Form Nutrition

Women and Whey Protein

September 15, 2015
Women and Whey Protein

As a coach/trainer, I’m always bombarded with questions on how whey protein supplements play a role for women. Here I want to discuss why women don’t get fat on whey protein plus 3 other myths I’d like to dispel. Let’s jump into it!

MYTH #1 – Whey is going to make me fat!

A recent study found that whey protein supplementation can aid in weight DECREASES in men and women, whereas soy protein sources and carbohydrate-dense supplements did not lead to any significant weight loss. Specifically, waist circumference (WC) was smaller in the Whey Protein consuming individuals. Waist circumference is a major risk factor for cardio vascular disease and diabetes.

Also, whey protein supplementation led to dietary decreases in carbohydrate consumption due to increased satiation (you felt full longer!). This can be interpreted as consuming a whey protein, specifically post workout, will aid in improving your diet overall and help you lose weight and lean out. (Baer et al, 2011)

Another study analyzing the effects of low to high protein diets on weight storage found that individuals on a lower protein diet are more likely to store excess calories as fat instead of burning off the stored energy. (Bray et al, 2012)

MYTH #2 – Whey is going to make me bulky!

A common concern with women and whey protein is the fear of gaining muscle mass. Muscle mass increases are a direct result of training and calorie intake: training specific muscles for a large number of repetitions with a slow tempo and following it up with eating a substantial amount of food such as potatoes and milk will cause bulking up. However, training with heavier weights for less reps and finishing the workout with a whey protein made gaining muscle mass ‘bulkiness’ much less likely. Why?

High-intensity exercise (like CrossFit) allows for Increased Glucose Transport (INGT) into the muscle cells within a short period (30 minutes) post workout. In this time period, consuming a whey protein shake will help repair muscle damage more efficiently: therefore less of the caloric intake will go towards muscle bulking. This implies that a whey protein shake post workout will help muscles repair FASTER and BETTER and improve performance on the next workout as well as aid in leaning out and looking great.

MYTH #3 – I’ve heard Whey protein is not good for my long-term health!

I’ve heard this one too many times. It is becoming an old-wives tale that supplements are bad for the liver and kidneys when used for a long period. For some supplements, this is potentially true. However, for the essential supplements this is anything but true. There is evidence supporting that whey protein (not even considering a hormone free whey protein derived from a grass-fed source) can aid in organ function of the liver, brain and vascular system as well as help protect our bodies from cancer, stress and hepatitis. One study found that protein supplements increase bone density in the lumbar column, helping prevent osteoporosis, a major risk in women (Aoe et al, 2001).

I don’t really care about my muscles!

What?! As mentioned above, whey protein has many other benefits besides helping to repair damaged muscles. As a living organism, human bodies undergo oxidative stress at all hours of the day. Oxidative stress levels are increased during bouts of intense exercise and whey protein post workout will aid in minimizing oxidative stress. This allows all body tissues to avoid degradation and maintain optimum health for more years.
I should replace my meals with whey protein shakes?

Falling into this common trap of the modern day health food industry is easy and a sure way to impede weight loss results. Liquid food should never replace a solid food meal if the main goal is weight loss. The only time the body is best adapted to liquid food is post workout when INGT (Increased Glucose Transport) is at its highest (see above).

The way that the human digestive system has evolved, liquid foods get absorbed faster and causes an increased insulin spike regardless of the macronutrient breakdown and glycemic load compared to solid food. Therefore, if solid food meals start being replaced by liquid food whether it is a healthier smoothie or “lose-weight shakes,” the human body will interpret that as a signal to GAIN WEIGHT. Please avoid liquid food outside of your post-workout whey protein if your goal is to lose weight and lean out.

In a nutshell…

• Whey protein is the only protein supplement that has shown to aid in weight loss
• Whey protein post workout does not automatically increase muscle mass or weight gain due to INGT
• Whey protein helps protect the body from many other ailments like osteoporosis
• There are other benefits to whey protein such as minimizing oxidative stress
• Never replace a solid food meal with whey protein

References for further reading? Check ’em out below. Questions or comments? Post a comment and I’ll follow up!

  1. Aoe, S., Toba, Y., Yamamura, J., Kawakami, H., Yahiro, M., Kumegawa, M., Itabashi, A. & Takada, Y. (2001) Controlled trial of the effects of Milk Basic Protein (MBP) supplementation on bone metabolism in healthy adult women. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 65. 913-918.
  2. Baer, D.J. (2011) Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 141. 1489-1494.
  3. Bray, G.A., Smith, S.R., de Jonge, L., Xie, H., Rood, J., Martin, C.K., Most, M., Brock, C., Mancuso, S. & Redman, L.M. (2012) Effect of Dietary Protein Content of Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating. Journal of American Medical AssociationI. 307. 47-55.
  4. Lee, A.D., Hansen, P.A., Schluter, J., Gulve, E.A., Gao, J. & Holloszy, J.O. (1997) Effects of epinephrine on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and GLUT-4 phosphorylation in muscle. Cell Physiology. 273.
  5. Perseghin, G., Price, T.B., Petersen, K.F., Roden, M.D., Cline, G.W., Gerow, K., Rothman, D.L., & Shulman, G.I. (1996) Increased Glucose Transport-phosphorylation and muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise training in insulin-resistant subjects. New England Journal of Medicine. 335. 1357-1362.
  6. Rivière, D, Crampes F, Beauville M, and Garrigues M. (1989) Lipolytic response of fat cells to catecholamines in sedentary and exercise-trained women. Journal of Applied Physiology. 66. 330- 335.
  7. Rose, A.J. & Richter, E.A. (2005) Skeletal muscle glucose uptake during exercise: how is it regulated? Physiological. 20. 260-270.
  8. Tipton, K.D. (2008) Protein for adaptations to exercise training. European Journal of Sport Science. 8. 107-118.



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