When you're pregnant or have just had your baby and are breastfeeding / nursing, there's something (besides, "Stop drinking coffee!" Or, "Don't eat brie!") that you get tired of hearing right quick: eat more protein.
A diet relatively high in protein is critical to the health of both you and your baby; and if you happen to have fitness goals or just a regular gym routine, it can be even more so. The big questions, however (when you know you can't eat that much meat and cheese and want to use powder instead), are many: How much is too much? Not enough? Which brands?
Whey or something else? Organic? Gah! Like we don't have enough to worry about (besides, for example, when we might EVER sleep again), now we have to research which powders are OK? The answer is yes and no.
Yes, you do; but no, because we've done it for you. Here's the lowdown.
Is Protein Powder Powder Safe During Pregnancy?
There are some rough guidelines you should follow, and like any other food you put into your body--or your baby's--be smart, read labels, and make healthy choices.
That said, the first thing you should do is consult your doctor. Find out exactly how much protein you need to supplement in addition to your regular diet. This will vary, depending on what you eat as a matter of course, and how much your natural diet contains. Generally, the consensus is that one or two servings of protein powder a day is fine. Just check with your obstetrician first.
Which Ingredients Should I look for or Avoid?
Sweeteners and Additives
When you're deciding on which type of powder to use, follow the same principles you o when reading any other food labels.
Watch out for sweeteners and unnecessary additives. Sweeteners have come a long way since the days of saccharin and aspartame, and you will rarely see these listed in products today, as most sweeteners are now derived from natural ingredients and have been deemed safe by the FDA as well as doctors and pregnancy associations.
But do your due diligence, check for sweeteners, and avoid any product that contains saccharin or aspartame.
As far as additives, watch out for a high amount of caffeine or any other stimulant. Many powders that body builders use contain these types of "energy enhancers," and you should avoid these.
An ingredient you might not think to check on, but you should, is heavy metal (think arsenic, lead, mercury).
There has been a lot of chatter and discussion of this in the protein powderverse, so you might have heard this topic bantered about in some mother's groups or online forums.
You should absolutely check the ingredients list for any traces of heavy metals, but it's not something you should get overly worried about when considering one in general.
Make sure yours comes from a reliable brand and reputable source. Meat-based protein, including whey, has fewer traces of heavy metals than vegetable-based, so again, read the labels, check the order of ingredients listed, and when in doubt, ask your doctor or health provider.
What about Whey?
Whey powder is a healthy option as an additional source of protein, especially if it's all natural, or better yet, organic.
Whey is one of the two proteins that make up milk (the other is casein), and it contains all 9 essential amino acids, so it is a complete protein. However, whey allergies are fairly common, and some people--especially pregnant women--can suffer digestion issues with whey.
So, if you are allergic or find whey isn't so great on your stomach, consider a plant-based such as hemp, pumpkin, pea, or brown rice powder.
Brands That Made the Cut
Baby Booster Prenatal Protein
Baby Booster makes the top of the list because it contains no artificial sweeteners or soy. It not only contains 20 grams per serving, but is also high in fiber, iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin D and B6.
Pro Nutrition Labs Her Natural Whey
The whey in this good protein powder is derived from grass-fed cows and free of added growth hormones. It's also gluten free, very low in sugar, has no artificial sweeteners, and contains 20 grams per serving.
IdealLean Powder for Women
The pros here are 20 grams per serving, and no fat or sugar.
This powder is also high in Vitamin D and Folic Acid, but you don't get the fiber in this powder that you do in some of the other top brands.
If you're more calorie conscious than you are in watching your fiber intake--or your getting fiber in your diet from other sources, this is a good choice. It also tastes great.
Some other products to consider: bump naturals, Ma+
Other products may not be as good for example: special k shakes, Mommy
Benefits of Protein Powder During Pregnancy
Socioeconomic status or living conditions may also provide a good indication of women who would benefit from supplementation during pregnancy. Balanced protein energy supplementation (up to 20% of energy as protein) provided during pregnancy appears to improve fetal growth and increases infants' birth weight.
No matter which types of powder are right for you, from animal, to vegetable, to whey, make sure you read the labels, talk to your doctor, and take in lots of fruits and vegetables from your regular diet.
Supplementing your natural intake can be a healthy (and sometimes even delicious) way to keep you and your baby healthy and strong.
And don't forget, ice cream is high in protein too! It's all about balance and moderation.