Having protein shakes while pregnant – is it safe?
Protein serves a number of health benefits including reduced hunger, improved strength gains, and better sleep. The problem is that getting enough of it can be difficult. Instead of loading up your diet with eggs and meat many people turn to shakes as a tasty alternative.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, want to build muscle, or you are on a protein powder diet, but should you stop now that you’re expecting?
Fortunately, you don’t have to.
The catch is that you’ll want to be more careful about which products you choose to use.
Benefits of Protein Powder During Pregnancy
There are a number of health benefits for using protein shakes while pregnant:
- Reduced muscle loss. You’ve worked hard to build muscle prior to your pregnancy so you’ll want to do everything you can to keep it. Though you may not be able to completely maintain your muscle, getting enough protein will help reduce muscle loss during periods where you’ll be forced to reduce your activity level.
- Protein shakes are great when you can’t keep food down. Especially during the first trimester, sometimes food just doesn’t stay down. More than 50% of pregnant women experience morning sickness. Instead of forcing yourself to eat when you’re feeling nauseous, a protein shake can be a great way to get something light in your stomach. Keep one within arm’s reach and sip it throughout the day.
- They’re great when you don’t have time to eat. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean life is going to slow down. Depending on your routine finding the time to eat a meal is almost impossible. The trouble is that skipping meals can hurt the growth of your baby and can even lead to premature births. Instead of completely skipping a meal, premake protein shakes for these ‘on the go’ situations. Keep in mind that protein shakes should not be regularly used as a meal replacement (more info on that below).
*If you’re interested in making a batch of shakes at once, check out these blenders that make making shakes a breeze.
- It helps you get those extra calories. Since you’re supposed to get up to an extra 450 calories while you’re pregnant during the second and third trimesters, protein powder during pregnancy can be a great way to add extra calories to your meals. Mixing shakes with milk and almond milk is another way to add additional calories.
- They’re delicious. Last, but certainly not least, is that there are a ton of delicious shake recipes. Protein powder comes in a variety of flavors and can be mixed with different drinks. They’re fun to experiment with, and you may find that this is a healthy alternative to the desserts that you may be craving. For an extra boost in flavor, try mixing with peanut butter or fruit.
There are also some things to keep an eye on if you’re pregnant or nursing.
- Watch out for a ton of excess calories. Typically the powder itself won’t have a ton of calories, but if you’re mixing with something other than water (like milk) the calories can really add up. Fortunately, many flavors taste fine when mixed with water. This can help you save calories without completely removing the shakes from your diet.
- Sugars and artificial sweeteners. Many protein powders contain a good bit of sugar or use artificial sweeteners to improve taste. When choosing a shake that’s right for you be sure to double check sugar content. Too much sugar can negatively impact your teeth, liver, and can make you gain unwanted fat. Specifically, pregnant women should stay away from saccharin, which might stay in fetal tissue.
We’ve got a great article about protein powders without artificial sweeteners, here.
- Regular use as a meal replacement. While the occasional use as a meal replacement is completely fine, regularly skipping meals can do a lot of damage to your baby. If you are going to skip a meal and opt for a protein shake instead, look into taking a multivitamin to ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients you need.
Can I use protein powder while breastfeeding?
Many new moms continue to drink protein shakes while they’re breastfeeding. In fact, mothers may need protein shakes more when they’re nursing than at any other time. Research shows that women need twice as much protein when they’re nursing. Simply put, protein helps maximize milk supply.
Just as when you aren’t pregnant or nursing, most of your protein should come from the foods in your diet. You should rely solely on protein shakes for protein, but they sure can help if you’re struggling to enjoy protein-rich foods.
Best protein powders for pregnant and nursing mothers
While protein powder is fine for expecting and nursing mothers, it’s important to pick the right kind. We put together some of our picks for the best protein powders for pregnancy.
Here’s what we looked for protein powders:
- Without any artifical sweeteners
- Low calorie
Consult with your doctor
Do your research, but ultimately you should speak to your doctor about what’s right for you. Everyone is different and every pregnancy is different. Talk to your doctor about specifics related to your diet and how you can incorporate protein aids like shakes and protein bars into your diet in a safe and healthy manner.