Of the three macronutrients, protein is generally the focus when it comes to discussions of health and fitness. And this makes complete sense. After all, protein plays a vital role in building and maintain the muscle fibers that we’re concerned with when we exercise. It is also an important part of your fitness nutrition.
But some women tend to have concerns when it comes to protein supplement. Often, these hesitations are the same as those shared by their male counterparts regarding the health effects of these supplements. In addition, women may be afraid of becoming too bulky. Either way, the truth is that protein supplements can have multiple benefits for women, as well as men.
Improved Muscle Tone
As mentioned, protein is a major building block of muscle and is therefore needed if you expect to develop your muscles. But, this is sometimes where the concern of bulking up comes in.
The truth, though, is that muscle size is more about genetics and hormones than anything else. And women simply do not have the hormonal makeup required to build large, bulking muscles. Instead, your muscles will simply develop to the point that your genetics allow – meaning that they will be toned and strong.
When you exercise, the stress actually creates countless microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. In response, your body moves to not only repair the damaged muscle but also to make it stronger, and, therefore, better prepared for the next challenge. This work cannot be properly carried out without the raw materials provided by protein.
If adequate protein is not present, your muscles cannot adapt and you risk both training plateaus and injury.
Reduced Body Fat
This is really where protein supplements tend to surprise people. First off, protein is fairly difficult for your body to digest and metabolize. While this might not sound like a good thing, trust us, it is. This metabolic challenge means that simply eating protein increases the amount of calories that your body burns at rest by about 80 to 100 each day.
But protein also impacts your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin in such a way so that your appetite significantly decreases. So, protein helps you by both burning the calories you already have stored and reducing the amount that you take in.
Here’s the thing: remember that increased muscle we talked about earlier? It burns calories constantly. For each pound of muscle you carry, you can expect to burn about 6 to 10 calories each day. While that doesn’t seem like much, remember that body fat only burns about 2 to 4 calories. Increasing the amount of muscle you have, then, is a perfect way to lose fat and keep it off.
Along with building muscle, protein is a main ingredient for virtually every tissue in your body – including bone, skin and hair. In reality, protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids that can be pulled apart and rebuilt and used to perform all sorts of biological functions. Providing your body with a rich source of amino acids, then, ensures that it have everything it needs to go about it’s business and keep you healthy.
It should be mentioned that various protein sources have differing amino acid profiles, and, therefore, confer slightly different benefits. Additionally, some proteins like whey carry with them other compounds that can support immune health but have little to do with the protein itself.