If you’re expecting a child, you’ve probably heard that you’re now eating for two! While this isn’t quite accurate (you don’t need any more calories in the first trimester and should aim for around 340 to 450 more calories per day later in your pregnancy), your diet is critical for your baby’s development.
Protein intake throughout pregnancy is critical for your growing baby and impacts everything from birth weight to head size. It may even have an impact on their adult health!
But don’t worry – this shouldn’t be a stressful situation. There are several strategies to include adequate protein in your regular meals from whole foods. If you feel nausea from pregnancy or don’t have enough appetite, protein powders might help temporarily cover the nutritional gap.
What Are Protein Powders?
Bodybuilders aren’t the only ones who benefit from protein supplements. When needed, these concentrated forms of dietary proteins can be used to augment your pregnant diet. Up to 30 grams of protein may be obtained from a single scoop of protein powder.
This protein might come from one of the following sources:
Protein powders are typically enriched with additional nutrients, but they aren’t meant to replace a meal. Protein powders aren’t all made equal. Some include hidden toxins or extra components that aren’t healthy to eat while pregnant — or even when you aren’t.
Some protein powders contain thickeners, artificial flavoring, coloring, and sweeteners, all of which are unnecessary for you and your baby.
How Much Protein Should You Eat While Pregnant?
Pregnant women should consume 70 to 100 grams of protein each day, depending on their overall body weight. To put this in perspective, a hard-boiled egg has around 6 grams of protein, while a skinless chicken breast has around 26 grams. Don’t like eating a lot of meat and dairy? The good news is that plant foods are high in protein as well. A half-cup of lentils, for example, has roughly 9 grams.
Here’s an example of a 72-gram daily protein intake:
- An egg that has been cooked (6 grams)
- Cottage cheese, 1 cup (28 grams)
- A sack of nuts (6 grams)
- 3 oz. baked salmon (a delicious seafood choice)
- For pregnancy, and a bowl of lentil soup (15 grams + 9 grams)
- A mug of milk (8 grams)
If you’re having trouble getting enough protein from meals, you might use a protein powder as a supplement — not a meal replacement — to enhance your consumption, with your OB’s permission.
A pregnant woman’s protein needs rise as the pregnancy advances, peaking in the second and third trimesters when the baby is quickly growing. A pregnant woman’s daily protein need is determined by her body weight, as long as it is within the weight guidelines for regularly fed women acquiring gestational body weight.
The quantity of protein in grams is calculated by multiplying the body weight in kilograms by 1.2. For example, if you weigh 60 kg during the first trimester, your daily protein need is 60*1.2 = 72 grams. Your protein requirements will be increased by the time you reach the third trimester of your pregnancy. After that, your body weight will be doubled by 1.5.
Can You Have Whey Protein Powder During Pregnancy?
Protein powders might assist you in meeting your protein requirements while pregnant. However, before adding any supplement to your diet, including protein powders, consult your OB.
Once you’ve received permission, contact your doctor for a recommendation on a protein powder. It’s better to opt for an unflavored kind with minimal components, like any other nutritional supplement. A decent rule of thumb is to avoid eating anything you can’t pronounce.
Whey powder is a milk-derived natural protein powder. Look for whey powder that hasn’t been tampered with. Make sure you’re not taking a milk-based dairy powder if you’re allergic or sensitive to dairy. Bloating and gas, as well as an allergic response, are the last things you want during pregnancy.
In addition to avoiding whey, look for milk additives like casein or lactose on protein powder labels. Instead, choose a pea protein powder that is 100% pure.
Why Do Some Pregnant Women Drink Protein Shakes?
Remove any impression that protein powder is only used to grow muscle after a strenuous workout. On the contrary, many pregnant women will choose a protein shake for a variety of reasons:
- You’re feeling nauseous or have a food aversion.
- Protein powder is often the only source of protein you can tolerate.
- You’re exhausted.
- Protein powder is a quick and easy way to get protein if you’re too tired to prepare chicken breasts.
- You’re a vegetarian or vegan.
So you might be used to relying on vegan protein supplements to satisfy your protein requirements. Using protein powder and drinking protein smoothies during pregnancy is widespread for various reasons, and whether it is safe for mom and baby during this special time is a prevalent issue.
What Are The Risks Of Drinking Whey Protein Shake During Pregnancy?
Obtaining An Excessive Amount
Excess protein during pregnancy comes with its own set of dangers. If you eat a variety of protein-rich meals daily, you probably don’t require protein powder.
This 2014 research review cites a study conducted in Scotland. According to latest evidence, pregnant women who ate too much protein and too little carbohydrate had infants who grew slower. (This is also one of the reasons why the keto diet isn’t advised during pregnancy.) Pregnant women who ate a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet had a greater risk of gestational diabetes, according to 2018 research.
Consider this: It’s far simpler to consume too much protein from a powdered supplement than it is from entire foods. As a result, you might want to put the powder down and grab a handful of cashews instead.
Consuming Toxic Ingredients
Protein powders are also classified as “dietary supplements.” This implies they are not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States (FDA).
Powder makers are responsible for ensuring the safety and labeling of the ingredients in their protein powders. Is it true that all manufacturers are trustworthy? We hope so, but nothing can be guaranteed.
There’s no way to know for sure if you’re receiving exactly what the label states. As a result, you may not be obtaining enough protein to maintain a healthy pregnancy. In addition, according to the Clean Label Project, you might be consuming harmful, unmentioned chemicals like heavy metals or pesticides.
Make an effort to acquire the majority of your protein from whole foods. Then, when you’re in desperate need of protein, simply add a scoop of a reputable protein powder.
Packing On The Sugar
Protein powders should be checked for hidden sugars. Too much sugar can lead to unhealthily high blood sugar levels and undesirable weight gain, which isn’t ideal for pregnancy.
One scoop of certain protein powders can contain up to 23 grams of sugar! To put this in context, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of sugar each day.
Save your permitted — and very normal — sugar consumption for the good stuff (ice cream, chocolate, and fresh or dried fruit).
Which Protein Powder Is Best During Pregnancy?
You may check a protein powder’s safety by going to the clean label project’s website and looking up its “score.” Alternatively, examining the product’s labeling to see if it is NSF third-party certified is a simple process.
“While many protein powders are deemed safe throughout pregnancy,” says Melissa Groves, RDN, owner of Avocado Grove Nutrition, “you want to avoid ones that include extra herbs and other substances that may be untested in pregnancy or even possibly hazardous.”
“If you’re taking a prenatal vitamin, make sure you’re not buying a protein powder with a lot of extra vitamins and minerals,” Groves advises, “because you shouldn’t be taking more than you need.”
Pregnant women should avoid protein powders containing the following ingredients:
- Supplements made from herbs
- Minerals or vitamins fortified
- Acesulfame potassium, for example, is a potentially hazardous artificial sweetener
What Should I Look For Before Buying Whey Protein During Pregnancy?
Look for these items if you need to buy protein powder since your usual diet is deficient in protein.
1. Excess Caffeine and Vitamins
Many protein powders labeled as diet-friendly or vegan contain additional vitamins and caffeine. Caffeine and excessive vitamin intake are not suggested during pregnancy; thus, you should avoid buying such products. You could already be taking a prenatal multivitamin or getting all of your micronutrients from a healthy diet. As a result, taking too many vitamins is both unnecessary and even hazardous. Likewise, caffeine use should be kept to a minimum during pregnancy, with no more than 200 mg per day allowed.
2. Artificial Sweeteners
For those on a diet, several protein powders are high in artificial sweeteners. These may be harmful to pregnant women because they frequently pass the placenta and reach the baby. While saccharin-containing powders should be avoided, the safety of powders containing xylitol, sucralose, and stevia is debatable. As a result, it’s advised to stay away from powders that include these substances. Additionally, to be on the safe side, avoid all artificial sweeteners and protein powders that include them.
3. Fillers and Flavouring Agents
When protein powders are blended into a smoothie, fillers are added to enhance bulk. They also improve the drink’s texture and consistency, making it taste better. Xanthan gum, guar gum, palatinose, and other substances with little or no nutritional value are frequent fillers. They can add empty calories to your diet and make you feel fuller without providing any real advantages. Flavoring agents are frequently empty of nutrients, and they are not always as natural as they claim to be. They are chemically treated and processed before being added to protein powders. So stay away from powders that contain fillers and flavoring agents.
4. Where Does the Powder Come From?
Whatever you consume throughout your pregnancy will make its way to your kid in some manner. As a result, it’s critical to pay close attention to the protein powder’s origins. Examine the powder’s manufacturer and production techniques to ensure that the product is devoid of pesticides, toxins, and hormones. It will be beneficial to do some study on how it is created and its production procedures. When using dairy-based powders, including whey and casein, this is especially crucial. Hormones such as rBGH (bovine growth hormone) are frequently found in dairy products, which are harmful to the fetus. Organic is best when it comes to plant-based protein, and a reputable brand can always be traced back to its source.
Many items, including protein powders, now come with a warning label if they contain harmful substances to pregnant and lactating women or children. Creatine, taurine, caffeine, beta-alanine, acetyl L-carnitine HCL, and a proportion of vitamins that surpasses your nutritional guidelines are common ingredients in these powders. These labels help you pick safe powders, but they aren’t always included. As a result, it’s always a good idea to check the contents list for any potentially harmful compounds.
Pregnancy is a period when you should focus on eating healthy foods. Protein supplements, such as protein powder can be used if your protein needs are not satisfied by your diet, but only after speaking with your doctor. It’s feasible to get an excellent protein powder to match your protein demands with some research and confirmation from your doctor.
Some protein powders are safe to consume during pregnancy. Adding a teaspoon — as needed — can help satisfy your and your baby’s daily protein requirements.
However, it’s an unregulated industry, and protein powders aren’t usually designed or sold with pregnant women in mind. Many may include additional or unknown components that are unsafe – and have no place in any food or supplement.
Keep a food journal to track how much protein and other nutrients you consume daily. It’s possible that you won’t need to use a protein powder. Furthermore, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and this should be avoided. Always talk with your OB before using any supplements, including dietary supplements.