Prior to learning about how to track macros, I had no idea how important protein for women was. In fact, the concept of paying attention to my protein intake never crossed my mind.
Fast forward a couple of years and a few nutrition and macro certifications later and I now see the error in my old ways and truly understand the benefits of protein for women (and men, too, for that matter).
We have a lot of great resources when it comes to protein supplements, such as the best plant-based protein powder for women, best protein for pregnancy, plus many more. So, if you're looking for supplements at the end, we'll have you covered.
In this article, I’m breaking down what protein does for a woman’s body, how much we should be aiming for each day, where to find it, and how to track it.
What is Protein?
If you’ve already read my post on what are macros, then you are already aware that protein is one of the three macronutrients that make up the foods we eat:
- Protein: the building blocks of muscle
- Carbs: the preferred source of fuel for your body
- Fat: the main component in satiety and driver of hormone health
Protein contains 4 calories per gram, which is important to know when counting calories and/or macros.
The Why Behind Protein For Women
I’ll be honest, before I understood the benefits of eating protein, I thought focusing on protein intake was for bodybuilders. The misconception is that protein is to be used for building muscle and bulking up. But protein should not just be associated with muscle gains.
The truth is that protein plays a critical role in many functions of our bodies. From the cellular level all the way up to our muscles. In fact, it’s present in every single cell in our bodies, always working to help repair cells and make new ones.
As a critically important macronutrient, protein is required for the structure and regulation of all tissues and organs, ensuring that they are functioning optimally. Furthermore, protein also helps to generate energy for healthy muscle contractions and is necessary when you are trying to add any new muscle to the body.
How Much Protein Should a Female Eat Per Day?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for women (and men) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, most Registered Dieticians and Nutritionists recommend anywhere between 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per lb. of body weight, especially when counting macros.
You can adjust your protein intake based on your goals. For example, a woman who is looking to build muscle would be well advised to lean towards the higher end of her protein intake. On the other hand, a woman who is eating at or around her maintenance calorie intake (energy in = energy out), can consume protein on the lower end of her ideal range.
What Does Protein Do For a Woman’s Body? The Top 5 Benefits
Hopefully, you’re catching on that protein is a key macronutrient in the female body, but to really hammer the point home, let’s review the top 5 benefits of protein for women:
1. Lean Muscle Growth
Building lean muscle is crucial in your body’s ability to burn fat. The more muscle a female has on her body, the higher her resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is how many calories your body needs just to function properly.
With increased muscle tissue comes increased metabolism and fat-burning abilities. Muscles can help the body to convert food into energy. A healthy level of lean muscle tissue will allow the body to send calories to be burned rather than stored as body fat.
Plus, protein also helps with the repair of muscle tissues. When you work out or lift weights, you’re essentially breaking your muscles down, creating little tiny tears in the tissue. With protein intake, the amino acids inside protein will go towards repairing those tears, which will help the muscles to grow and thrive.
2. Fat Loss
With more lean muscle comes a higher metabolism and increased fat loss potential. What many women don’t understand is that when we want to lose weight and get toned, what we are really looking for is fat loss. We don't just want to lose weight, which can include water and muscle. We specifically want to shed fat.
In order to ensure that we’re not losing weight via our precious muscle tissue, we must ensure that we’re eating ample amounts of protein each day. Persevering and building muscle will give us the lean, toned look that we want.
Check out our best protein shakes for weight loss and toning if you're interested in learning more.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient there is. The energy that we get from a sufficient dose of protein has a greater effect on satiety than an equivalent amount of energy from carbs or fats in the short term.
In lamens terms, consuming ample amounts of protein will help you to feel fuller for longer, thereby decreasing your propensity to over consume calories and snack all the time, which can lead to weight gain.
4. Hair, Skin, and Nails Health
If you want healthy, strong hair, skin, and nails (which, what woman doesn’t?), you’ll want to ensure you’re hitting your daily protein. Collagen is a protein that makes up 70% of our skin’s composition, making it the most abundant protein in the human body.
Collagen is well proven to show that it helps to preserve and strengthen our connective tissues as well as our hair, skin, and nails. The older we get, the less collagen our bodies create on their own, making it imperative to supplement with additional collagen to preserve the integrity of our hair, skin, and nails.
5. Bone Health
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are 10 million Americans with osteoporosis and 80% are women. Most people associate calcium and Vitamin D with bone health improvement, and while these play a role, so does protein.
Protein makes up a large portion of your bones, therefore adding more protein to your diet can help to strengthen and fortify your bones, even more, helping to keep them strong and prevent osteoporosis.
What Kinds of Protein Should Women Eat?
Women should eat the kinds of protein that they like. Sounds simple and obvious because it is! Of course, there are better sources of protein over others, but ingesting protein doesn’t need to be complicated and there are no rule books.
I will say that it’s best to choose protein sources that offer a complete amino acid profile (complete proteins) like what you get from consuming animal meats. Furthermore, you should aim to get the bulk of your protein from whole food sources and not supplements, although supplements are perfectly fine to take in moderation.
Below is a list of some of the best sources of lean protein for women:
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Pork Tenderloin
- Lean ground beef
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Beef jerky
- Protein powder
- Protein bars
- Peanut butter
Frequently Asked Questions
Below, I put together some of the more common questions I get so you can find the answers you're looking for.
Will protein make you gain weight?
No, protein does not directly cause weight gain. Weight gain is caused by eating in a calorie surplus (more calories than your body is expending).
What happens if you consume protein without working out?
What happens is you reap all of the benefits of protein listed above. Our bodies need protein to survive, it isn’t reserved only for those who work out or weight lift.
Is it ok to drink a protein shake every day?
Yes, drinking a daily protein shake can help women hit their daily protein intake. Make sure you choose a protein powder or pre-made shake that contains a high-quality, complete protein and that limits extra additives, sugar, and calories. I recommend 1st Phorm protein supplements.
What happens if I eat too much protein?
There’s a myth that too much protein will cause you to gain weight because it will be stored in the body as fat. There’s also some noise around too much protein causing kidney issues. Both of these would require an exorbitant amount of protein over a prolonged period of time. If you’re a woman who is consuming the recommended amount of protein at around 1g per lb of body weight, you should have nothing to worry about. You can even safely increase your protein a bit if you’d like and still continue to see major benefits.
The Bottom Line
Ladies, if you’ve been under the impression that intentionally consuming protein was for men and those who desire to be “bulky,” I hope this article has helped to show you the benefits of protein for women and why it’s important for your wellness as well as your physique goals.
If you’re not sure where to start with finding your ideal protein goal or would like to learn more about tracking macros, be sure to check out our other macro articles, our YouTube channel, and our Facebook group.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach and would like to have my personal help, you can sign up for the 1st Phorm App where you’ll have direct access to me via messenger and we’ll make sure you have all the tools you need to not only hit and track your protein goals but to live your healthiest, most sustainable life.