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For more than 50 years, it’s been easy to convince men to eat more protein. It’s an essential building block for building muscle, something the general population of men is mostly looking for to maintain healthy muscle mass and keeping strong. It’s harder to sell the same idea to women, as the majority of women are afraid to look too “bulky”. Mainstream magazines for women have often focused on manipulating carbohydrates, fats, and calories. In recent years, however, protein has started taking over in the female fitness community as a focal area in attaining the physique most women are looking for.

The ultra-lean supermodel look isn’t as popular as it used to be. It’s slowly being replaced by a more athletic look with significantly more muscle. Protein offers many other benefits, including helping control hunger by increasing satiety and stabilizing energy levels.

What we often misunderstand, is how much protein women really need. Ideal recommendations by the Institute of Medicine range from 0.4g of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight for those with a sedentary lifestyle and 0.85 g for those who regularly exercise. We can compare this to a 126-pound inactive female who just needs 23g of protein a day, and a woman who hits the gym every other day of the week for about 48 grams.

What we need to understand, however, is that the female shape, just like any other, is shaped over the surface of muscle and fat which outlines the skeletal structure. Women who want to build muscle need enough protein to support this shape. Likewise for the women who want more stamina for sports or to be able to handle difficult boot camp workouts.

Another significant factor to consider is that women who are using lower calorie diets designed to lose their body fat may need to increase their protein intake. This is because their body will use the protein as an energy source. Recent studies suggest that up to 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight may be necessary for preventing lean muscle losses during periods of energy restriction and to promote fat loss. This means a 126-pound woman will need to increase their protein intake to an increased 115g  per day.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get this increased protein intake from food sources alone. If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, it can be more useful and convenient to get the extra requirements from protein powders. Keep your protein in a shaker bottle, add water and mix whenever you are ready. It’s an efficient solution for the everyday person. Protein supplements are extremely helpful with increasing your protein intake without increasing the number of carbs or fats you consume. This keeps calories low while keeping healthy.

Research has also found that a high protein intake does not increase the risk of ischemic heart disease, but actually suggests that replacing carbohydrates with protein may be associated with a lower risk of ischemic heart disease. Because a high protein diet can often be accompanied by increases in saturated fat and cholesterol intake, application of these sorts of findings to public dietary advice should be exercised with caution. If fat intake is a concern for you, simply use protein powders with a minimal amount of fat, and stick to whole lean sources of protein.

Another challenge for increasing protein intake is that some women are vegetarians and some have issues with dairy products, even with the more easily digestible whey proteins. The solution can be found from protein powders made from rice, hemp and peas, all of which are readily available both in stores and online.

All three macronutrients; protein, carbs, and fats, are necessary to fuel a healthy lifestyle. But to build more muscle to give you the body that you are looking for and the strength you need to maintain an active lifestyle, consider adding an extra portion of whatever protein source you enjoy and putting a protein shaker bottle to good use.

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