The Best Protein Powders for Fitness and Figure Competitors

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Female bodybuilding takes different forms, two of which are fitness and figure competitions. Fitness competitors are expected to be lean and muscular, but without the muscle bulk of typical bodybuilding competitors, and they must take part in a dance routine. Judging for figure competitions is similar, but no routine is required. To get in shape for contests, many fitness and figure competitors consume protein powders to reach their protein requirements. The best type of powder depends on a number of factors.

Protein Basics

As a woman involved in intense training and looking to build muscle and lose fat, you need more protein than the average woman: between 0.6 and 0.9 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, according to nutritionist Nancy Clark. This means that a 130-pound woman would need between 78 and 117 grams of protein each day. Getting this much from food alone may prove difficult, so a protein powder is often used as a supplement.

Looking at Dairy

Whey protein powder and casein protein powder are both milk-based proteins commonly used as supplements. These are both complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and recovery. Whey digests fairly quickly, making it a good choice after a workout, while casein is slower digesting, so it's a better choice before bed or if you know it'll be awhile until your next meal.

Nondairy Choices

Due to allergies, intolerances or dietary preferences, you may prefer a nondairy protein powder. If this is the case, then brown rice, pea and hemp are viable alternatives. The only downside to these is that they don't contain all the essential amino acids, so you need to mix two or three of them. Another choice is soy protein, which is also plant-based but is a complete protein.

Making the Decision

No protein powder can categorically be deemed the best for fitness or figure competitors. It comes down to your personal preferences and how protein powder fits into your diet. Whatever powder you decide to go with, supplements can be a handy addition to your diet, but they should never be a top priority or take the place of whole foods, advises strength coach Molly Galbraith. Make protein sources such as chicken, fish, lean red meat, yogurt and beans staples in your diet and add protein powders when needed.