Women have always had slightly different nutritional needs than men. Research is beginning to shed some light on how women fuel their recoveries differently.
High-protein diets have been popular in weight-loss circles for several years now, but very little research had been conducted on the effects of protein on performance, especially in women. Recently researchers at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand studied the effect of high-protein feeding on the performance of female cyclists to see if there was a difference between high- and low-protein recovery diets on the performance of well-trained female cyclists.
They studied 12 female cyclists. Each cyclist completed three high-intensity rides: two-and-a-half hours of interval work on the first day followed by sprint testing on days two and four. Day three was a rest day. In the first four hours of recovery on the first and second days, the cyclists ate either high protein or high carbohydrate meals. Researchers found that the protein had no effect on mean power in the repeated sprint testing on day two or day four. The women reported feeling both more fatigue and soreness in their legs in days two, three, and four, and leg strength was lower in those who ate the high-protein diet than in those who ate the high carbohydrate meals. In contrast to previous findings with male athletes, their conclusion was that there was “no clear influence of dietary protein quantity on subsequent performance in women”. The study suggests that female endurance athletes may not need protein as part of their recovery meal; a high carbohydrate meal may be the better recovery food for women. This was a very small study and obviously more studies need to be done on female athletes.