Best Protein Powders for Pregnant Women (Updated 2024)

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Protein powder can be a convenient way to get more protein during pregnancy, especially when experiencing common symptoms like nausea and food aversions. In this post, we will discuss the best protein powders for pregnant women using evidence-based research to help make the best informed choice for you during your pregnancy.  

Most recommendations state protein needs are increased in the second and third trimester, to about 1.1 grams of protein/kg of bodyweight per day, or at least 71 grams of protein per day (12). It’s recommended to meet these needs by consuming foods with high-biological value, such as meat, chicken, eggs and fish. However, due to a number of factors, it can be challenging to meet these needs through food alone. 

Let’s discuss the 5 guidelines to look for when considering a safe protein powder for pregnancy, along with my TOP recommendations after hours of review. 

What To Consider When Selecting A Protein Powder For Pregnancy

There is a lot to consider when selecting a protein powder in general, but even more so when pregnant! If you want to understand why I am recommending these specific protein powders, here’s a comprehensive overview of what to look out for.  

Use these guidelines to make an informed choice on which protein powder is right for you. 

How to Select a Protein Powder During Pregnancy What to Look For; best protein powders for pregnant women

1. Consider the Quality of the Protein Source

Understanding the differences in each protein source can help you make the best all-around choice. Let’s go over the most popular protein sources that are often found in protein powders. 

Whey Protein

Whey protein has the highest biological value, which means it contains adequate amounts of all of the essential amino acids which our body cannot make by itself.  Because of this, it is considered a high-quality protein source and the benefits have been widely researched. Whey protein also has a high absorption rate meaning it is digested quickly. 

There are three different types of whey protein:
Whey Protein Concentrate: The most common form of whey protein on the market, and usually the most inexpensive.

Whey Protein Isolate: Whey protein isolate has been further processed to remove most of the lactose, carbohydrates and fat, making it a more ideal choice for those with lactose intolerance

Whey Protein Hydrolysate: All the benefits from whey protein isolate but the whey is broken down even more, making it the fastest to digest of the three choices. It’s also the most expensive. 

Soy Protein Isolate

Soy is a widely debated topic with a number of conflicting research studies available. While studies have shown that consuming soy products can have health benefits such as better mood and blood sugar control, it is typically recommended to stick to fermented soy products like natto, miso, and tempeh during pregnancy.

Soy protein isolate is the form most commonly found in protein powders, and it’s heavily processed. More research is needed to determine the safety of non-fermented soy products during pregnancy – so it’s best to avoid soy protein isolate powders. 

Casein

Just like whey, casein is a high-quality protein source which provides all the essential amino acids – it just has a slower absorption rate.  Both whey and casein are great options for pregnancy. 

Pea Protein

If you’re looking for a plant-based protein powder, pea protein has become very popular among vegans and vegetarians. These powders do contain all the essential amino acids, just in lower amounts as compared to whey or casein. It’s still a good option for increasing your protein intake during pregnancy. 

Collagen Peptides

Collagen peptides are becoming more popular in supplement form, mostly due to the supposed anti-aging benefits. These peptides are usually made from the tissues of cows, pigs, chickens or fish.

It’s important to note that collagen is regarded as having low biological value, due to low amounts of essential amino acids (3). However, collagen peptides contain glycine – an important amino acid during the late stages of pregnancy. 

Collagen supplements may be beneficial to help with the growing uterus, stretch marks, as well as keeping our joints healthy will all that added weight. 

2. Make Sure It’s Third-Party Tested

It’s important to understand that protein supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning their safety and efficacy have not been verified.

Therefore, it is recommended to select supplements that have been third-party tested. This means that an unrelated, third-party organization performs product testing to confirm that the actual contents of the supplement product match what is on the label

The organization will also check to make sure there are no unlisted ingredients or potentially harmful levels of impurities and heavy metals. 

Supplement labels might say “NSF”, or “USP”, or “Informed Sport”, which just specifies the third-party that has reviewed the product. 

3. Look To See If It Contains Vitamins and Minerals

Some protein powders contain added nutrients, like iron or zinc. However, if you’re taking a prenatal vitamin it is not necessary to consume large amounts of additional vitamins and minerals in supplement form. 

For example, Vitamin A has actually been linked to increased risk of congenital malformations with excessive consumption during pregnancy (4). Further, high ferritin levels (iron stores) from too much iron can be shown to increase gestational diabetes (5). Therefore, overconsumption of these nutrients is not recommended. 

4. Limit Added Sugar and Check For Artificial Sweeteners

There’s evidence that high sugar consumption during pregnancy may contribute to increased gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and pre-term birth. 

Research is lacking regarding the effects of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. However, the American Pregnancy Association states Splenda (sucralose), aspartame, and Stevia are safe during pregnancy- but in limited amounts. Stevia might be the best choice here, but again, there still isn’t much evidence to say so. 

Therefore, it’s beneficial to know how much added sugar and what type of sweetener is used in the protein powder you select. If you’re using a protein powder daily that contains these sweeteners, just try to avoid other products that contain them. 

5. Check for “Herbs”, Preservatives and Additives

When reading ingredient labels for protein powders, less is best! Even the “superfood” blends that are taking over social media might contain herbs which are not recognized as safe during pregnancy. It’s best to understand each ingredient listed on the label, the fewer the better. 

Best protein Powders for Pregnant Women

Now that we understand that criteria on selecting the best protein powders, here are my top protein powders for women and WHY. I’ve scoured about a hundred protein powders, and while there are many options that might be “safe” – these are what I think are the SAFEST for pregnancy. 

It’s actually pretty crazy how many protein powders contain questionable ingredients. Let’s review!

NOW Whey Protein Isolate

NOW Whey Protein Isolate 

25 grams of protein per serving, high quality, easily digestible protein.
Only TWO ingredients listed.
0 grams of added sugars.
Not excessive in vitamins and minerals.
Does contain milk, but low in lactose
Comes in unflavored, chocolate and vanilla.
Informed-Sport Verified.
*Expensive, some complaints of bad taste.

Transparent Labs Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate

28 grams of high quality protein, easily digestible.
Very few ingredients.
1 gram of added sugar (Stevia Extract).
Limited in additional vitamins/minerals.
4.8 rating on Amazon.
Comes in 4 different flavors.
Third-Party Tested.
*Expensive, limited reviews.

Naked Whey Protein

25 grams of high quality protein from whey protein concentrate.
3 grams of added sugars (coconut sugar), no artificial sweeteners.
Only 3 ingredients listed.
Third-party verified.
Flavor: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Unflavored.
Relatively inexpensive but requires two scoops for one serving.

Vital Protein Collagen Peptides

18 grams of collagen protein from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows.
Only one ingredient.
No added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Gluten and Dairy Free.
*Lower quality protein source but high in glycine. Says they are third-party tested, but limited details or proof.

NOW Sports Vegan Pea Protein Powder

24 grams of vegan protein per serving.
1 ingredient.
0 added sugars for artificial sweeteners.
Informed-Sport verified.
Dairy-free, gluten-free
*Contains 45% DV of iron, check prenatal vitamin for iron content or choose one lower in iron.

NAKED Nutrition Pea Protein Powder

27 grams of pea protein isolate.
Only one ingredient (pea protein).
Zero sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Contains iron, but only 16% daily value. 
Third-party tested and shows results of heavy metal testing.
*Complaints about taste unless blended with other flavors.

Truvani Organic Vegan Protein Powder

20 grams of protein per serving from pea protein concentrate.
5 simple ingredients.
0 added sugars, no artificial sweeteners.
No soy, wheat, dairy or gluten.
Multiple flavors available.
*Website states they are third-party tested, but limited information and a bit questionable.

Needed Hydrolyzed Collagen Protein Powder

14 grams of low-quality protein per serving from cows.
Zero sugars, artificial sweeteners, or added ingredients.
May possibly support healthy hair, skin and nails.
Third-party tested.
Unflavored, with relatively good reviews regarding taste.

More To Consider

Protein powders can be an easy, convenient solution for women to meet the elevated protein needs during pregnancy. There are many lists out there claiming that certain supplements are safe for pregnancy, but remember- there aren’t many studies evaluating every single ingredient listed.

Nutrition during pregnancy is complicated because there just isn’t enough information available on every single ingredient available.

I hope you learned a lot from this post, and feel more confident making an informed choice on what protein powder is best for you during pregnancy. For simple ways to increase your protein intake, read How to Eat 100 Grams of Protein Per Day. 

This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. These products are a representation of what I truly believe are the best protein powders. However, at no additional cost to you, I receive a small compensation if a purchase is made (which I would be SO grateful for). 

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