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The Best Women’s Whey Protein Brands for Lean Muscle

Disclaimer

Whey protein, more often than not, is not marketed towards women. With images of giant bulky men and testosterone-heavy scenes, whey protein branding doesn’t offer the wide spectrum of female body types, most of which aren’t naturally going to take on huge biceps and extreme muscle growth, no matter how much time spent at the gym.

But women, just like men, need protein to maintain healthy lives and increase lean muscle mass. And we often don’t get enough of it from our regular food sources.

That’s where a quality protein supplement comes in. And whey protein, traditionally marketed to the male population, is a phenomenal way to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to stay strong.

Whether you haven’t tried whey protein before, or you’re totally addicted to the stuff, there’s some trustworthy science behind this powerful nutrition supplement. And no matter what your health goals are, a little whey can go a long way. No pun intended.

So what kind of whey protein should women take? We’ll dig into how whey protein benefits us as women and the best ones out there.

Why Women Benefit from Supplementing Whey Protein

Women may need more protein than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), even up to 100 grams per day depending on your lifestyle.

For example, say you weigh 135 pounds and exercise moderately. To maintain strong skeletal-muscle protein and physical strength, you need about 1.3 grams of protein for every kilogram (which is 2.2 pounds) per day. Therefore, you’ll need about 80 g of protein in your daily diet, which can be difficult to obtain without supplementing [*].

Whey is a high-quality, complete protein with all nine essential amino acids your body needs. And there’s a lot whey protein can do to improve women’s fat loss and lean muscle composition.

Increasing your protein intake can increase the sensation of fullness and supports a healthy metabolism [*]. Particularly when supplementing whey on a ketogenic diet, studies have shown women lose weight and maintain muscle [*]. That, combined with resistance training has also been shown to enhance exercise recovery in active women and support healthy muscles during aging [*][*].

Whey contains bioactive compounds like alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin that support the immune system, as well as cysteine, which boosts antioxidant defenses [*][*]. There’s also promising research on whey supplementation for liver disease, heart disease, and obesity in women [*][*].

If you want to learn more, we’ll cover this in detail later on.

Why We Need Protein

Male or female, we all need protein to survive. Why? Here’s the gist of it:

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Every protein— from whey to soy to hemp— is made of building blocks called amino acids. These building blocks comprise every tissue in your body. From your skin to your hair to your heart, amino acids are literally everywhere.

Now amino acids come in two breeds: essential and non-essential. Despite their names, they’re both important and you need both of them to live. But essential aminos are called “essential” because your body can’t synthesize them. You actually have to get them from dietary sources, and you need them to live! Your body can technically make non-essential aminos, although you can get these from dietary sources. And in fact, most experts recommend you do.

What Is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is a complete protein. That means that the protein supplement contains all nine essential amino acids. In other words, it covers all your protein bases in one shot.

Most of the whey protein you’ll find today comes from cow’s milk, though there are a few out there from goat’s milk. Dairy milk is a great source of protein and contains two primary proteins: casein, which makes up about 80% and whey, which clocks in around 20%. Separate the casein (a solid) from the whey (a liquid), and whey concentrate and whey protein isolate are extracted and spray dried into a powder.

Now the whey protein concentrate isn’t as filtered, meaning it contains more lactose which unfortunately can cause digestive issues in lots of people. It also doesn’t have as much protein as whey protein isolate, which has about 90% protein and hardly any lactose. Whey isolate has been shown to absorb easier in the body [*].

What to Look for in Whey for Women

When choosing your whey protein, pay attention to its origins to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product. If your whey comes from grass-fed cows, it not only has more immune-boosting compounds like lactoferrin and beta-lactoglobulin, but it’s also better for the environment [*]. Always choose brands that are:

  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Sugar-free
  • Soluble corn fiber
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, fillers, and other additives
  • From grass fed cows
  • A grass fed whey protein isolate, if you’re lactose-sensitive
  • Non-nitrogen spiking (a sneaky method some companies use to add less protein to the product) [*]

The Best Whey Protein Powders for Women

There’s a lot out there when it comes to whey protein powders. Here’s our list of the best protein powders for women:

Perfect Keto Whey Protein

Perfect Keto Whey Protein powder is not only a highly efficient, complete protein, but it’s full of immune-boosting compounds and actually may work well for people with dairy intolerances. It’s made with 100% clean, keto-friendly ingredients. There are no fillers, no added sugar, and no nitrogen spiking, just real, grass-fed whey isolate.

And with Perfect Keto’s Whey Protein, there’s the added benefit of getting your medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) intake. MCTs are a unique type of fatty acid found in coconut oil that is metabolized quicker than the typical fats we get in our diet. MCTs provide a boost in ketones to help support mental clarity and focus.

What’s inside:

  • Whey protein isolate (grass-fed)
  • Natural Flavor
  • Stevia Leaf Extract
  • Gum Acacia
  • MCTs

What you get per serving:

  • Protein: 15g
  • Total carbs: 2g
  • Total fat: 4g
  • Calories: 100

Perfect Keto Whey Protein contains exactly what the body (male or female) needs to build lean muscle and strength without extra additives, fillers, or artificial sweeteners. The fact that the whey is grass-fed is not only a bonus, it’s essential.

Promix Whey Protein Powder

We like Promix whey protein powder because it’s free of any weird junk or fillers, and their unflavored powder isn’t sweetened at all. It’s basically just straight whey protein made from grass-fed dairy. It’s also minimally filtered and contains omega-3s and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), a fatty acid with antioxidant properties.

What’s inside (unflavored):

  • Grass-fed whey concentrate
  • Sunflower lecithin

What you get per serving (unflavored):

  • Protein: 25g
  • Total carbs: 3g
  • Total fat: 1.5g
  • Calories: 120

The unflavored version of Promix meets our standards for buying whey protein for women.  Just be careful with their other flavors, as they add in sugar to ones like peanut butter, for example. Unfortunately, that’s not up to par with our standards.

Garden of Life Grass Fed WheyWhey Protein Powder

Garden of Life turns out another quality whey protein that’s made from grass-fed dairy. It’s low in carbohydrates and has a quality ingredient list of whole foods. Garden of Life claims they’re the only company offering GMO free whey, but as you’ll see in the next product, that’s not totally true.

What’s inside (vanilla):

  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Milk Protein
  • Organic Tapioca Fiber
  • Organic Vanilla Flavors
  • Organic Gum Acacia
  • Organic Erythritol
  • Sea Salt
  • Sunflower Lecithin
  • Organic Stevia Extract
  • 2 Billion CFU Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04

What you get per serving:

  • Protein: 24g
  • Total carbs: 6g
  • Total fat: 0g
  • Calories: 12

You’ll notice that this specific whey has some interesting additions like B.lactis, a live culture that’s said to support the immune system [*]. You may have seen this in other supplements you’ve tried out in the past.

Naked Whey

Naked Whey makes a solid option for whey protein. It’s free of additives and sweeteners and basically just contains pure whey protein. eBecause it doesn’t have any ingredients to help smooth out the texture. You may need to throw this one in the blender or it could get a little chunky.

What’s inside:

  • Whey protein concentrate

What you get per serving:

  • Protein: 25g
  • Total carbs: 3g
  • Total fat: 2g
  • Calories: 120

Naked Whey offers a good basic whey protein. Just make sure you mix it up at home rather than on-the-go.

SFH Recover Whey Protein

This protein powder is sourced from grass-fed cows in New Zealand and Australia. It’s also gluten free, non-GMO, and soy free too. It’s specifically targeted for post-workout sessions, which is said to improve muscle recovery time.

What’s inside:

  • Whey protein isolate
  • Natural vanilla flavor
  • Sunflower lecithin
  • Stevia

What you get per serving:

  • Protein: 16g
  • Total carbs: 3g
  • Total fat: 1.5g
  • Calories: 110

SFH offers a good, basic whey protein powder in basic flavors like chocolate and vanilla. They also have another variety for pre-workout.

Will Whey Protein Make Me Bulk Up?

Despite all the testosterone-heavy advertising, whey protein isn’t some magic powder that turns you into the hulk. If you’re trying to bulk up, you’ll have to seriously hit the weights. Whey protein simply helps you stay lean and preserves existing muscle.

Here’s an example:

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana analyzed 13 trials on whey protein supplementation for women. When they aggregated all that data, they found that women had more lean mass (as a % of total mass) after whey supplementation. (Results were more dramatic when trials included calorie-restriction.) [*]

Wayne Campbell, the author of the study, explains that “there is a public perception that whey protein supplementation will lead to bulkiness in women, and these findings show that is not the case.”[*]

How Women Can Benefit from Whey Protein

Like we mentioned before, there are so many ways that women can specifically benefit from whey protein supplements to meet various health goals. Here’s what to know.

Whey for Weight Loss

In addition to eating plenty of fat on keto (healthy choices like MCT oil and Keto Bars) you also need adequate protein. Protein preserves your muscles during fat loss. Which is why whey protein, coupled with a high fat, low carb ketogenic diet can help you lose weight in a few ways:

  • Increased fat utilization (you burn fat instead of glucose)
  • Decreased blood sugar, which leads to decreased insulin, a fat storage hormone
  • Decreased appetite due to reductions in ghrelin (your hunger hormone) and neuropeptide Y (an appetite stimulator)[*]

Here’s the proof: In a recent randomized pilot study, 25 healthy people received one of two diets: very-low-calorie and very-low-carb ketogenic. The keto group was also given a whey supplement. After the intervention, researchers measured body composition in both groups. Bottom line? Both groups lost weight, but the keto with whey group maintained more lean mass than the low-calorie group. More proof that whey spares muscle during weight loss [*].

Whey Protein for Muscle Loss in Women

To maintain muscle as you age, lose weight, or exercise, you need to maintain a positive net protein balance. Positive net protein balance means your muscle synthesis beats out the muscle degradation and keeps your muscles from wasting away.

To stay in the positive, you need a high-quality protein source, preferably one like grass-fed whey protein. Grass-fed whey protein is high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which build muscle [*].

Consuming this type of BCAA-rich protein is especially important for older women, who tend to lose muscle as they age (and yes, men do, too). To combat muscle loss, weight training and adequate protein take are necessary to move towards maintaining lean mass [*].

In a 2017 study, 70 older women were given either whey protein or a placebo before or after every weightlifting session for 12 weeks. By the end of the program, the whey-supplemented women, compared to placebo, had significant improvements in lean mass, muscle strength, and perhaps most importantly: functional capacity [*].

Whey Protein for Supporting Long-term Health in Women

There are all sorts of other well-researched health benefits of whey protein for women apart from muscle building.

The compound cysteine, for example, occurs in whey protein. In your body, it naturally helps reduce damage to cells and supports immune function[*].

Other compounds like lactoferrin, alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, lysozyme, and immunoglobulins also help support immunity, your body’s natural anti-inflammatory response, and brain health [*].

In one study, twenty overweight, postmenopausal women were given either whey, casein, or pure glucose along with breakfast. Compared to glucose, both whey and casein improved their blood sugar response. Only the group of whey-supplemented women, however, demonstrated potential heart health benefits, suggesting whey may support heart health, too[*].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Women’s Whey Protein

Does Whey Protein Make a Woman Gain Weight?

Whey protein by itself will not cause weight gain. With 4 calories per gram of protein, a 20-gram serving of whey protein only contains about 80 calories, and you’ve got to eat around 3500 calories (potentially even more) to gain a pound of fat[​​*].

Does Whey Protein Affect Hormones?

There’s no evidence suggesting whey affects estrogen or other female hormones. Whey may have beneficial effects on hormones such as cortisol, which could support recovery[*]. A 2016 study found that whey did not affect thyroid or insulin sensitivity[*].

Which Whey Is Best for Women?

When you’re shopping for whey protein, look for a reputable manufacturer that uses high-quality, grass-fed whey without added sugar, fillers, or artificial ingredients. Top brands include Perfect Keto, Promix, RSP Trufit Grass-Fed Whey, Naked Whey, and SFH Recover Whey Protein.

How Often Should a Woman Drink Whey Protein?

This is dependent on your body type and health goals. But for those who exercise frequently and are also on the keto diet, protein should make up a large percentage of your caloric intake.

The traditional ketogenic macronutrient protocol recommends you get about 20% of your calories from protein. You can also use a keto calculator to calculate the right macros for you. Overall, if you notice your food isn’t going to get you to the desired protein count, use whey to make it there.

Is a Whey Protein Shake Harmful for Women?

According to a study published in 2019, whey protein is a safe supplement for both women and men [*]. But just like any supplement or protein powder, you want to watch out for added sugars and artificial ingredients that simply aren’t helpful for your body.

Some protein powders (whey included) can turn your pre-workout shake into a sugar bomb that will spike your blood sugar and ultimately leave you depleted of nutrients and energy [*].They may give you a quick sugar rush, but that energy boost is short-lived.  As long as you stick with whey that doesn’t have added sugar or other unwanted ingredients, though, it’s fine.

The Differences Between Whey Protein and Other Protein Powders

Egg Protein

Egg protein is a complete protein that’s digestible, highly-efficient, and bioavailable. It can, however, be expensive. But it’s a great option for women if you don’t have any egg sensitivities.

Pea Protein

If you do have some egg sensitivities, or you can’t tolerate dairy, pea protein is a good option (also great for vegans). Technically it’s a complete protein, but short in key amino acids like lysine and leucine, and is less bioavailable than animal-based proteins [*].

Soy Protein

Like pea protein, soy protein is also vegan-friendly, and it’s a complete protein. It is, however, not as bioavailable as animal-based proteins [*]. There are other concerns around soy with GMOs as well. Soy allergies are common and phytoestrogens in soy may cause hormonal issues. [*]

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is another vegan protein powder option, or for those avoiding egg and dairy. It’s a complete protein but is short in key amino acids like lysine and leucine, is less bioavailable, and can be costly.

Collagen Peptides

Collagen peptides support healthy skin, hair, and nails, and promote healthy blood sugar response [*] [*]. They’re also good for digestive health and add a nice thickness to your protein shake. And, there are great grass-fed collagen peptides options available. Unfortunately, it’s not a complete protein. So it shouldn’t be your only source.

Casein Protein

Casein is a complete protein that’s highly efficient and bioavailable, but less so than whey or egg. Some people may be allergic or intolerant to casein too. It also has fewer bioactive and beneficial compounds than whey protein [*].

Women and Whey

No matter what sort of health benefits you’re after, it’s crucial to get the correct amount of protein into your diet for your goals. And yes, that absolutely goes for women too.

There are hundreds of whey protein powders out there, but when it comes to taking a daily protein supplement, we recommend using one that offers you the purest, whole ingredients out there. And if it has a few other added benefits in there like Perfect Keto’s grass-fed whey protein and MCTs, that’s something we’re ready to add to our routine.

Perfect Keto meets all our standards for whey protein. So if you’re looking for all-natural, clean protein powder made from high-quality whey that will help boost the lean muscle you need to stay strong, Perfect Keto Whey Protein is a great choice. Women included.

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