Protein shakes for pregnancy—a helpful go-to to meet your nutritional requirements or a harmful addition to your diet?
As it turns out, the story is complicated.
Let’s get into it.
In this article: 📝
- Is it good to take protein while pregnant?
- Is it okay to drink protein shakes while pregnant?
- Are protein shakes safe while pregnant?
- Is protein powder safe during pregnancy?
- How can I get enough protein during pregnancy?
Is it good to take protein while pregnant?
Proteins are found in every cell in the human body and are often spoken of as the building blocks of life.
When you’re pregnant, protein plays a central role in the development of your baby’s tissues and organs.
It is also vital in helping your own body grow and develop to support your pregnancy.
So how much protein is enough when you’re pregnant?
You can find protein in several sources, including fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, and tofu.
So where does that leave protein shakes? Are they a safe way to meet your protein needs—or can they do more harm than good?
Let’s take a look.
Is it okay to drink protein shakes while pregnant?
Protein shakes can be useful when you’re pregnant if you need them—but ideally not as your primary source of protein.
When we talk about protein shakes, we’re talking about a wide array of different drinks.
From meal replacements to after-workout boosts, from vitamin and mineral “blasts” to frosty treats at coffee shops, there’s no one way to do a protein shake.
The common thread is that they include a protein supplement of some sort, often as a powder.
Typical sources of protein powders are whey (from dairy), casein (also from dairy), egg whites, hemp, peas, brown rice, and soy.
These ingredients are processed to extract the protein and turn it into a powder.
So do you need a protein supplement? According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Americans may already be getting all the protein they require from regular food sources.
If you have a varied diet that includes all the food groups, chances are good you’re getting plenty of protein without the need for supplements.
Are protein shakes safe while pregnant?
In general, yes, but it depends on how high or low your current protein intake is.
Consuming too much protein is not only unnecessary when you’re pregnant but could actually be harmful.
As this 2018 review found, excessive protein intake can also get in the way of the healthy growth and development of your baby.
And another study shows those who opt for a high protein and low carbohydrate diet during pregnancy may be at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.
That being said, some pregnant women do have trouble reaching their protein quota.
One of the most common reasons for this is food aversions.
If the sight or smell of certain foods makes you literally sick to the stomach, finding an easier-to-digest source can be really useful.
If you’re underweight, overworked, or ill, you may also have trouble getting the protein you need.
In these cases, what protein shake is best for pregnancy?
That depends on your specific needs.
A chat with your doctor can help you decide on the best supplement for you.
Is protein powder safe during pregnancy?
While these products may certainly be helpful to some, the story is complicated.
As this recent report from Harvard Medical School explains, protein powders may not be as safe as we think.
Let’s dive into the potential risks one by one:
Lactose sensitivity issues
Beyond possibly containing hidden sugars and empty calories, milk-based proteins can cause stomach trouble for those who have sensitivities to dairy—the last thing you may need to add to your list of pregnancy symptoms.
Whey protein shakes are a popular choice in strength training and fitness circles, but there are plenty of lactose-free alternatives.
If you’re better served by a dairy-free diet, you can always try plant-based protein shakes made with hemp or pea protein.
Dangers of too much protein
As we mentioned above, too much protein isn’t necessarily a good thing.
A past study showed elevated blood pressure in children of women who consumed a high-animal-protein, low-carb diet during pregnancy.
Balance is best and dietary guidance is better.
If you’re unsure, your doctor will be able to guide you in the right direction.
Because dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it’s possible that some protein powders could contain harmful ingredients.
According to this report by the non-profit organization Clean Label Project, some protein products on the market have detectable levels of lead, cadmium, and BPA—all of which can be harmful to both you and your baby.
So, while protein powders can be useful if you’re struggling to get enough protein right now, it’s best to do so cautiously—and ideally under the supervision of your doctor.
That way, you can be sure that you’re getting maximum benefits with minimal risks.
How can I get enough protein during pregnancy?
Protein shakes can be a great addition to your pregnancy meal plan, but it’s best to rely on food sources rather than supplements to meet your protein requirements.
Sometimes, they can help, like when you’re very busy or ill.
But they do not come without potential risks.
The good news is—pregnancy food aversions aside—there are plenty of safe and accessible protein sources easily available.
Some examples of daily protein sources include:
- Greek yogurt: 100 grams of plain Greek yogurt contains around 10 grams of protein
- Eggs: Two boiled eggs and you’ve snagged yourself 12 grams of protein
- Tofu: For the dairy-free and plant-based mamas-to-be, 100 grams of tofu contains roughly 8 grams of protein
- Nuts: As pregnancy snacks go, cashews, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios are all excellent sources of protein. And that includes nut butters (yum)!
- Salmon: A solid source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon comes packed with around 22 grams for a 3.5-ounce serving.
- Chicken: The most versatile meat comes in at a cool 54 grams of protein for one cooked chicken breast (skinless). Nice.
Keep up with your prenatal vitamins, chat with your doctor when you need guidance, and lean on your Peanut community when you feel you’re wandering around in the dark.
We’re here to help!