Protein powders are popular supplements for people looking to lose weight, gain muscle and improve athletic performance.
Although often associated with men looking to bulk up, these supplements are favored by women as well. In fact, many protein powders are now marketed specifically to women.
They’re an effective tool for women looking to lose fat, tone up and improve strength. Plus, protein powders are a convenient and healthy addition to on-the-go meals and snacks.
However, the wide array of protein powders available can confuse even the savviest of shoppers, leaving women wondering what type best suits their needs.
Here are the 7 best types of protein powder for women, plus information on how to choose a quality product.
1. Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the most popular types of protein powder and for good reason.can
It’s a highly digestible milk-derived protein that contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own.
This is why whey protein is considered a “complete” source of protein.
Whey protein supplements promote weight loss, enhance muscle growth and reduce hunger in both men and women.
A 23-week study of overweight adults found that adding 56 grams of whey protein per day led to 5 pounds (2.3kg) greater fat loss than the same amount of soy protein or carbs (1Trusted Source).
Whey protein also reduces ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, which may explain its effectiveness in reducing hunger and boosting weight loss (2Trusted Source).
Plus, whey protein can help increase and preserve lean muscle mass, which is especially important for women throughout their lives.
For example, research showed that whey protein supplements combined with resistance training led to a significant increase in muscle mass and improvement in strength (3Trusted Source).
Additionally, whey protein speeds muscle recovery and reduces exercise-induced muscle damage in physically active women, making it an excellent choice for athletes (4Trusted Source).
However, since whey is made from milk, this type of protein is not appropriate for vegans or those with allergies or intolerances to dairy.
2. Pea Protein
Pea protein is made from dried, ground yellow peas. It’s a favorite among vegans and people who can’t tolerate animal-based protein powders.
Plus, it’s hypoallergenic, making it a safe choice for people who have food sensitivities or allergies.
Although peas aren’t usually considered a powerful source of protein, pea protein powder is highly concentrated and is an excellent source of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.
These amino acids, commonly known as branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, play an important role in muscle protein synthesis.
One study found that pea protein supplements led to a greater increase in bicep muscle thickness than whey protein, when combined with resistance training (5Trusted Source).
Since lean muscle burns more calories than fat, increasing muscle mass can help women increase their metabolism and lose weight (6Trusted Source).
What’s more, pea protein can help reduce hunger and keep you satisfied between meals.
In fact, pea protein hydrolysate, a type of easily absorbed pea protein, was found to be more effective in suppressing hunger and increasing fullness in overweight adults than whey protein (7Trusted Source).
Collagen is a relatively new contender in the protein powder market.
This multipurpose supplement not only delivers a powerful punch of protein, but can also help reduce joint pain, increase muscle strength and even reduce wrinkle depth (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
The most common collagen powders on the market are extracted from the skin or bones of animals like cows and pigs, or from the scales and skin of fish.
Most of these powders are hydrolyzed, meaning they are broken down into smaller pieces called peptides that your body can easily absorb.
They typically pack in 18–20 grams of protein per serving, making them an excellent choice for women looking to increase their intake of this important nutrient.
Another benefit of collagen powder is that it easily mixes into hot or cold liquids, upping its convenience factor. Its boost of protein can also decrease hunger and increase fullness.
Adding collagen to your diet also benefits your joints, bones and skin.
A study of 147 athletes found that taking collagen supplements significantly reduced joint pain when walking, resting and exercising (11Trusted Source).
Another study showed that elderly people taking collagen supplements, as well as doing resistance exercises, had significant gains in both muscle and bone mass.
Those who received collagen peptides gained 9.3 pounds (4.22 kg) of lean body mass, while the placebo group gained 6.4 pounds (2.9 kg) (12Trusted Source).
Collagen peptides may also help reduce signs of aging like wrinkles, dryness and sagging skin. In one study, 69% of people saw visible reductions in their facial lines (13Trusted Source).
4. Egg White Protein
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein that you can eat.
Whole eggs provide the most nutrients, but consuming egg whites, which are almost pure protein, can benefit health as well.
Egg white protein powder is a popular supplement used to boost protein intake and enhance athletic performance.
Like whey protein, egg white protein is an excellent source of branched-chain amino acids that help stimulate muscle growth.
It’s also a complete protein, providing all of the essential acids that your body needs to thrive. Plus, egg white protein is highly absorbable and dairy-free, making it safe for those with allergies or intolerance to dairy.
What’s more, it’s lower in carbs than other types of protein powders, which may make it a better choice for women with diabetes or prediabetes.
For example, two scoops (56 grams) of whey protein can contain 10 grams of carbs, while an equal amount of egg white protein delivers under 3 grams (14, 15).
Egg white protein powder has a mild taste and can be easily added to shakes, smoothies and baked goods.
5. Hemp Protein
Hemp protein powder is an excellent plant-based source of protein.
It’s made from the seeds of the hemp plant, which is in the cannabis family.
Although this protein powder is derived from a plant closely related to marijuana, it does not contain THC, the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties.
Hemp protein has a rich, nutty flavor and is packed with beneficial nutrients.
It’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a favorable ratio of 3:1.
Many diets are too high in omega-6s, which are abundant in vegetable oils and processed foods, yet lacking in omega-3s, which are found in foods like fatty fish, nuts and chia seeds.
Some scientists speculate that too much omega-6 may cause inflammation in your body linked to numerous health issues including heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease (16Trusted Source).
The good news is that women who follow diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of cognitive decline, heart disease and depression (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Furthermore, hemp protein powder is an excellent source of protein, delivering 14 grams per 28-gram serving size. However, it doesn’t pack as much protein as other vegan-friendly options, like pea protein, and it can be pricey.
Nevertheless, hemp protein contains an impressive amount of fiber, healthy fats, iron, magnesium and potassium, making it a nutritious option for women looking for a well-rounded protein powder .
6. Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein is another vegan-friendly option for increasing protein intake.
For women who are intolerant to dairy or who want to avoid animal products, brown rice protein is the way to go.
It’s one of the most hypoallergenic types of protein on the market and is easy to digest.
Although it’s not a complete source of protein, like whey or egg whites, brown rice protein provides many health benefits.
It’s a great choice for women looking to improve strength and increase muscle mass.
In one study, brown rice protein was just as effective as whey protein for improving exercise performance and body composition.
People who consumed 48 grams of brown rice protein on strength training days experienced increases in lean body mass, improved power and strength comparable to a group who consumed the same amount of whey protein (22Trusted Source).
This is good news for women who can’t tolerate whey protein but want a protein powder that can help them reach their fitness goals.
7. Mixed Plant-Based Protein Powders
Plant-based protein blends contain a mixture of protein sources. They vary in texture and come in a number of flavors.
Common proteins found in these supplements include:
- Pumpkin seed
Mixing plant-based proteins together into one supplement boosts its nutritional value.
However, most plant-based protein sources are incomplete, meaning they are lacking in one or more essential amino acids (23Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, combining a few different proteins can fill in those gaps. For example, brown rice protein is low in lysine, while pea protein is a rich source of this important amino acid.
Although there are a number of excellent plant-based protein powders, a blended product ensures you’ll receive all the amino acids your muscles need to recover and thrive.