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Is Protein Powder Safe During Pregnancy?

Is it OK to use protein powder when you're pregant? Find out how much protein you and your baby need, what the best sources are, and how to make sure you're getting enough.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
March 21, 2017
Episode #422

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Cherry writes:

“As a doctor and recent fitness enthusiast, I love listening to your podcasts because I know you'll only give me evidence-based information with a dash of common sense.  What I'd like to know is if protein powders are safe in pregnancy and if so, which ones in particular.”

Before I talk about protein powder specifically, let’s talk briefly about protein in general during pregnancy.  Protein needs increase during pregnancy, along with the requirements for lots of other nutrients. How much protein you take in during you pregnancy can affect things like the baby’s birthweight and body composition, head circumference, and could even affect the baby’s long term risks of diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.

How Much Protein Do You Need During Pregnancy?

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that mothers who don’t eat enough protein tend to have smaller babies and higher rates of pre-term births.  However, some research suggests that diets very high in protein could create different problems.

Unfortunately, the current guidelines for pregnant women on how much protein they should take in are pretty loosey-goosey.  The Institutes of Medicine say that it’s OK for pregnant women to get anywhere from 10% to 35% of their calories from protein. But from the research I’ve reviewed, the sweet spot appears to be something more like 15 to 18%.

To get a rough idea of what that translates into, divide your current weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Then, multiply that number by 1.5 to for the approximate number of grams of protein per day. Keep in mind that this number will change as you go through your pregnancy because your weight will be changing. Then, if you’d like to see how much protein you get from common foods, check my protein cheat sheet.

This Matters Even More

With all this talk about protein, however, we don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture. How much weight you gain during pregnancy is likely to have a bigger impact on your baby’s weight and future disease risk than how many of your calories you’re getting from protein.  So, in addition to keeping an eye on your protein intake, it’s really important to manage your total calorie intake as well.

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