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When a woman is pregnant, her protein requirements increase significantly. If you are pregnant, you can get protein from various food sources – both plant-based and animal-based sources. But if you are vegan or do not eat meat, then you will have to consider protein powder. Protein powder is a good source of protein plus other vital nutrients. However, due to some of the additives in the powder, such as artificial sugars and preservatives, brings its safety to question, more so during pregnancy.
How Much Protein Does a Woman Need While Pregnant?
The protein requirement of a pregnant woman increase as the pregnancy progresses, and peaks during the second and third trimester when the baby is growing rapidly. The every day protein requirement of a pregnant woman depends on the woman’s body weight provided it is within the weight recommendations of normally nourished women gaining gestational body weight. (Please verify) The rule of thumb is to multiply the body weight in kilograms with 1.2 to get the amount of protein in grams. For example, if you weight 60 kg during early pregnancy, your protein requirement per day would be 60*1.2 = 72grams. By the time you reach the third trimester of your pregnancy, your protein requirement would be higher. Your body weight will then be multiplied by 1.5. The numbers 1.2 and 1.5 are protein in grams required per kilogram of body mass per day during early and late gestation.
Are Protein Powders Safe to Consume During Pregnancy?
Protein powders are generally used by athletes to boost their intake of protein every day for building muscles. Protein powders are also used by those who are on a diet, trying to cut down on carbohydrates. These powders, however, may not be right for pregnant women as they often contain artificial sweeteners such as saccharin which can harm the foetus. Some brands of protein powder also have herbs such as ginger, anise, liquorice root, chamomile, and others used for performance enhancement which could affect foetal hormones.
If you want to take protein powder as a supplement during pregnancy, it is suggested that you consult your doctor which powder is suitable for pregnancy. Since most powders are made out of proteins such as whey, casein, and soy, women allergic to dairy products can also switch to other organic protein powders that are safe for consumption during pregnancy.
Which Protein Shakes Are Safe for Pregnant Ladies?
It is safe to drink high-quality protein shakes during pregnancy as long as they are consumed in moderation. Some protein shakes can increase your calorie count. In many cases, they can provide up to 300 calories per shake. Therefore you need to look for shakes that have a low or zero calorie content. However, exercise caution and avoid protein powders containing artificial sweeteners such as saccharin. You can make your own with milk, nuts, peanut butter, avocados, and other protein boosters.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying Protein Powder
If you must buy protein powder because your regular diet is lacking in protein, look out for these things.
1. Excess Caffeine and Vitamins
Many protein powder brands that are labelled diet-friendly or vegan have added vitamins and caffeine. You should avoid buying such brands as caffeine and excess vitamin intake is not recommended during pregnancy. You may already be on a prenatal multivitamin supplement or get all your micro-nutrients from a balanced diet. Hence, it is pointless and sometimes harmful to consume excessive vitamins. Caffeine intake should also be low during pregnancy and must be limited to under 200 mg per day.
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Some protein powders are loaded with artificial sugars for the diet conscious. These may be unsuitable for pregnant women as they often cross the placenta and make it to the baby. While saccharin containing powder should definitely be avoided, other powders containing xylitol, sucralose, and stevia also have some uncertainty over whether they pose a threat or not. So it’s best to avoid the powders containing these ingredients. Furthermore, to stay on the safer side, it’s best to avoid all artificial sweeteners and protein powders containing them.
3. Fillers and Flavouring Agents
Fillers are substances added to protein powders to add bulk when mixed into a shake. They also give texture and consistency to the drink that makes it taste better. Some common fillers include xanthan gum, guar gum, palatinose and other ingredients that have little or no nutritional value. They can add some empty calories and make you feel fuller without any actual benefits. Flavouring agents are often devoid of any nutrition, and sometimes they are not all that natural as they claim to be. They are treated chemically and processed before making their way into the protein powders. So avoid powders containing fillers and flavouring agents.
4. Where the Powder Is Sourced From
Whatever you eat during pregnancy, it will reach your baby too in some form. So it is extremely important to pay attention to the sources of your protein powder. Check the manufacturer of the powder and his production methods and see if the product is free of pesticides, chemicals, and hormones. Doing some research into how it is made and what goes into their manufacturing methods will help. This is important when you opt for dairy-based powders containing whey and casein. Dairy products often contain traces of hormones such as rBGH (bovine growth hormone) which is not good for the foetus. Plant-based protein is good when it’s organic, and a good brand can always be traced back to its source.
Many of the products lately come with a warning label if they have ingredients that are unsuitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women or children, the same goes for protein powders. Usually, these powders contain substances such as creatine, taurine, caffeine, beta-alanine, acetyl L-carnitine HCL and a percentage of vitamins that exceeds your dietary recommendations. These labels allow you to choose safe powders, but not all of them come with the labels. Therefore, it is always a good idea to look into the ingredients and identify unsuitable substances.
Pregnancy is a time of making nutritious choices. If your protein requirements are not being met with the food you eat, you can opt for protein supplements like protein powder, but only after consulting with your doctor. With some research and validation by your doctor, it’s possible to pick a good protein powder to meet your protein needs.