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Women Need Protein, Too

New research sheds light on the protein needs of female weightlifters.

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For years we’ve heard that people who regularly lift weights can benefit from eating higher amounts of protein than the general population. There’s just one glaring problem. Most of the research behind this advice was conducted on men, with little focus on women. Now, a study in the April 2019 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise has shed light on the specific protein needs of this understudied demographic.

To determine how much protein women need to maximize whole-body protein synthesis (i.e., muscle growth) and net protein balance after exercise, eight resistance-trained females consumed varying amounts of protein in the hours following two separate training sessions.

In the end, the researchers concluded that about 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on training days is enough to allow women to increase their muscle protein anabolism while discouraging muscle protein breakdown. That means a 130-pound female lifter should be consuming around 87 g of protein, especially on training days. Intakes above this level had diminishing returns in the study, suggesting that loading up on more protein is not necessary.

Female clients should be educated on the importance of eating adequate amounts of protein from a variety of sources to help build and maintain lean body mass.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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