking the shake.
Another positive to this source of protein is its high glutamine content. Glutamine helps boost the immune system and speed up recovery. This is the preferred source of protein to use at night before bed.
Isolates are one of the quickest absorbing proteins (but not the quickest-we will get to that soon enough). People will find this source of protein to be a bit on the expensive side (more-so than whey concentrates), but not near as expensive as the protein we will be touching on next.
These proteins are perfect for those with low carb diets. Many of the protein tubs on the market these days that are strictly whey isolates have very low if any carbs/sugars.
Isolates are great pre and post workout as they are absorbed quickly and can supply the muscle the nutrients needed to help recover and grow.
Hydrolysate protein is the most expensive source of protein you will find on the markets these days and is the highest quality of protein available. They provide highly absorbable peptides that can have a great anabolic effect (highest absorption rate of the proteins available).
Hydrolysate protein is also much better on the digestive system compared to whey concentrates. This protein can be used both pre and post workout.
Soy protein (even though not a huge seller for bodybuilders) is a good source of protein for those looking for a vegetarian source of protein. This is a useful source of protein and comes with many benefits to its user. It is loaded with glutamine (to help with recovery), arginine (help dilate blood vessels to allow nutrition to get into the muscles quicker), and BCAA’s (help with recovery).
Soy supports a healthy cholesterol profile due to the isoflavones found in the product. It has also been found to boost thyroid hormone output. By doing so, it speeds up the metabolism which aids in fat loss. This type of protein can be used both pre and post workout or anytime throughout the day if needed to get in a meal/snack containing protein.
This source is not preferred to use at night.
Milk Protein Isolate
Milk protein isolates contain both casein and whey proteins. This source is full of amino acids (similar to soy protein). This type of protein is mostly used in a blended protein source where multiple types of protein are used. Milk protein isolates are not a preferred choice if looking for a protein but can be used anytime during the day, but is not a preferred source to use at night.
Now we are going back old school-to a place where protein powder was nonexistent. Egg whites (whether separated from the yoke or found in a container) are an excellent source of egg albumin. The amino acid profile on these are great and has been used since back in the day to help build lean muscle mass.
Egg albumin is not commonly bought in the powder form, but rather bought in a carton or container and cooked. Many blended protein sources as well as meal replacements will have egg albumin in them. This source of protein can be used anytime throughout the day, but is not a preferred source to use at night.
Advice for gym-goers taking protein supplements
Rick Miller, clinical and sports dietitian from the BDA, has the following advice for gym-goers and bodybuilders who want to take protein supplements: “A simple change in foods (such as Greek yogurt in the morning with muesli and fruit, rather than plain breakfast cereal and milk) will help enhance the protein content of a meal. After you’ve taken this step, fill in the gaps with a reputable brand of protein supplement. Always read the label carefully, take the recommended serving size and don’t be tempted to take far more than is necessary, as this is not supported by the current evidence.
“If you’re unsure, ask your GP to refer you to a registered dietitian for advice. Protein supplements are not recommended for children due to the lack of research into long-term effects.”
Chris Gibbons, a competitive power lifter from Chesterfield, says there is a danger that people may mistakenly view supplements as a quick fix to achieve their goals.
“There is a tendency to think that there is a magic powder or supplement that will give you the physique of your dreams, but there is no substitute for hard work and commitment,” he says.
“Building strength takes years, not weeks or months. It is an act of discipline and must be earned through commitment to hard training and a good diet.”
For more on all kinds of dietary supplements, read the Behind the Headlines special report Supplements: Who needs them?
If you’re worried or you have experienced side effects after taking any supplements, especially any that you have bought online, make an appointment to see your GP.
Illegal bodybuilding and sports supplements
UK drug regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned people to be wary of buying illegal sports supplements, because they might contain dangerous ingredients that could cause kidney failure, seizures and heart problems.
An MHRA investigation found that 84 illegal products, such as energy and “muscle-gain” products, were being sold containing dangerous ingredients such as steroids, stimulants and hormones. Among products that were taken off the market was a steroid product called Celtic Dragon. This product left two men hospitalised with severe jaundice and liver damage.
David Carter, the MHRA’s manager of the borderline medicines section, says: “People need to be aware that buying illegal sports supplements can seriously damage your health.
The products may claim to boost your energy or muscle but they could contain unapproved ingredients that can cause kidney failure, heart problems or seizures.”
Even legal, over-the-counter supplements can cause you harm. For example, if you are taking any medicines as well as the supplements, the supplements could stop the medicine from working properly. Always read the label and, if in doubt, talk to your pharmacist.
In addition, many health claims made about products, foods and medicines sold online are not proven. Find out more in Avoid medicines scams.
Risks of steroid use
Although available with a doctor’s prescription for a variety of clinical reasons, some steroids are misused when taken as performance-enhancing drugs. They are attractive because they are based on the male hormone testosterone and can therefore improve endurance and performance, and stimulate muscle growth. “But they can also enhance aggression,” warns Rick Miller, in reference to what is commonly called “roid rage”.
“Other major effects of steroid use include increase in blood pressure, direct kidney and heart damage, liver damage, acne and sexual promiscuity,” he says.
Weight loss drug DNP linked to deaths
One product being sold illegally but still available online, mainly from suppliers based outside the UK, is 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP). DNP is an industrial chemical that isn’t fit for human consumption. It is highly toxic and causes significant side effects, and has led to at least three reported deaths. DNP is thought to be particularly popular among bodybuilders, who are attracted to its promises of quick-fix rapid weight loss.
Other names for DNP, which comes in a pill or powder form, include:
- Solfo Black
Proteins are the building blocks of every part of your body, including your skin, nails, and hair – no wonder it’s not pretty when you don’t eat enough of it.
According to Women’s Health expert advisory board member Keri Glassman, R.D., the average woman should eat about 46 grams of protein a day. (That’s about two eggs and a chicken breast or salmon fillet). The thing is, few women have time to whip up an omelet for breakfast, roast a chicken breast on their lunch break, or fillet a fish after a late night at the office.
Protein just isn’t as accessible as carbs-it’s easier to pick up a bagel than it is to start cracking eggs at the break of dawn. “Traditional protein sources [think fish, meat, dairy, and beans] aren’t usually grab and go. And if they are, they’re often fried or unhealthy,” says nutrition expert Angela Ginn, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Enter, whey protein. In powdered form, it can easily be tossed into a smoothie for breakfast, or mixed with water for a mid-day protein boost. Sure, the dietary supplement is known as a bodybuilder’s BFF; after all, many studies have shown that eating whey protein can help increase muscle mass. That said, including it in your diet won’t render Popeye-like affects unless you’re training like a bodybuilder. And in fact, the supplement is a solid source of protein for anyone. Derived from protein-rich milk known for its bone-building power, the supplement is low in sugar and fat. Still, it’s rich in branch amino acids (BCAA), which fuel your muscles and help turn protein you eat into new cells, says Glassman.
In America, more than 90 percent of soy is a GMO crop. This means it’s genetically modified. We don’t yet know the effects of GMOs in our bodies, but what we do know for sure is that they are genetically modified to specifically tolerate large amounts of chemical pesticides. Pesticides are terrible for our weight and our overall health, in particular the types of cancers you mentioned in your question.
There is also research that suggests the isoflavones in soy (GMO and organic) are extremely bad for thyroid health. The only way to avoid this would be to consume organic fermented soy in extreme moderation.
Now, even if there was a case to be made for the possible benefits of omega 6 in organic, fermented soy products, too much omega 6 in our diets can cause inflammation and is related to chronic disease. A healthy amount of omega 6 in our diet is considered to be a one-to-one ration of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Because soy is a cheap, government-subsidized crop, it’s in nearly everything and the average American takes in a ratio of nearly 20-to-one omega 6 to omega3. So, based on these facts, adding more soy into your diet is at best unnecessary and at worst linked to all kinds of health issues.
Last thought on this, some have said that the estrogenic effects of soy can be good for women, but current research has suggested that excess estrogen in general can lead to cancer and the safest bet with soy is to minimize your intake.
Now a word about whey. If you aren’t vegan, many consider whey to be the ideal protein powder. Pea, egg, hemp proteins, etc. are also fine, but whey, when taken from a quality product with branched chain aminos, is considered the most bio available and easily digested.
Whey protein can be used to improve your overall physical health while also preventing diseases and infection. According to the Whey Protein Institute, whey protein can help to slow cancer growth in the body, prevent type 2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels and promote new skin growth to speed up wound healing.
Women Fitness hope that the above resource shall go a long way in providing assistance in taking a decision to include protein in their diet routine.