Protein Requirements for Women in Strength Training

As fitness professionals, understanding the nutritional needs of your clients is crucial in guiding them towards achieving their strength and conditioning goals. Recent research underscores the importance of protein intake for women engaged in strength training, revealing nuanced insights that can significantly impact training outcomes. This article delves into the reasoning behind increased protein needs during strength training, supported by recent studies, and offers practical advice for nutritional planning.

The Importance of Increased Protein Intake

Strength training imposes significant stress on the muscles, necessitating recovery processes that repair and build muscle tissue. Protein, composed of amino acids, is vital for this muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Research indicates that resistance exercise increases the body’s need for protein to optimise MPS and support hypertrophy (muscle growth).

A study by Agostini et al. (2018) highlights the role of protein in synergistically working with resistance exercise to improve muscle health in postmenopausal women. Similarly, Morton et al. (2018) emphasise the enhanced benefits of protein supplementation alongside resistance training for muscle mass and strength gains.

The research further suggests that not just the quantity but the quality of protein—specifically, the presence of the amino acid leucine—is crucial for maximising anabolic responses in muscles. Devries et al. (2018) found that leucine content is a primary determinant of muscle protein anabolic responses in healthy older women.

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Tips for Nutritional Advice

  1. Emphasise Protein Quality: Advise clients to focus on protein sources rich in leucine, such as whey protein, lean meat and fish to maximise MPS.
  2. Distribute Protein Intake: Encourage the consumption of protein across all meals and snacks throughout the day to continuously fuel MPS. Aiming for at least 20-30 grams of protein per meal can be beneficial.
  3. Post-Workout Nutrition: Stress the importance of a protein-rich meal or snack shortly after training to take advantage of the heightened muscle sensitivity to amino acids.
  4. Monitor Total Intake: While focusing on protein, remind clients to maintain a balanced diet that supports their overall training goals, including adequate intake of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  5. Hydration and Recovery: Alongside nutrition, emphasise the importance of proper hydration and sufficient rest for optimal recovery and performance.

Suggested Meal Plan

A balanced meal plan for a female strength training enthusiast aiming for approximately 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day might look like this for a 70kg individual (112g of protein per day):

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (2) with spinach and whole-grain toast + Greek yogurt (200g)
  • Snack: Protein shake with whey protein (25g of protein) and a piece of fruit
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast (150g) salad with quinoa and mixed vegetables
  • Snack: Cottage cheese (200g) with sliced almonds and honey
  • Dinner: Baked salmon (150g) with sweet potato and steamed broccoli
  • Post-Workout (if applicable): Protein smoothie with whey protein (25g of protein), banana, and almond milk


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