Ideal protein sources for female physique athletes

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By Mark Carroll.

What is an ideal protein sources for female physique athletes? I have been asked this question on so many occasions, so I thought I would share my experience and break it down to four main topics for simplicity and clarity in addressing it, here is my take on:

The key to choosing protein:

Protein is the key macronutrient for contest prep athletes as it is the most satiating, has the highest thermic effect of feeding (TEF) and assists in the preservation of lean muscle mass when in a calorie deficit. I’m often asked which protein sources are best for bikini competitors and the answer is pretty simple really, whatever you enjoy. There is no need to over complicate it.

My clients eat the protein sources they enjoy, they cycle through a variety of sources of protein for diversity and they hit their calories and macros by eating the foods they like. The best way to achieve results with clients is to coach compliance and adherence, so it’s important they like their food, especially when in a crazy deficit. Closer to the stage, it makes sense to choose protein sources that work with your calories, for example, you could eat almost twice as much barramundi or white fish than you could beef steak or salmon.

Protein powders & supplements

Truthfully, you don’t need to cut out protein powder for comp prep, it just all comes down to personal preference and satiety levels. If you enjoy having protein powder, have it. Basically, protein powder is not really going to have the same positive impact on satiety as actually eating something like a chicken breast or steak, but it’s still going to provide you with a serve of protein.  

Generally speaking, I  prefer my clients eat their calories rather than drinking them, especially when they start to get really lean, but some people do enjoy having protein powders.  A lot of my girls aren’t huge fans of eating meat, so protein powder is a great supplement for them.

What about protein oats?

Protein oats are a hugely popular breakfast option and I find my female clients love to have this too which is fine, they will eat this all the way up to their comp.  The only time I actually recommend removing protein powder is the last couple days before getting on stage, just because when you have things like artificial flavors, colorings, as well as artificial sweeteners, what they generally do is they can cause a little bit of bloating.

How long before a competition do I recommend cutting out protein powder?

The last 3-5 days or so before stepping on stage it’s important to manage all elements of performance nutrition for optimal digestion so I remove any ingredients that may cause any bloating at all, at this stage I will remove protein powders. This gives us complete control over conditioning as we remove any artificial or foreign ingredients that can make one look a little ‘watery’ on stage.

Overall, if a client is getting so hungry that sticking to their macros and calories is an effort then I do suggest backing off protein powders and eating animal based protein sources, or plant based protein sources if that’s what you prefer.  But, for the most part it comes down to personal preference. It’s not going to make a difference in how you look at the end of the day.

Yours in health,

Mark Carroll, Global Head of Education

Clean Health Fitness Institute

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