Here's what I ended up finding out. For a normal person, you are supposed to eat 0.36 * your body weight in pounds in grams of protein. So for a woman who weighs 130 pounds, you should consume at least 47 grams of protein a day (more if you are physically active). I started doing the math and realized that there were some days that I wasn't even close to hitting that number. That was definitely a good wake up call for me. It also started to explain why I seemed to suffer from sore muscles more often than the average person. In the end I started paying attention to my protein intake and have already noticed a difference in the amount of time it takes me to recover from a workout and the amount of soreness I feel the next day.
Now let's talk protein powder. Since I don't want to be eating a ton of meat each day and I'm really not great about eating enough vegetable based proteins, I knew I would need some extra help somewhere. Enter in the protein powder idea. I used to think only frat guys who spend every day in the gym staring at themselves in the mirror while lifting weights would drink protein shakes. I didn't want to bulk up but wanted to recover quicker and build long lean muscles. However, after doing research I discovered that lots of perfectly normal looking women drank protein powders and that it was more universal that I had originally thought. So I decide I'd give it a go and try it out.
After trying a few different kinds, my favorite is Vega One Protein Powder. There is a nutritional shake as well as a Vega Sport one, but I tend to just drink the nutritional all in one shake to get some extra greens into my diet. French Vanilla is definitely the best flavor, and I tend to mix it with water or soy milk. I will drink it after a big work out or an hour before I go to bed so my muscles and rebuild while I'm snoozing.
Vega One seemed to be the most cost efficient (I tried Shakeology but didn't think it was worth the crazy price), tasted the best (I tried a few that I really didn't like at all), and seems to produce the best results (I bought a few different cheap kinds but didn't seem to get the same feeling as I did with Vega). I also bought a blender bottle ($10-$15) that helps break up all the chunks and gives a smooth texture to your protein shake. I've heard about other incorporating protein powders into smoothies, milk shakes, coffee, baked goods, etc, but I find drinking protein shakes works just fine for me.
I will continue to see how the protein shakes make me feel, but overall I am really glad that I found one I liked and works for my body (doesn't cause my stomach problems) that also tastes decent. I'd recommend trying out different kinds until you find one that works well for you. Of course it isn't for everybody (there are those amazing people who get the perfectly balanced diet every day), but for those of you looking for a protein increase, give it a try.