I don’t think pregnant women should not have protein shakes unless indicated by a supervising health care professional. I am pretty adamant for a few reasons. Let me explain why.
I am not a big fan of protein shakes at the best of times. And in pregnant women one needs to know the ingredients and potential side effects so the mum is not affected and just as important, the baby is not harmed.
Protein shakes and meal replacements fall under food jurisdiction and regulatory bodies.
This can mean freer rules regarding ingredients and quality control and the ability to make claims about the product is much freer too!
Pharmaceuticals in both the USA and Australia (and other parts of the world) are governed by drugs administration bodies (usually run by pharmacists/scientists and administrators).
Let’s take the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Their role is to:
– Make sure the drugs and pharma products contain what they claim on the label
– Make sure that there is adequate evidence and risk/benefit has been established and researched
– That marketing claims are substantiated by research and proof.
Companies who bring a new product to the market place in Australia can try to get a product registered or listed y the TGA (indicated by a L or R on the label) otherwise products can be launched as foods.
This creates other avenues for exploitation if the company goes down that route. For example, foods are governed by the food regulations of the sate/country they were manufactured in. This means a company can chose a country to make their goods (i.e. one with lesser requirements and supervision) and then they can import the product into Australia (or where ever they chose).
A classic example of this are energy drinks. If these products were launched as supplements or pharmaceuticals, they would struggle to get approval (i.e. safety data etc or if it did it would come with multiple warnings). So instead of launching as a supplements the companies can bypass these rules by launching as a food/drinks. Protein powders are another point in case.
The additives, colours, flavours and stimulants in commercial protein powders (i.e. the ones you by at a sports shop, gym or on-line) often contain potentially harmful ingredients.
Some of these potentially harmful ingredients include:
– Guarana or caffeine
– Green tea extract
– Any metabolism booster (most of these work by stimulating your thyroid, liver or kidney clearance, gut evacuation or adrenal stimulation). IE They stimulate you and your baby! Many of these can become addicted (like getting hooked on caffeine in coffee) and your baby will get hooked too. So when baby is born it will go through withdrawals just like when you stop caffeine. Is this desirable – NO!
– Hormone balances or promoters (eg DIM, indol-3-carbinol, broccoli extract, test boosters)
– Adrenal or direct thyroid stimulants as these can affect your babies hormone and metabolism development (e.g. iodine, selenium in high dose, ginsengs, tyrosine, taurine)
– Some herbs are used in protein powders and many have not been researched in pregnant women . Is it relevant – for sure. An extract of a product (i.e. refined source) can be quite potent and act very differently to a garden picked herb
– Most protein shakes/replacements use whey (or whey isolate) or soy for the basis of the protein. I am not a fan of dairy at the best of times (which is what whey is). This has been linked to allergies in new borns, and behavioural disorders.
– Fillers and sugar can be quite high in these products so while you maybe getting 20grams of protein, you may also be getting 40 grams (8 teaspoons ) of sugar per serve. This may lead to gestational diabetes or altered energy levels in the mum and baby.
Try to eat a balanced eating plan when you are pregnant. Go crazy with organic green leafy vegetables, hormone free meats and occasional fruit. For additional protein eat nuts, seeds, meats, legumes and whole grains such as quinoa. The only time I would recommend protein or meal replacements are professional brands and under supervision.