Protein & Pregnancy
At True Protein, we’re constantly asked if it's ok to continue using
protein powder in your diet during pregnancy. It's a difficult question
to answer due to limited research in the area and the unique nature of
every pregnancy. In order to help you understand more about the use of protein powder during pregnancy, here is some helpful information and answers for all the mums who love our product.
Pregnancy can be highly demanding on the body and good nutrition is
vital for optimal health for you and your baby. It’s very common to feel
confused about supplementation during pregnancy, particularly what to include for healthy growth and development, or what to exclude due to potentially harmful effects.
Key nutrients like folate, iodine, zinc, iron and vitamin B6 need to be considered, and typically additional energy and protein is required.
It’s important to note that any supplement (pills, powders, liquids etc.) should be viewed to supplement a balanced whole-food based diet and not to substitute it. It is not advisable to be taking any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements during pregnancy without first consulting your doctor.
Can I keep having protein powder while I’m pregnant?
The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand recommend an increase of protein intake to 1.0g/kg body weight during pregnancy.
This amount is consistent with recreational or steady-state resistance trained individuals. For reference, this would equate to 70g of protein spread over the day for a 70kg female.
Adequate protein can usually be attained by consuming whole food protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds. Sometimes this isn't always achievable and a protein supplement can be a useful and convenient way to ensure an adequate diet. For example, if you were following a vegan or vegetarian diet that may put you at risk of inadequate protein, warranting a serve of Plant Protein at the time where the diet inadequacy exists.
The most common forms of protein powder use whey protein. Whey is a
natural component of dairy foods like cheese and milk, both routinely consumed during pregnancy and lactation.
Currently, there is no strong evidence discouraging the use of moderate whey protein supplementation during pregnancy and lactation.
The amount of protein that constitutes moderate supplementation will differ between individuals depending on their pre-pregnancy nutritional status, body weight and dietary intake.
A report discussing the results of an Australian longitudinal study, Women and Their Children’s Health (WATCH) reported that micronutrient intakes were optimised with a macronutrient intake of protein providing 18%-20% of total energy, fat providing 28%-30% of total energy and carbohydrate providing 50%–54% of total energy.
The World Health Organisation states that high-protein supplementation during pregnancy does not appear to be beneficial and may be harmful to the foetus. Unfortunately, there is no reference amount that constitutes “high” as the recommendation is based from a trial in the USA in the 1970s.
Much of the confusion regarding protein powders relates to the added ingredients such as flavours, sweeteners, and preservatives as well as the risk of contamination of banned substances or heavy metals during processing of these powders. Trusting your brand as well as reading and interpreting the nutrition label is essential in understanding the ingredients within the product and how much you should use to supplement your diet.
True Protein has strict controls during processing to minimise the risk of contaminants and ensure a safe product. Our WPC, WPI and Plant Protein blends use all natural flavours with no artificial additives, artificial sweeteners or fillers to give you peace of mind and reduce the chance of any adverse effects.
Can I have protein whilst breastfeeding?
The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand recommend an increase of protein intake to 1.1g/kg body weight during lactation.
For a 70kg female, this would equate to 77g of protein spread over the day. Adequate protein can usually be attained by consuming whole food protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds. Sometimes this isn't always achievable and a protein supplement can be useful and convenient to ensure an adequate diet.
It’s important to note that a protein powder as a sports supplement is not appropriate for infant formula.
What protein can I use while pregnant, Whey or Vegan?
This really depends on you as an individual, your health status, and personal preference.
WPC 80 is a tasty and affordable option for those who regularly use and tolerate protein powders derived from milk.
WPI 90 is also derived from milk but is more refined, containing only minimal lactose which may be better tolerated for those who have lactose intolerance.
Our Plant Protein could be a suitable option for those who are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, those who have dairy related gastrointestinal upset, or those who cannot tolerate egg, milk or soy protein due to allergy.
All of these blends are sweetened with organic stevia which is a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners without the calories of regular sugar. Currently, there is limited data on stevia consumption and human pregnancy.
Take home messages:
- Protein requirement increases during pregnancy and lactation whether you are sedentary or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, as it is an essential nutrient for healthy growth and development.
- Adequate protein during this stage of life can be attained from a balanced whole-food diet.
- There are situations where you could be at risk of low protein intake and supplementation is warranted such as following a vegan or vegetarian diet, experiencing nausea and aversions to meat or if you are generally not much of a meat-eater.
- The type of protein (whey, pea, rice etc) and the amount to supplement depends on you as an individual.
- Generally, incorporating one serve of WPI/WPC or Plant protein from a trusted brand like True Protein could be appropriate to meet dietary protein inadequacies during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- If you are considering starting a supplement you should discuss this with your Medical Doctor and/or Accredited Dietitian before proceeding.