Why Female Athletes Should Make Protein a Part of Their Diet

We bust the myth that protein causes females to bulk up and explain why this valuable nutrient is a critical component of sports performance.

Sichuan Peppercorn Tenderloin Steak

Many female athletes believe that if they consume large servings of protein, they'll bulk up. And since most female athletes want a slim appearance—rather than the big muscles sported by their male counterparts—this is a cause for concern.

However, it turns out this assumption about protein is unfounded. Jim White, registered dietician and American Dietetics Association spokesman, explains why and busts the myth.

STACK: Should female athletes be reluctant to consume protein?

Jim White: In general, I think women don't take in enough protein. The image of protein is that [consuming] a lot can create muscle mass. I see many women trying to stay light on [protein] to make sure they don't get too bulky.

STACK: Why don't women bulk up like men?

JW: Males have more testosterone and are more capable of developing muscle mass than women. The idea that eating more protein will create a bulkiness or more muscle mass in women just isn't true.

Of course, it could produce a bit more muscle mass for female bodybuilders, who have slightly more testosterone in their genetics, but it's not something that's worth cutting back your protein intake.

STACK: What are the drawbacks of limiting protein intake?

JW: It's a big concern for female athletes ... By constraining protein intake, they are limiting the production of lean muscle, which can affect athletic performance and appearance.

STACK: How much protein should a female athlete consume each day?

JW: I recommend 10 to 35 percent of a female athlete's daily 2,000 calories should be from protein (200-700 calories of protein, which equals 50-175 grams). As a general guideline, it's safe to consume up to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Photo:  closetcooking.com

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