Is Whey Protein Good for Women? Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Athlete mixing whey protein powder for women with water after working out

 

There’s so much conflicting information on which protein powder is the best one, especially for women. Is whey protein good for women? Would soy be better? Or is there a different option altogether?

Why is it so hard to find good information? Tricky marketing and a flood of options can be overwhelming, leaving you to wonder whether your protein powder is really living up to its potential. 

The good news? Science can “whey” in. You aren’t the only one who’s wondered what kind of impact your protein is having on your health.

There have been studies on a wide variety of protein supplements. That means we can look at the facts about whey protein powder for women and the alternatives that might be available for you. 

Before we dive deeper into the question “Is whey protein good for women?,” let’s take a look at what whey protein is. 

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a by-product of the cheese-making process. Cheesemakers start with milk and add acid and bacteria cultures to it, causing the milk to curdle. This separates the milk into two parts – curds of cheese and a watery liquid called whey.

The whey is then cleaned and dried to create the whey protein powders we’re familiar with. 

Since whey is a by-product of cheesemaking, it naturally contains lactose, but whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH) supplements are lower in lactose than naturally occurring whey.

However, whey protein may still cause stomach upset in some adults even with lower lactose amounts. As many as 68% of adults have trouble digesting lactose. Even without full lactose intolerance, you may notice some gastrointestinal symptoms as your body attempts to break down the whey protein. 

But this is all general information, not specific to women. Is whey protein good for women? Time to take a closer look.

Woman curious if whey protein is good for women while preparing her protein drink mix

Is whey protein good for women?

Women’s protein needs aren’t too different from men’s protein needs. By and large, your sex is only a small part of how your medical professionals might determine your nutritional needs. 

However, women are at a higher risk of several nutrient deficiencies due to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. These hormonal changes are what we’re really looking at when we ask, “Is whey protein good for women?” 

Everyone’s nutritional and hormonal needs are different, and what works well for some women may not be a good fit for others. Following up with your healthcare provider will give you the most accurate information on your unique nutritional and hormonal needs.

In general, though, there are some pros and cons you may want to consider before trying whey protein. 

Pros of whey protein

Whey is naturally rich in protein, as well as several vitamins and minerals. Whey provides about 50% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin B2, and it’s rich in several other B vitamins, too. Whey also has a high amount of minerals like phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. 

Like any protein, whey protein powder for women can help with building lean muscle and losing weight. On its own, whey has a low glycemic index, but be aware of pre-made whey protein shakes, since these often contain ingredients that may change the caloric and glycemic content of whey.

Whey is also very easily accessible – it’s inexpensive, there’s plenty of it, and you can find it just about anywhere. Most of the time, whey protein powder for women is the first option women try because it’s so low-risk. 

This means whey protein is good for women who are curious about protein powder and want a low-cost way to start incorporating a protein powder into workout routines.

Cons of whey protein

As we previously mentioned, whey protein may not be the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs, since it does contain lactose. And, of course, whey protein isn’t good for women who have any kind of lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity. 

Whey is also a fairly large protein molecule, measuring at 100,000+ daltons. And when it comes to protein, size matters. The pores of your stomach aren’t very large, so your body has to break down large proteins. 

In the case of whey, it takes up to two hours to digest, and even then, there’s no telling how much of the protein has passed through your system undigested. This means that in a serving that claims to have 20 grams of protein, you might be absorbing 10 or 15 grams instead of the full 20. 

Whey protein is also a supplement, which means it isn’t regulated by the FDA as strictly as other medicines or foods. This, unfortunately, has led to many companies that make whey protein powder for women putting fillers in their supplements

The label on your supplement may not accurately match the amount of protein inside. 

Is whey protein good for women if there aren’t any fillers? Maybe, but you’ll have to really do your research to find a high-quality whey protein.

Female athletes hurdle toward victory while pondering, 'Is whey protein good for women?'

Are vegan protein powders good for women?

The myth that vegan athletes are weaker or unhealthier is quickly vanishing, and more people are exploring vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Is whey protein good for women who are vegan? 

Definitely not! Whey is vegetarian, but it won’t be a good fit for anyone looking for dairy-free protein shakes. Remember, whey is a dairy by-product, so it isn’t vegan. 

There are several vegan protein powders available on the market, but how do these measure up compared to whey protein? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons to consider if you’re exploring vegan proteins as a dairy-free alternative. 

Pros of vegan protein

Vegan protein is typically made from legumes or grains, most commonly peas or soy. You can also find vegan protein powder made from mushrooms, various seeds, or even artichokes. The variety makes vegan protein powder very friendly to people who need to avoid specific allergens. 

Vegan protein made from soy has a particularly interesting effect on hormones. Is whey protein good for women compared to soy? That depends on what’s going on with your hormones currently. 

Soy can mimic estrogen in the body, but it can also have estrogen-suppressing properties. For women in menopause, soy may reduce symptoms such as hot flashes. 

Cons of vegan protein 

The biggest drawback to vegan proteins is that they are rarely complete proteins. A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids. These are the building blocks that your body needs to synthesize protein but can’t make on its own. 

Some vegan protein sources are complete proteins, but even these typically have lower amounts of lysine and histidine. Nearly half of our needed supply of these amino acids is typically consumed through meat. 

Vegan protein can also tend to be more expensive, and while the variety can be helpful, it can also cause you to discover sensitivities you weren’t aware of. Buying a pricey vegan protein supplement just to discover you’re allergic isn’t an outcome anyone wants. 

Whey protein isn’t good for women who are trying to stay vegan, but for people who aren’t vegan, it may be a better choice than vegan protein.

Athletes with Frog Fuel liquid protein shots - an alternative to whey protein powder for women

Is hydrolyzed collagen protein good for women?

There are several things to consider when you’re weighing collagen protein vs whey protein. Understanding what collagen is can be the best first step, so what is collagen? 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Your bones, organs, muscles, skin, hair, and nails all contain high levels of collagen. Collagen is also found in other animals, and most collagen supplements are made from the skin and bones of fish, pork, and beef.

Hydrolyzed collagen specifically refers to collagen that has been broken down. Naturally occurring collagen molecules are about 30,000 Daltons – much smaller than whey, but still too large for your body to absorb comfortably. Hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down to about 10,000 Daltons.

Is whey protein good for women compared to hydrolyzed collagen? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros of hydrolyzed collagen 

Collagen makes an excellent dairy-free protein for women who aren’t trying to adhere to a strictly vegan lifestyle. Collagen has well-documented positive effects on muscle-building, as well as skin, hair, and nail health. 

Whey protein is good for women who don’t have any dairy sensitivities, but grass-fed beef collagen is good for anyone! 

Hydrolyzed collagen tends to be in the middle of whey and vegan options when it comes to price. It isn’t as cheap as whey, but a quality collagen supplement will be far less pricey than some vegan options on the market. 

Frog Fuel’s hydrolyzed collagen protein is medical-grade, so it’s also held to higher standards than other supplements. The medical-grade label comes with stricter regulations and quality control by the FDA, so you don’t need to worry about fillers. 

Frog Fuel also pioneered nano-hydrolyzation. One of the reasons whey protein isn’t good for women is its digestibility, but nano-hydrolyzed collagen is fully digestible in just 15 minutes.

Collagen is also a great hormone balancer, with studies showing a positive correlation between collagen production and estrogen production. For postmenopausal women at a higher risk of weakening bones, collagen can support bone growth

Is whey protein good for women? Sure, but collagen’s positive effects on women’s health specifically have been stacking up in research for decades! There are so many collagen benefits for women that whey protein just can’t compete with. 

Cons of hydrolyzed collagen 

There are very few negative side effects documented for collagen. Some women may experience a too much protein stomachache after taking collagen, but that’s equally true of any other protein supplement. 

Remember, one of the reasons whey protein isn’t good for women is the dairy content, which collagen doesn’t have. Another is the molecule size, and hydrolyzed collagen is much easier for you to digest. 

Hydrolyzed collagen may cause a slight loss of appetite, but again, this has more to do with the protein content than the collagen itself. 

Very rarely, people taking collagen for the first time may experience an allergic reaction. In some cases, this is because of brands using fish, shellfish, or pork in their supplement. A 100% beef, medical-grade supplement is the safest option.

Frog Fuel liquid protein shots - an alternative to whey protein powder for women

The best protein supplement for women 

Whey protein powder for women has had a good run, but it isn’t the only player in the protein game. Is whey protein good for women? Maybe, depending on your specific nutritional needs, hormonal balances, and protein goals. 

When choosing protein, you’ll also need to check the label carefully to make sure there are no fillers or added ingredients you’d prefer to avoid. 

Whey protein isn’t good for women compared to collagen in many cases, though. Collagen has benefits to women’s health that far outpace whey. Collagen can also cause less gastrointestinal distress and is significantly easier to absorb, making a high-quality hydrolyzed collagen protein the best protein supplement for women.


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