Post workout nutrition, our cupboards here at Pither HQ have always been full of them. Drinks, bars, balls, powders, shots, drops, gels; the choices are simply endless. Not only is the variety endless, but the science is baffling too and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I never quite know where to start when it comes to fuelling my body for exercise. And that was before I realised that there is now even specific nutrition that is (supposedly) just for females, i.e. powders and shakes that are said to be perfectly suited for the female makeup and to aid with hormonal balance.
So, with all this in mind, I wanted to lift the curtain on the fitness and nutrition world and do some of my own research. I want to discover what’s out there, whether women need different nutrition to men and whilst I’m at it, work out which supplements I like best.
In this guide I have tested out a number of products (all #gifted to me I should add), from big brands to smaller independents. I have rated their product based on some key parameters, from taste, to texture, to ingredients, to how they look and of course, how it made me feel.
Here’s what I found…
One of the first products I tried was The Fast 800 Shakes from Dr Michael Mosley. The Fast 800 have only recently launched these natural and convenient shakes to help people achieve a post-lockdown health ‘reset’. These Mediterranean style shakes are low in simple carbs and high in protein and fibre. While low in carbohydrates and with no added sugar, The Fast 800 shakes are rich in fibre, aiding beneficial gut flora in producing chemicals that reduce inflammation and support immune function.
I tried the vegan chocolate shake and I have to say, the taste was good. What I liked about this shake was its ease. Just add the powder to water and shake in their lovely metal shaker. Simple, easy and great for time poor people like myself. This shake was definitely more palatable than many I have tried, though it did have more of a chew to it than some of the thinner ones. I like the way it’s a 200-calorie shake. It’s not massively filling, and you can still eat normal food around it (which is what they recommend too). The fact that each shake also contains 20g protein is also important; we all need healthy amounts of good quality protein every day to preserve our muscle mass and support our immune system. All in all, I like this brand and would like to try more of their flavours.
If you want to try The Fast 800, here’s what you need to know:
It’s available in vegetarian and vegan bases in three delicious flavours: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The shakes cost £18.99 per pack, or £1.90 a shake and they are only available via www.thefast800.com. Once purchased they will be delivered to your door.
Next up was Form Nutrition. Now before I even tried this brand, I just wanted to love them. For a start they are a B Corporation – a group of companies which I personally want to support due to their purpose led approach. It’s important to me to work with and buy from brands who prioritise purpose and this is one such brand. Form offer craft plant-based proteins for the body and responsibly sourced nootropics for the brain. Backed by science, their products are designed with their customer’s optimal performance in mind. They are a business after my own heart in many ways.
I tried their performance protein and the super blend protein shakes. Again, this is another shake which is great for time poor people or if you need something on the go. Just add water to your powder and shake. Simple. They have a number of flavours available, but I only tried toffee and tiramisu. Now if anything I felt the tiramisu shake was a little too sweet for me personally, but the toffee one was better. On second test I added less powder and it was better. What I really liked about Form, was that it didn’t really have such a bitty texture compared to some others. It’s much smoother in the mouth and easier to swallow because it is thin.
Another gamechanger for me was that with every product one purchase from Form, the consumer is helping to support those in need via the Form Feeding Fund at Bansang Hospital in The Gambia. It’s a nice concept and good to know that you are giving back in some way, however small. In short, I definitely liked this product; it’s ease, what it stands for, and its ingredients, but I would definitely suggest that this is for those who have a sweeter pallet.
If you want to try Form Nutrition, here’s what you need to know:
You can purchase Form here: https://formnutrition.com/ You can get a range of flavours and prices range from £9 to £29 depending on what you want. They also have a number of other products to help with sleep and calming too which can be found on the website.
Next up it was Bioglan Superfoods. Now I had come across Bioglan in health food stores, but didn’t know they were playing in the protein powder and sports recovery space too.
The brand has recently announced the launch of its new Super Protein, which is a plant-based protein powder, with a whole a host of adaptogens, to help the body to adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself, regulating hormones and giving us all some much-needed energy.
It’s made with a rice and pea protein (making it great for vegetarians and vegans alike) and a whole host of adaptogens including; Maca, Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Schisandra to stabilise the body’s processes when supporting stamina, energy and mental performance. The herbal adaptogens found in Bioglan Superfoods, Super Protein, work to increase the bodies resistance to stress and boost the immune system.
This one was a little different to the rest as it wasn’t a simple case of adding into water in a shaker. Rather Super Protein needs to be added to a smoothie, into a recipe or sprinkled on your breakfast oats. At first, I added it to my morning porridge, and I have to say that I felt the taste was too strong for me. However, I later added it to berry and banana smoothies (and have been ever since) it’s fantastic. It made my smoothies really smooth (if that’s thing!) and the taste wasn’t overpowering at all. Out of all the options I’ve tried so far to add to smoothies for me this one was the winner as it didn’t take away from the smoothie flavour and wasn’t horribly sweet.
If you want to try Bioglan Super Protein, here’s what you need to know:
Bioglan Superfoods Super Protein is available from Holland & Barrett, with an RRP £12.99 for 100g. As I mentioned I preferred to use this as ingredient in smoothies, but for more recipe ideas visit www.bioglansuperfoods.co.uk
Now prepare to be amazed (and maybe a little itchy) for our next protein powder as this one was made entirely out of little critters; or crickets to be more specific.
Bio Bug is not for the faint hearted. It is made entirely out of crickets. But why I hear you ask? Well cricket powder apparently has almost double the amount of protein than chicken per 100g (31g in chicken vs 60g of protein powder) and uses almost 10x less feed than beef requires per kg. Not only that but it is great for the environment too.
A UN FAO report published in 2013 urged the world to adopt the practice of eating insects as a sustainable food source. By 2050, there will be 10 billion people on Earth and, to feed them all, we will require 70% more food, 120% more water and 42% more arable land. Moreover, the impact of growing livestock on the environment will need to halve compared to what they are today to meet the acceptable targets. Insects are more efficient, and a sustainable source of food compared to livestock, if indeed you can stomach them.
And I have to be honest I LOVE things like this. Most people would be put off by the bugs, but for me it made me want to try it more. Nose to tail eating is my thing, especially when it is as sustainable as Bio Bug. The taste…well its fine really. It doesn’t really taste much as you mainly use it as an ingredient. Likewise, you can be rest assured that it doesn’t smell either.
As I said before, this powder works best if you use it as an ingredient in recipes, not as a standalone shake. I made mine into a chocolate cricket shake, but you can add it to pancakes and bread too. It’s worth a try for sure if you’re not opposed to using it as part of a recipe.
If you want to try Bio Bug, here’s what you need to know:
A 250g bag of Bio Bug comes in at £19.99. And you can buy it online here: https://biobuguk.com/product/cricket-flour-protein-powder/
Next up were the ProYouth Nutrition Protein Energy Bars. These bars are available in three yummy flavours Choc Brownie, Vanilla Delight and Banana Split. I should stress that Banana Split was my favourite out of the three.
The bars contain carefully selected macro and micro nutrients to support performance, recovery, iron transports, minimise fatigue, muscle-brain functions and even mental wellbeing.
The taste is good and the bar has got a great chew and crunch to it. I dislike bars that are really sticky and get all over your hands – not the case with this one. I think these bars are best suited for endurance sports though rather than a short workout. For instance, these would be spot on for a trail run or long-distance ride. They do say you can snack on it, but I wouldn’t want to personally (outside of doing a decent work out) due to the high calorific content.
If you want to try ProYouthNutrition, here’s what you need to know:
You can buy them online onProYouthNutrition.com. They RRP at £23.95 for box of 12. That works out just under £2 per bar. And whilst that may seem quite costly, they are actually massive, so I split up my bar and ate it in two parts during the day.
Innermost was next on my menu. The Innermost Protein Collection is totally research-backed and formulated to target different goals across body and mind. They all contain functional ingredients, nootropics and adaptogens and are free from soy, gluten, fillers and GMO.
Now I have to say I am a big fan of this one. I like the taste, ease of making it (just add water) and I really like the texture. Unlike others this one is as smooth as anything and no crunchy, nutty bits. Likewise all the powder seems to breakdown easily so no chewy balls of congealed powder.. or maybe my arms are just getting better at shaking after all this protein!
I also liked the selection that Innermost offer – from post workout nutrition to powders you can take during the workout. This seems to be like a great brand and definitely one I will keep taking.
If you want to try The Innermost Protein Collection, here’s what you need to know:
They are stocked globally at many boutique fitness studios including F45, BLOK, Digme, Victus Soul, Boom Cycle and many more. You can also find them here online: The Innermost Protein Collection. Prices vary depending on what you get, but a 500g of powder costs £29.95.
Back on the snack bar wagon and next up was Protein Pow. Now here’s a cool brand doing some fun things. Protein Pow offer healthy snacks in the form of their ready to eat protein cookie dough. Their edible cookie dough bars are not just delicious, they’re also a high-protein, gluten-free, plant-based, high-fibre cookie dough with no sugar added and no artificial ingredients. These bars taste good and just like real cookie dough.
The bars have a high calorie count which is good if you’re doing demanding exercise. They’ve got a high proportion of complex carbs and unsaturated fats and high protein; all these are of course, very good for post exercise nutrition.
But what I really liked about the bars was how versatile they were. These edible cookie dough bars are ready to eat and ready to bake too. They can be enjoyed straight-out of the wrapper, baked into a cookie by just chucking them in the oven, added to ice cream, turned into protein truffles, baked into brownies, and more!
If you want to try Protein Pow, here’s what you need to know:
You can see their whole range of products here: https://shop.proteinpow.com/
A bundle of 16 bars retails at around £29.50. For me the standout selling point of these bars is how versatile they are.
And finally, the burning question we all want to know…
Well it seems the answer is a BIG NO. Dan Simpson, co-founder at wellbeing brand, Harrogate Organics Company said: “We don’t believe that specific nutritional supplements should be marketed based on gender. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s about listening to your body and finding the right solution for your needs and our all-natural supplements support a wide range of challenges. Different supplements help different people manage different conditions, but gender doesn’t come into it for us.”
Anna Sward, founder of Protein Pow agreed. She explained that she thinks it’s a marketing gimmick and worse than that, it’s one that is damaging to the industry and consumer opinion. Anna said, “marketing like this is what promotes misinformation, the kind that leads countless women to eat an insufficient amount of calories, shun strength training because of the belief it’ll make them ‘bulky,’ waste muscle and strength away by living on cardio machines, and feel like sh** as a result.”
Becs Sandwith, expert nutritionist and Innermost ambassador, said “regardless of whether you’re male or female, good nutrition is essential, both for recovery between training sessions but also for everyday functioning. Nutritional supplements do not need to be specifically marketed at males or females and that is why I love that all Innermost products are designed for both. They keep their sole focus on what is important and that is towards offering the best products to improve overall health and wellbeing.”
So, there you have it, it seems that when it comes to nutritional supplements, and as our experts have explained, women do not need to be looking at bespoke products marketed exclusively towards females. Rather it is the product’s ingredient list, whether it does indeed have enough protein in it, the taste and how it makes you feel that should be a priority. Don’t just fall for the nicest brand, pick something that you know you will enjoy drinking and eating. Good, healthy food shouldn’t feel like a chore and if it does, its unlikely to be a sustainable healthy habit long term.
And remember, if the ingredients are mainly the same, but with just a higher price tag on the women’s blend and with some pretty packaging, do not fall for the hype. As Anna Sward concludes, “the very idea is ridiculous, as ridiculous as Bic Pens for women.” And I have to agree with her on that!