Flip through any exercise magazine and, judging by all the attention protein supplements get, it appears protein powder, fitness, and weight loss somehow go hand-in-hand.
And it’s true –
Studies show whey protein can help women promote a healthy weight and help muscles recover after a good workout. A 2014 study published in Sports Medicine found that
“Overwhelmingly, studies have consistently demonstrated the acute benefits of protein supplementation on post-exercise muscle anabolism, which may facilitate the recovery of muscle function and performance”.
Okay, we knew that, but here’s the Big News –
Whey Protein Makes Women Leaner!
According to a large study review by Purdue University nutrition experts:
“Whey protein supplementation improves body composition by modestly increasing lean mass without influencing changes in fat mass”.
It’s known that men benefit from whey protein supplements and exercise, and for what is believed to be the first time, the same can be said for women, according to a large study review by Purdue University nutrition experts.
More than 1,800 nutrition articles were screened across journal databases to identify 13 suitable studies with 28 intervention groups that were related to this topic.
The studies were selected based on specific factors including the inclusion of healthy women participants, consumption of whey protein supplements, exercising, information on changes in lean body mass, and a minimum of six weeks’ duration for each of the studies.
“Although more research is needed to specifically assess the effects of varying states of energy sufficiency and exercise training, the overall findings support that consuming whey protein supplements may aid women seeking to modestly improve body composition, especially when they are reducing energy intake to lose body weight,” says Robert Bergia, the Purdue graduate research assistant who led the study.
A 2018 study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, found that:
“Whey protein supplementation seems to improve body weight, total fat mass, and some CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk factors in overweight and obese patients”.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any more convincing to enjoy whey protein powder more regularly!
But if you’ve looked at protein powders lately, you know there’s a dizzying number of brands and types available. To make things easier, I’ve outlined what I look for in a protein powder, and recommended some excellent easy-to-find options.
Which Whey is Which?
Check the Macros
When you buy a whey protein powder, your intention is to buy protein, not carbs and not fat.
Carbs and fat are easy to get in your diet, so when you’re laying down your hard-earned cash for your protein powder, you want it to have as much protein in it as possible.
A quick glance at the Supplement Facts panel will let you know how many carbs and how much fat are in the product.
But you’re not done yet.
Isolate or Concentrate?
Keep scanning down the label until you get to the ingredients list. The information contained here is the key to knowing whether a protein powder is really amazing or just simply passable.
First you might notice that most whey protein products contain more than one type of whey. You might see whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate (or hydrolyzed whey protein) or whey protein concentrate.
To be considered a great whey protein the product should list whey protein isolate or hydrolyzed whey protein isolate as the very first ingredient.
That’s because whey protein isolates are the purest form of protein you can get, with some being more than 90% protein. And “hydrolyzed whey protein isolate” means that that high-quality whey has been pre-digested into smaller protein fragments for even faster digestion than regular whey isolate.
Whey protein concentrate, on the other hand, goes through less filtering, which means fewer of the natural carbohydrates found in milk are removed. The result is a whey product that is somewhat lower in protein content.
Although most whey protein concentrates are somewhere between 70-80% protein, some can be less than 35% protein – what a rip-off!
… So always check the label. This is why most companies make a big deal about their whey protein isolate powders. (This is also why isolates and hydrolysates generally cost more.)
I did recommend one protein concentrate below, though (and you’ll see why in my review below).
Protein Per Serving
To really know if a whey protein powder is top notch, you’ll need to do a little math.
Take the grams of protein per serving listed on the supplement facts panel and divide it by the serving size (in grams). This will give you the percentage of protein in each serving. To be considered a great whey protein powder, the percent protein per serving (or scoop) should be 80% or greater.
For example, if a whey protein powder provides 25 grams of protein per 28-gram scoop, that protein powder is about 90% protein and is a great whey protein for the money.
So, based on the above criteria (and my personal tastes) –
Top Whey Protein Powders
(Especially for Women)
One thing immediately leapt out at me when I perused the tub of ISO Cool Premium Whey Protein:
It has only 90 calories, zero grams of carbs and zero grams of fat!
(I even double-checked it at the Ultimate Nutrition website)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a low calorie protein powder and I’ve only seen a couple, like Xwerks, that pulls off the feat of having no carbs or fat.
One serving, 90 calories, no carbs, no fat, 23 grams of protein. Of course, there’s no fiber or saturated fat either, though there is 20 milligrams of cholesterol — just 7 percent of your recommended daily intake.
As far as other micronutrients go, there’s 40 milligrams of sodium, or 2 percent of your daily intake (again, that’s low for a protein powder) and 15 percent of the RDI of calcium, which is a pretty typical amount.
There’s also a little Vitamin A and C (2 percent of your RDI each) which is unusual, but the amounts aren’t really significant enough to focus on.
The ingredients list is short: whey protein isolate, cocoa, natural and artificial flavors, sucralose (also called Splenda), acesulfame potassium (an artificial sweetener), and soy lecithin (to help mixability).
It’s pretty unusual to see a protein powder without a thickener and stabilizer like xanthan gum, but it doesn’t seem to suffer for it.
So this is extremely low-calorie, low-carb, and low-fat, so it’s very versatile and can fit into just about any diet. It’s also cool that they include the exact weight of each amino acid on the label, which is information that is sometimes important for elite bodybuilders and vegans.
“ColdPure Ultrafiltration” Technology
What Ultimate Nutrition really likes to focus on in their marketing is their “ColdPure ultrafiltration” technology.
By isolating the whey at a low temperature, they claim it’s more bioactive, less denatured, and has the highest content of essential and branch chain amino acids.
Science is kind of split as to whether or not this is really important. If the whey is made from pasteurized dairy (which it almost certainly was) then the protein has already been heated; and cooked, denatured protein absorbs just fine, if not better. (You’re not losing protein by cooking your steak and eggs.)
Still, there may be benefits, it’s important for a lot of consumers, and it can be hard to find cold filtered protein.
I tried Chocolate Creme and it was seriously delicious. When mixed with milk, it literally tasted like I was drinking a melted down milk chocolate bar. It’s not a dark, rich, cocoa-y type flavor — it’s a sweet and creamy flavor.
If you prefer flavors like dark chocolate or double chocolate you may not be crazy about the taste, but if you like milk chocolate, it’s great.
Probably due to the fact that it contains soy lecithin, this powder mixed quickly and it mixed quite well, although I did notice there were a few very small clumps at the bottom of the glass. That might be because there’s no thickening agents like xanthan gum.
This is a tasty, versatile protein powder that’s suitable for low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie diets. There’s nothing really wrong with the actual product itself unless you have something against soy, artificial sweeteners, or you need digestive enzymes to help stomach protein powder.
Low Calorie, Low Carb, No Soy
For several reasons, PrettyFit All-Natural Whey Protein Isolate is an excellent whey isolate that contains under a gram of carbs and fat per serving.
This makes it super low in calories, plus it doesn’t contain any soy — which may be useful for women concerned about consuming phytoestrogens — and it’s free from artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.
And despite the fact that it’s lactose-free, it contains five digestive enzymes to minimize stomach problems.
PrettyFit is a California-based supplement company that’s specifically geared toward women — “ALL women,” as their branding strongly emphasizes. But PrettyFit is also a lifestyle brand; if you head to their website, you’ll find articles, recipes, interviews, and more.
One serving delivers just 100 calories: that’s 25 grams of protein, no fat, and under a gram of carbs.
This is another whey protein isolate, which has the most protein per calorie when compared with other kinds of whey, but it’s still a remarkable macronutrient profile — most isolates have at least one or two grams of carbs per serving.
Besides the macros, there’s not much to say about the micros: one serving has 25 percent of your RDI of calcium (which is a lot) and just 41mg of sodium (2 percent of your RDI), but there are no extra vitamins or minerals.
The first ingredient is whey isolate — specifically, “Non-GMO, Cold Processed, Ultra Micro-Filtered Whey Isolate.” The idea is that processing the whey like this makes sure the protein isn’t denatured.
There’s some controversy as to whether or not this makes a difference, since denatured proteins are absorbed just fine by the body. But if you like the idea of consuming whey as close to raw as possible, this’ll work great.
Then there’s natural flavors, xanthan gum (a natural thickener and stabilizer), stevia (a natural sweetener), and a blend of five digestive enzymes (Protease I and II, Amylase, Lipase, and Lactase).
It also appears to contain sunflower lecithin, as it’s listed in the allergen statement, along with milk and the fact that it’s processed in a facility that uses soy, peanut, tree nut, and egg ingredients.
So while it’s free from lactose, sugar, and gluten, this may not be the right product for you if you have really severe allergies to soy or nuts.
There’s a lot to like about this product. It’s very low calorie, low carb, and low fat, so it’s versatile and useful for those who are restricting their calories. It’s an isolate, so it’ll absorb quickly if you need something in your belly before a workout.
And while it’s lactose free, PrettyFit still decided to add a blend of digestive enzymes so that people with very sensitive stomachs should still be able to enjoy the product without getting gassy. (That can happen to some people even with lactose-free protein powders.)
There are no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors, which is good news for folks who try to minimize man made products in their diets, plus the dairy is hormone free.
Men Would Like it Too!
While it’s marketed at women, it’s hard to find reasons why anyone could dislike the ingredients unless they have a serious allergy.
Mixability and Taste
This whey doesn’t mix as well as some others I’ve tried. While it contains sunflower lecithin — which helps mixability, though in my experience not as well as soy lecithin — it was still a bit granular.
It mixed a little better with water, but however you want to drink it, make sure it’s very well blended. If you don’t mind using a whisk or putting it into a blender, it’s still an excellent choice.
This product is free from the kinds of artificial ingredients and tastes awesome with just water.
PrettyFit’s branding doesn’t really convey a premium product, but the ingredients list, nutrition info, and price certainly do; this is a very high quality whey powder.
FitMiss Delight is also an excellent choice for women, and (important to me -) I found it best for appetite control!
It’s ultra low in calories (90 per serving) and it contains a serving of powdered fruits and vegetables for an extra micronutrient boost.
FitMiss is actually part of MusclePharm, a brand perhaps best known for its line of “Combat” whey supplements (so called because they sponsor a lot of MMA fighters).
But FitMiss was founded in 2008 to serve women — the website claims it is “specifically designed to meet the needs of women” — and the line includes a variety of fat burners, pre-workouts, and protein supplements.
Protein and Green Superfood Drink in One (And Potatoes?)
FitMiss Delight is a combination protein powder and green superfood drink.
The first ingredient is whey protein concentrate followed by SolaThin™, a patented ingredient made from potatoes. Potatoes are one of the best foods for satiety, or a feeling of fullness, and SolaThin contains a protease inhibitor (PI-2) that can produce that feeling of fullness. I thought that was a pretty neat addition.
Then there’s a “Greens & Superfoods” mixture that includes a variety of almost two dozen powdered fruits and vegetables including apple, broccoli, tart cherry, barley grass, and several kinds of berries.
After that, it contains two digestive enzymes (protease and lactase, which should minimize digestive issues from lactose), inulin (a fiber), natural & artificial flavors, cellulose gum (a thickener and stabilizer), salt, artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium, and soy lecithin (for mixability).
Here are the macros in a 90-calorie scoop: 16 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs (1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of sugar), and 1.5 grams of fat.
This is a useful protein powder for weight loss: it’s low calorie, has some fat and fiber to increase the filling effect from the protein, and of course, there’s the SolaThin potato protein for fullness.
It’s not about cramming as much protein as possible into a scoop, and FitMiss is smart for realizing there’s a market for that. It’s what the marketing focuses on: it’s not for building muscle, it’s for helping you feel full between meals. And at that, it’s done a good job.
Mixability and Flavor
This brand is not the most blendable, but I think it’s worth the effort, because the flavor is excellent! I tried the Vanilla Chai flavor, which is basically vanilla with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom, and it was truly impressive.
Mixability issues notwithstanding, it tasted smooth, sweet, and even a little creamy. Delicious with milk and while it was of course less enjoyable and less creamy with water, I still enjoyed the taste. (I should hope so, given it contains artificial sweeteners.)
FitMiss Delight is well-priced for any protein powder and that it’s more effective at appetite control than your standard cheap whey. If appetite control and adding some protein is what you want from your supplement, this is an excellent pick
Low Calorie, Soy-Free, Free-Range Cows!
Muscle Feast Grass-Fed Hormone-Free Whey Isolate is also an excellent pick. It’s soy-free, very low in calories (99 per serving), contains no artificial ingredients, and the cows are free-range and aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics.
One scoop has 99 calories, 24 grams of protein, 1.2 grams of carbs (0.4 grams of fiber), and 0.5 grams of fat. That’s almost 90 percent protein by weight, so it can fit into anything from a low-fat to a ketogenic diet.
It’s also very low in cholesterol and sodium (15mg and 51mg, respectively) and a scoop provides about 5 percent of your daily magnesium and potassium as well.
In addition, the tub helpfully includes the weight of each amino acid per serving, which could be helpful if you’re a bodybuilder or someone who doesn’t consume a lot of complete proteins like meat, eggs, and soy.
Whey protein isolate, natural chocolate flavor, cocoa powder, sunflower lecithin, and stevia. You’d have a hard time finding a shorter ingredients list than that.
It’s not just that there are no artificial sweeteners, there’s also no soy — which might be a plus if you’re concerned about the alleged effects on testosterone — and no digestive enzymes, which might be a negative if you have trouble digesting protein powder.
However, Muscle Feast’s isolate is lactose-free, so it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that it will cause stomach upset.
The whey is grass-fed, and it’s important to point out that there are likely few real health benefits of consuming grass-fed whey. There are benefits to consuming grass-fed beef, as it has a better fatty acid profile than grain-fed beef, but since this protein powder is all but fat free, you’d have trouble justifying paying extra on a health basis.
The cows that produce the whey are free range, which you may prefer. They’re also free from antibiotics and hormones, apparently unlike the other whey powders sold by Muscle Feast, which don’t claim to be hormone- or antibiotic-free.
There are no fancy enzymes or added taurine or extra creatine or any other bells and whistles for this product. It is straight up protein with some natural flavors and a little lecithin for mixability. It’s sleek and functional, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
As far as ingredients go it’s most comparable to Xwerks, a grass-fed isolate marketed to CrossFit athletes, and that’s 50 percent more expensive!
Mixability and Flavor
It mixes very well! This was surprising because it contains sunflower lecithin, which I’ve found usually doesn’t enhance mixability as well as soy lecithin. That was a big plus.
I tried the Chocolate flavor, which was very smooth and mild. That’s to be expected of a product that’s so low on artificial sweeteners, though it did mean that it was very bland with water.
So while I’d suggest sticking to milk for the best experience, it was definitely better than I expected from a stevia-sweetened product.
I enjoyed this product. It’s made from free range, hormone- and antibiotic-free dairy from German (Lol) cows, so it’s imported. And it’s somehow inexpensive, tasty, has next to no carbs or fat and it contains nothing artificial at all.
With all this evidence that whey protein improves body weight, total fat mass and even some cardiovascular disease risk factors, why not start including a protein shake or two into your daily routine?
A good quality protein powder, like the ones I’ve recommended will taste good, help to blunt your appetite, and help with your weight loss and health goals.
Let me know what you think below!
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