Pregnancy + Parenthood

Protein Powder and Pregnancy: 2 Important Things to Consider

5 min read
Good question—it depends.
Good question—it depends.

Article Content

Eating for two? When it comes to supporting nutrition during pregnancy, many new parents recognize the impact of a healthy diet, but find themselves scratching their heads about the specifics—like how much their diet should change (if at all), or whether or not cheese can stay on the menu. Another common question concerns protein intake, and whether or not protein powder can be consumed during this time—or if it’s better to hold off until baby is born. Sound familiar? You’ve come to the right place.

Before we dive into protein powder, let’s back up and cover the basics—that is, why protein intake is important in the first place, and how protein requirements evolve during pregnancy. In short, our bodies need a careful balance of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) in order to function. (Curious about the difference between the two?) Protein is a macronutrient, which means we need to consume more of it than we would a micronutrient in order to meet our daily needs. In addition to supporting bone health and muscle protein synthesis, it’s actually present in every cell of the body, and is a vital player in many bodily functions—further underscoring the importance of getting enough protein in our diets.* (1)

The thing is, while many people can meet their protein needs through food sources, pregnancy (and lactation) ups the challenge, increasing nutrient demands on the body—not to mention the amount of protein deposited in maternal and fetal tissues. In other words: Pregnant women need more protein during this period—and those who are pregnant or lactating should try to eat a balanced diet with protein within the expert-recommended range of 10%-35% of total daily calories. In other words, no more than 35% of daily calories should come from protein. A protein supplement can be a helpful way to bridge the nutritional needs of soon-to-be moms.* (2, 3, 4, 5)

Here’s what to keep in mind.

Food comes first.

Regardless of what trimester (or life stage, for that matter), when it comes to supplementation, we’re all about a food-first approach—which means aiming to meet the majority of our nutrient needs through a well-balanced diet (ideally, one that emphasizes whole foods), then supplementing the rest. (Speaking of supplements, a quick note on the importance of prenatal multivitamins: Most nutritionists agree that taking one is a great way to support the nutrient needs of pregnancy—if not currently taking one, here’s some tips for finding the right prenatal multivitamin).*

In terms of fulfilling protein needs, there are plenty of protein choices out there that can help—regardless of any dietary restrictions. If a plant-based approach to eating is preferred, look for vegan protein sources like chia seeds or lentils (in general, legumes are excellent sources of protein). Meat eater? Animal proteins, like chicken, are also excellent options—the bird contains over 30 grams of protein in a single 100 gram serving. (If you’re in need of recipe inspo, here’s some high-protein breakfast ideas and an easy, protein-packed lunch, to boot.) (6, 7, 8)

Another great way to support protein intake for pregnancy and postpartum is to incorporate a protein powder specifically formulated for this life stage, like Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum, into your routine.* A quality protein powder for this chapter takes into account way more than just the amount of protein present. Which brings us to our next point…

Not all protein powders are created equal.

There are several types of protein powders available on the market, ranging from vegan protein powders (featuring plant proteins such as hemp protein, brown rice protein, and pea protein), to animal-based protein powders, like whey protein. Here’s where it gets tricky: Some protein powders contain shady additives and fillers that aren’t ideal—think added sugars, artificial sweeteners, coloring, or preservatives. Whatever route you choose, you’ll want to look for a clean, high-quality protein powder that contains traceable ingredients—the less additives, the better. Another thing to seek out? Brands that embrace third-party quality certification. That way, you can trust that what’s on the label is what’s in the product.

In addition to being Informed Sport Certified, Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum is non-GMO, gluten-free, and dairy-free—not to mention specifically formulated to help support women’s heightened nutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation. Made with pea protein from U.S.-grown peas to help build and maintain muscle; L-methionine to provide a complete amino acid profile; fermented sugarcane (Reb-M) to add a touch of sugar-free† sweetness; and sustainably-harvested Madagascar vanilla to enhance the flavor experience, Essential Protein Daily Shake Pregnancy & Postpartum makes taking a protein powder as enjoyable as it is easy.*

We opted for pea protein over whey protein because of its fiber content, mild-tasting flavor, smooth mouthfeel, and versatility—along with its sustainability factor. (Not to mention it makes for a delicious protein shake.) While whey protein is a popular choice, it comes with a caveat: it’s not vegan (hi, lactose)—not to mention the environmental impact of raising cattle. (Explore the differences between pea protein and whey protein in our deep-dive.)

†Not a reduced calorie food

The essential takeaway?

Pregnancy can be a taxing time—so keep it simple when it comes to nutrition: eat a balanced diet (don’t forget the veggies), take a quality prenatal multivitamin, and consider supplementing with a protein powder created specifically for this life stage. You know… because new parents have plenty of other things to think about.*

References:

  1. Carbone, J. W., & Pasiakos, S. M. (2019). Dietary Protein... Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients, 11(5), 1136.
  2. Elango R, Ball RO. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy. Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):839S-44S
  3. Hanson MA, et al. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) recommendations on...nutrition: “Think Nutrition First” Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2015;131(Suppl 4):S213–53.
  4. National Academy of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). 2005.
  5. World Health Organization (WHO). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series No 935. 2007.
  6. Polak, Rani et al. “Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake.” Clinical diabetes : a publication of the American Diabetes Association vol. 33,4 (2015): 198-205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198
  7. Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica): health...applications – a review. Retrieved from the National Institutes of Health
  8. FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). Chicken, broiler or fryers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, cooked, braised. USDA.

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