Do Protein Supplements Lead to Muscle Buildup in Women?
Protein is a very essential macronutrient for women.
Protein is a macronutrient and a source of energy. Our body uses protein to build and repair tissues. Now, even if we aren't growing in height, our cells and tissues (a collection of cells) need protein. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, hair and blood. Protein is also needed to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
So, if you are someone who wants speedy recovery from wounds, healthy muscle recovery after exercise, healthy hair, skin and nails, and a healthy ability to deal with monthly hormonal balance - then you do need protein :)
An average woman needs 0.8g of protein per 1 kg of body weight. If you are 50kgs, you need 40grams of protein per day.
For context one cup of dal has 6g of protein. It’s very likely that for a lot of us the quantity of protein supplied through the diet is not enough to meet the body’s requirements for protein. There is a definite need for supplementation in such a situation or improving the daily diet.
But, many of us associate protein supplements with well-built muscular, ripped bodies of body building enthusiasts and influencers. It is far from reality but why have we come to believe that consuming protein powders will lead to muscle build up and bulking. Because that is how protein has been marketed to us. Their target segment was men, and they showed even macho men to sell their products.
Let’s break the protein misconception - Just supplementing the diet with protein alone does not build up muscle.
So, when does muscle build-up/ bulking happen?
Muscle build-up or bulking happens only when protein supplementation is combined with straining of the muscles. Muscles need to be strained and broken often to be built and become strong.
To understand how and why, Let us first learn how muscles are built.
Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of muscles. Every time you lift very heavy weights, run beyond your capacity or strain the muscles, they develop little cuts or tears.
The body uses the amino acids from the dietary protein to repair the damage and fill the tears.
This repeated adding of amino acids or building blocks over the cycles makes the muscles grow bigger in size and volume and stronger with time. This growth is visible in the form of bulk or physical growth in the arms and legs of the body. It helps build muscle strength, hence a lot of weight lifters and professionals do this.
Conclusion: If you are not straining the muscles you will not bulk up with protein.
Now, If you are exercising, and having protein, how much thick muscle can a woman build?
The thickness of the muscle build-up depends on:
- Nature of exercise, i.e. extent of wear and tear
- Diet and protein intake
- Testosterone levels in the body (Yes. women do have testosterone levels, just very small vs men)
Women cannot build muscle as thick as men because they naturally have less testosterone (more estrogen and progesterone) in their bodies compared to men (15 to 20% less testosterone)
And she cannot bulk up if she also takes birth control pills. The birth control pills lower the testosterone levels and increase estrogen and progesterone quantities in the blood.
Low testosterone = less muscle thickness.
Then how do some women build bodies that match the super bulky men muscles?
They inject male hormones, testosterones and steroids into their bodies to achieve that kind of physique. This is unnatural and unsafe. Injecting these hormones into the body can negatively interfere with the balance in the hormone system in the body.
Eating supplementary protein and exercising may not lead to a major muscle build up.
But it offers many other benefits:
It helps control appetite or hunger (makes her feel full for longer) making her consume less calories.
It helps build lean muscle mass and reduce fat mass in the body. More lean muscle mass means better metabolism. There is efficient burning of more calories every day to lose weight.
It helps make nails, skin, and hair healthy. It helps in wound healing and monthly hormone balance.
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