You may know that it’s important for pregnant women to increase their protein intake while expecting (more on this later).
So given the need to consume quite a bit more than usual for 9 months straight, you may be wondering if it’s safe to drink protein shakes or consume protein powder during your pregnancy.
The short answer is that yes, protein shakes are typically safe for pregnant women.
But the long answer is that not all shakes or powder are created equal, so there are several things you should consider before tucking into a shake while pregnant.
Are Protein Shakes Safe During Pregnancy?
Many adults around the world find protein shakes incredibly beneficial, because they provide a fast, easy and convenient way to get 20+ grams of protein in one quick sitting.
This compares favourably to eating a nice, well-cooked steak which typically has around 45 grams per serving.
But does this convenience come at a cost, especially when compared to other healthier and more nutritious sources?
If you are a fan of shakes then the good news is that just like protein bars, there is no reason that shakes and drinks can’t play their part in a healthy, balanced diet for most pregnant women.
You should however be aware that some protein drinks can be high in sugar and caffeine, which are two ingredients that pregnant women should consume in moderation.
In addition, many powders are made from whey, which is not suitable for anyone with a sensitivity or intolerance to dairy.
Is Protein Powder Safe For Pregnancy?
If you enjoy the odd shake after a session in the gym or a home workout then you’re probably also wondering if it’s ok for pregnant women to consume protein powder too.
Yes, protein powder can play its part in a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet.
However, it’s important to remember that not all shakes and drinks are the same, and some shakes may contain ingredients that pregnant women should avoid consuming or over-consuming, such as:
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should not consume more than 200mg of caffeine per day (about 2 x 6oz cups).
When buying a protein drink, you should therefore ensure that if it does contain caffeine, it’s only in limited amounts.
This may be particularly important if you are getting caffeine from other sources like coffee, chocolate or hot chocolate, because the caffeine in your protein drink may push you over the recommended 200mg daily caffeine level.
As we all know, many tasty drinks and foods are high in sugar, and protein drinks are no exception.
Health experts advise that pregnant women should consume sugar in moderation, because eating too much sugar may contribute to:
- Gestational weight gain
- Pregnancy complications
- Gestational diabetes
- Preterm birth.
Some powders contain over 20 grams of sugar per scoop, which is almost equal to maximum daily limit of 25 grams of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association.
So just like caffeine, it’s important to check your there’s not too much sugar in your shake or drink.
Is Whey Protein Safe During Pregnancy?
Whey protein is one of the primary proteins found in dairy products.
There is no research to suggest that eating whey protein in moderation during your pregnancy is unsafe.
However, being a dairy product, it’s important not to take whey protein if you are allergic or sensitive to dairy, as this can make your naturally bloated or gassy stomach even worse.
In general if you are planning to consume whey protein while pregnant, you should go for the most natural product available, and ensure there are limited amounts of caffeine and sugar as mentioned above.
Benefits Of Protein Powder During Pregnancy
High In Protein
An obvious advantage we know, but one of the biggest pros is that it contains 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving.
This nutrient is good for pregnancy (see below), so the benefit of eating just one shake is that it could provide you with as much as 35% of your recommended daily intake
Easy & Convenient Snack
Most of us live busy lives, and chances are that even once you discovered you were pregnant, you haven’t slowed down.
There aren’t many people who don’t appreciate a quick, easy and convenient snack or meal, and shakes offer all these benefits.
Protein drinks and shakes are great to have as a back-up during busy days or when traveling, especially as they don’t need any special storage.
May Contain Other Beneficial Nutrients
Another advantage of protein shakes is that depending on the other ingredients in the shake and if it’s homemade, you may be able to get a boost of other nutrients from this one drink.
A healthy diet consists of a balanced mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates, so shakes that contain ingredients like oats, peanut butter and seeds all offer some additional nutrients in addition to the obvious protein boost.
Best Time To Take Protein Powder In Pregnancy
In terms of times of the day, there is no research to suggest one time of the day is better than another, so you should go ahead and drink your shake at the most practical and convenient time for you.
Regarding when to take protein powder during your pregnancy, there are studies to suggest that you body needs more of this nutrient during the later stages of pregnancy compared to early pregnancy.
So based on this, you may want to up your intake during your third trimester compared to your first or second trimesters.
Importance Of Protein During Pregnancy
Health experts advise that pregnant women eat around 300 extra calories per day while they’re expecting.
And these extra calories are a great way to get more protein into your diet, especially because this nutrient has multiple benefits for pregnant women, including:
- Promotes the growth of new body tissue.
- Produces antibodies that support your immune system.
- Develops enzymes and hormones.
- Provides you with vital energy.
- Contributes to a healthy birth weight.
Given how essential this nutrient is and its role as one of the main building blocks in growing a baby, experts recommend that pregnant women increase their protein intake by about 30% to 35% during pregnancy.
Typically this means that during pregnancy you should be eating around 70 grams every day.
You might find it challenging to eat this much, especially as some popular high protein foods like beef jerky are off the menu while you’re pregnant, so this is why moms-to-be turn to shakes during their first, second and third trimesters.
Related: Your Complete Guide To A Happy & Healthy Pregnancy
Effects Of Not Enough Protein During Pregnancy
According to experts, some of the effects of not eating enough protein while pregnant include:
- Embryonic losses.
- Intra-uterine growth restriction.
- Reduced postnatal growth due to a deficiency in specific amino acids that are important for cell
- metabolism and function.
- Muscle fatigue.
- Frequent infections.
Can You Have Too Much Protein During Pregnancy?
We’ve seen what happens when you eat too little protein while expecting, but is it possible to have too much of the stuff during pregnancy?
The answer is in fact yes, and over-consuming protein can result in:
- Intra-uterine growth restriction.
- Embryonic death, due to amino acid excesses.
- Toxicity of ammonia, homocysteine, and H2S that are generated from amino acid catabolism.