Whether you want to build muscle just to tone up or to finally achieve those six-pack abs, it helps to pack in the protein shakes. From isolates and concentrates to soy protein and spirulina, the best muscle-building shakes contain the right amount of protein and are of a certain make up to deliver amino acids -- protein -- to those starving muscles of yours for bigger, stronger muscles.
Grams per Serving
To really build muscle, you’ll first need to make sure that you’re getting enough protein. According to FitDay, on average a woman needs 46 grams of protein a day, but if you’re building muscle you’ll need much more -- perhaps as much as 180 grams. Bodybuilding.com recommends multiplying your weight by 1.5 to calculate the exact number of grams of protein to eat. This number will probably be higher than 100 grams, so you’ll need to drink two or three shakes a day to meet your goal. Bodybuilding.com suggests that each serving of protein powder have 20 to 30 grams of protein to meet your goal and less than 1 to 5 grams each of fat and carbs.
Consistency and Timing
Believe it or not, timing is actually a factor when choosing the best protein for your shake. Since protein powders have different consistencies -- caseins, isolates and concentrates -- some are more effective directly after a workout, while others are better later on. Casein, for instance, contains fats and digests slower, according to Bodybuilding.com, releasing its muscle-building amino acids for hours -- even as you sleep. Since it can rebuild muscle through the night, it's better at the end of the day. An isolate, however, is best directly after your workout since it contains protein and carbs to quickly feed and rebuild exhausted muscles. Protein concentrates are better between meals since they digest moderately fast and provide amino acids during the day.
Depending on your dietary concerns, some proteins may be better suited for you than others. Whey, for instance, is derived from milk, so it's not suitable for vegans and non-dairy eaters -- although it does contain some of the highest amounts of protein. Egg protein powders are available for vegetarians -- if you eat eggs -- but if that’s out, then soy protein, rice protein and spirulina are always an option. Spirulina is a blue-green algae and complete protein which contains all eight amino acids necessary to build muscle. It’s also 60 percent protein, according to Fitday, so it’s a good option for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamins and Minerals
Protein shakes for women should have higher levels of folic acid, B6 and iron, according to FitDay. Some more expensive protein powders are already fortified with vitamins and minerals. But simply adding a bit of fruit and vegetables to your shake can instantly add flavor and nutrients. Bananas, for instance, are rich in potassium and B6 and can naturally sweeten your shake. Throw in spinach for folate, B6, potassium and a number of other nutrients. Or add in some berries for additional folate and vitamin C. Fruits and veggies can make your drink quite tasty, which means you'll be more likely to drink it and get the protein and nutrients you need.
Based in Atlanta, Mya Passmore has been writing since 2010, covering health and business topics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from George Washington University.