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Will Women Bulk Up When Taking Protein Powder?

By Dr. Mark Evans, PhD, Optimum Nutrition, EMEA Performance Nutritionist

Key Learnings

  • Muscle growth. Resistance training is the key driver for muscle growth, protein powders only support this training process.

  • Protein and muscle growth. Protein supports muscle growth by providing the muscle with the building blocks or amino acids it needs to build new muscle fibres.

  • How much protein. To support muscle growth, it is important to consume higher amounts of protein of between 1.2-2.2g/kg body weight.

  • Protein powder and muscle bulk. Women have lower levels of testosterone, a hormone that plays a significant role in muscle growth. As a result, women are less likely to experience significant muscle hypertrophy or bulking up, even when consuming protein powder.

  • Benefits of protein. Protein powder supports muscle growth in conjunction with resistance training, weight management, post-workout repair and has overall health benefits.

  • Choosing a protein powder. Different types of protein powders, such as whey, casein or plant proteins, cater to various dietary preferences and goals.

  • Incorporating protein powder.  Protein powder is versatile and tasty and may enhance the fitness journey for women.


1. Muscle growth.
2. Protein and muscle growth
3. How much protein.
4. Protein powder and muscle bulk.
5. Benefits of protein.
6. Choosing a protein powder.
7. Incorporating protein powder.  

Protein powder has become increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts, and women are no exception. However, there is often a concern among women that consuming protein powder will cause them to bulk up In this article, we will explore the relationship between women and protein powder, and whether it can lead to muscle gain.

How does the muscle grow?

Protein plays a crucial role in muscle development. When you engage in physical activity, such as resistance training or weightlifting, your muscles experience micro-tears. These tears need to be repaired and rebuilt, which is where protein comes in. Over time, by progressively increasing your reps or increasing the amount of weight lifted, along with consuming adequate calories and protein, muscles will grow and become stronger. However, it is important to understand that resistance exercise is the main driver of muscle growth, protein only plays a supporting act.

Protein and Muscle Growth

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are then used to repair and build new muscle fibres. This process, known as muscle protein synthesis, is essential for muscle growth and recovery.

How much protein?

Ideally to support muscle growth it is important to consume higher amounts of protein, between 1.2-2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day3. This may translate into 130g (65 x 2) of protein for a 65 kg female, training 4 times a week with an aim of building and toning muscle.

Focusing on foods rich in protein including, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based options like cereals, legumes and tofu, will support these higher protein intakes. However, in some instances, when food is less accessible, or it is challenging to hit these higher protein intakes due to low appetite or dietary restrictions, protein powder can be a convenient and effective way to support daily protein intake and muscle growth.

Protein powder provides a high-quality, concentrated source of protein, making it easier to meet your daily protein needs. Additionally, protein powder is quickly absorbed by the body, allowing for faster delivery of amino acids to your muscles.

Does protein powder increase muscle bulk?

Now, let’s address the myth that women will bulk up from taking protein powder. This misconception stems from the fear that consuming protein will cause women to develop bulky muscles like men. However, this is not the case.

Women have lower levels of testosterone, a hormone that plays a significant role in muscle growth4. As a result, women are less likely to experience significant muscle hypertrophy or bulking up, even when consuming protein powder.

Instead, protein powder can help women achieve a lean and toned physique by supporting muscle repair and growth. It can also aid in preserving muscle mass, when in a calorie deficit,  while indirectly supporting fat loss by promoting a feeling of fullness, helping to create a more defined and sculpted look.

So, ladies, don’t be afraid to incorporate protein powder into your fitness routine. It can be a valuable tool in your journey towards achieving your fitness goals.

Benefits of protein powder for women

Protein powder is often associated with bulking up and building muscle, but it can actually offer numerous benefits for women beyond just gaining size. Whether you’re looking to manage your weight, recover from intense workouts, or improve the health of your hair, skin, and nails, protein powder can be a valuable addition to your routine.

Weight Management

When it comes to weight management, protein powder can be a helpful tool. High-protein diets have been shown to increase feelings of fullness, which may help individuals stick to a lower calorie diet by reducing the need for snacking5. By incorporating protein powder into your diet, you can also increase your protein intake without consuming excess calories or fat. This can indirectly support weight loss or maintenance by providing lower calorie snack options which increase feelings of fullness.

Post Workout Repair

Another key benefit of protein powder for women is its ability to enhance post-workout recovery2,3. After an intense exercise session, your muscles need to repair and rebuild. Protein is essential for this process as it provides the building blocks necessary for muscle repair. By consuming protein powder after your workout, you can provide your body with an adequate supply of protein to help you recover for your next training session and achieve your performance goals.

Overall Health Benefits

In addition to its impact on weight management and post-workout recovery, protein powder can also contribute to the health of your hair, skin, and nails. Protein is a vital component of these structures, and consuming enough protein is important for their growth and maintenance. By including protein powder in your diet, you can provide your body with the necessary amino acids to support the health and vitality of your hair, skin, and nails6.

Choosing the Right Protein Powder

When it comes to choosing the right protein powder, there are several options available that cater to different needs and preferences. Understanding the different types of protein powders and considering specific factors can help women find the best protein powder for their goals and dietary restrictions.

Different types of protein powders available

  • Whey Protein: This type of protein powder is derived from milk and is a popular choice among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It is rich in essential amino acids and is easily absorbed by the body. Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein, the number 1 whey protein powder in the World^, is an excellent high-quality option to incorporate into your daily routine to support muscle growth and repair*.

  • Casein Protein: Also derived from milk, casein protein is a slow-digesting protein that provides a sustained release of amino acids. Gold Standard 100% Casein Protein, is ideal for those looking for a protein powder that provides prolonged muscle repair, during periods without feed such as during sleep or fasting.

  • Plant-Based Protein: Plant-based protein powders, such as pea, hemp, and rice protein, are suitable for women following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Individual plant protein may not contain all the amino acids needed to support muscle growth. Therefore, it is important to choose a plant protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids if muscle growth and repair* is a performance goal. Gold Standard 100% Plant protein contains all 9 essential amino acids and is 100% suitable for vegans. A high-quality option to support muscle growth and repair.

Incorporating Protein Powder into Your Routine

When it comes to incorporating protein powder into your diet, the options are endless. You can simply mix it with water or milk for a quick protein shake or get creative with delicious recipes. Add a scoop of protein powder to your favourite smoothie for an extra protein boost or blend it with Greek yogurt and fruits for a protein-packed snack. You can also use protein powder in baking to make protein bars, pancakes, or muffins. The versatility of protein powder allows you to enjoy its benefits in various ways, making it a convenient and tasty addition to your diet. Check out this article to get more ideas of how and went to use protein.



In conclusion, the relationship between women and protein powder is a topic that deserves clarification. Women shouldn’t fear that incorporating protein powder into their fitness routine will lead to unwanted bulk. Instead, protein powder can be a valuable ally in achieving your fitness goals, whether it’s maintaining a healthy weight, recovering effectively from workouts, or supporting overall health.

*Protein supports the growth and maintenance of muscle mass in conjunction with weights resistance training

^ Euromonitor International Limited; Consumer Health 2024 Edition, Sports Nutrition category, %retail value shares, 2023 data.


  1. Schoenfeld B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of strength and conditioning research24(10), 2857–2872.

  2. Tang, J. E., et al., (2009). Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)107(3), 987–992.

  3. Jäger, R., et al (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 20.

  4. Hunter, S. K., et al. (2023). The Biological Basis of Sex Differences in Athletic Performance: Consensus Statement for the American College of Sports Medicine. Medicine and science in sports and exercise55(12), 2328–2360.

  5. Leidy, H. J., et al., (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American journal of clinical nutrition97(4), 677–688.

  6. Emily Arentson-Lantz, et al., 2015. Protein: A nutrient in focus. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism40(8): 755-761.