“As a woman, I avoid whey protein because I don't want to look too "bulky".
For the longest time, whey protein has mainly been marketed to men as a supplement to help build muscle mass or "bulk up". When it comes to women, however, does whey protein supplementation lead to excessive or undesirable bulkiness?
The truth is that in both men and women, whey protein alone will not make someone bulk up. It will help build lean muscle mass. Because of its rapid absorption rate and high concentration of branched chain amino acids, whey is an optimal and effective source of protein for muscle gains.
However, the extent to which one builds muscle mass also depends on the overall diet and workout routine.
A 2018 study at Purdue University, published in Nutrition Reviews, set out to review all the research out there on the effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition of women. Their goal? To test out whether the "public perception that whey protein supplementation will lead to excessive hypertrophy or "bulkiness" in women" is true.
How was this study designed? They conducted a meta-analysis, comparing data from 13 different studies on whey protein supplementation in women. Studies used various whey protein dosages, ranging from 6 to 48 grams per day. The studies they examined used either whey protein concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysates.
Researchers split the women into 4 different categories: 1) women who restricted calories/made dietary changes, 2) women who included resistance training, 3) women who combined calorie restriction and resistance training, 4) women who neither restricted calories nor included resistance training.
Overall, the researchers found positive, yet modest, changes in lean mass in the group of women supplementing with whey protein. They saw no significant changes in fat mass.
Results also showed that the most "robust" results occured with whey protein supplementation combined with calorie restriction. All in all, however, whey protein supplementation produced moderate increases in lean muscle mass, as little as less than 1% of an increase in lean mass. No excessive bulkiness resulted from either category of research subjects.
The study concluded that whey protein consumption in women can help modestly improve body composition. In other words, there is no need to fear whey protein as a woman.
EnergyFirst's ProEnergy Whey Protein Isolate may help men and women achieve and maintain a lean body. It's not treated with hormones or antibiotics and it has ultra low glycemic levels with 0-1 grams of sugar per serving (depending on the flavor).
Robert E Bergia, Joshua L Hudson, Wayne W Campbell; Effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition changes in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 76, Issue 7, 1 July 2018, Pages 539–551, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy017