Supplements During Pregnancy
As an active "fit" woman, whatever that may mean to you, I remember once I found out I was pregnant the first time my first thought was "Oh my gosh, I can't take anything I am used to taking". This not only including alcohol as it may for most women, but also all my pre-workouts and other supplements. I remember cutting my caffeine cold turkey, and let me tell you this DID NOT help my symptoms of pregnancy in anyway. I remember telling my OBGYN that I was having horrible headaches on top of my nausea, fatigue, etc. and he asked about my caffeine intake prior to pregnancy. Now I was a nurse who had once worked rotating day and night shifts drinking loads of caffeine without a second thought, along with pre-workout. I had told him and never monitored the amount but explained I usually had 2-3 cups of coffee and pre-workout. At that moment, he told me I did not by any means need to cut out caffeine 100%.
Now supplements and really any medications are a taboo topic for many during pregnancy. Simply because no one wants to take liability of saying something is "safe" to take during pregnancy as there are few to no studies on pregnant women. Most of the studies released are often asking patients what they did during their pregnancy. Meaning the controls of these studies are difficult to rely on due to a number of challenges with study design. Here is my disclaimer explaining I am not a doctor or medical professional and you should always consult with your doctor about what you should or should not take during your pregnancy.
Pre-Workout Supplements During Pregnancy
The current World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommends intake less than 300mg/day during pregnancy. My OBGYN had recommended 200-300mg or less of caffeine per day. Moderate levels of caffeine are considered "safe" while there are more conservative providers who will disagree with this. With these recommendations, I typically will take 100-150mg of caffeine prior to my morning workout and at that amount I can have a smaller amount of caffeine later in the day if needed but avoid drinking caffeine after 3pm.
When discussing this topic, there are very few research studies done on pregnant women which makes it difficult to say what is "safe" referencing studies. It would be important to avoid anything that affects your blood pressure and flow. During pregnancy, they monitor blood pressure closely monitoring for Preeclampsia/Eclampsia which is high blood pressure considered a medical emergency. But many women experience low blood pressure during pregnancy due to more blood being rerouted to the fetus. Your blood vessels also expand during pregnancy to accommodate more blood. Some examples of ingredients to avoid would be Citrulline, Agmatine Sulfate, Nitrosigine, Arginine, Grape seed extract, Pine Bark Extract, and Beet Root. The other type of ingredient to avoid is stimulants as caffeine is not the only type of stimulant. It is best to look for "simpler pre workouts" with fewer ingredients. Also, being aware of what the ingredients are.
Recommended Pre-Workouts During Pregnancy
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Amino Kick is a great product from NutraBio that is not only a Amino Acids product, but also includes a small amount of caffeine at 75mg per scoop. This is a perfect small kick of energy for your workouts that fit into your daily limit of caffeine without taking up your entire days intake!
Lost and Found Energy is a new energy drink on the market that not only tastes great, but also is lower on caffeine compared to most energy drinks. Lost and Found Energy has 150mg of caffeine per can while most have 250-300mg. This is a great option when you need a little more caffeine around your workout!
Amino Acids During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, I do take BCAAs or EAAs in moderation. I do not take more than one serving a day, but amino acids are found naturally in foods such as animal proteins. This means we are naturally taking these in our diets. Too much of a good thing can still be bad, so I would not over do these. To help get your water intake, electrolytes and hydration products are also helpful.
Recommended Amino Acid Supplements for Pregnancy
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Nutrabio is one of the most highly respected brands in the space. This NutraBio Alpha EAA (essential amino acid) is one of the favorite products of theirs. This product includes nootropics, specifically Choline which I mentioned above. This is a great option for a EAA product that includes some nootropics.
Hydration During Pregnancy
During pregnancy with the many symptoms women may experience it can be difficult to drink enough fluids. Dehydration during pregnancy is dangerous for many reasons. Dehydration can lead to lower levels of amniotic fluid, which can influence the baby's development. This can also lead to preterm labor.
As a postpartum mother, dehydration can also affect breast milk production. Dehydration can cause deficiencies in nutrients. These nutrients are vital for both the health of mom and the fetus. Not to mention many pregnant women battle with constipation. The two simplest ways to combat constipation is hydration and activity.
If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to get constipated! I used electrolytes first during my breastfeeding journey after our first baby girl and now drink them during this pregnancy. Sometimes, water just does not taste good to me. Electrolytes not only help with hydration due to the ingredients, but also adds flavor.
Recommended Hydration and Electrolyte Supplements for Pregnancy
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Electrolytes above all are to help us stay hydrated and get our fluids in! Axe & Sledge has this Electrolytes+ product in two flavors. Personally, I like the Strawberry Kiwi better but they also have a Lemon Lime option! If you are struggling to get your daily water intake, these may help!
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Primeval Labs were one of the first electrolytes I tried and I have to tell you, to this day Orange Sherbert is one of my favorite flavors! They recently released these convenient hydration sticks for on the go. These are another great option if you can't seem to get your water intake in.
Protein Supplements for Pregnancy
This is a common question I see from women as we all see on the back of almost EVERYTHING, "Check with your provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding". Whey protein is simply derived from the cheesemaking process. Enzymes are added to milk to separate the curd from the liquid whey. The liquid whey is then pasteurized and the protein in concentrated or isolated, hence CONCENTRATE and ISOLATE.
Plant protein is a food source of protein from plants which can come from tofu, nuts, seeds, peas, rice, lentils, and more! Of course, whole food sources are always going to be first choice for protein! But generally, protein powder is considered safe during pregnancy!
During my last pregnancy, due to nausea getting my protein intake in was very difficult. Protein powder definitely helped with this. I highly recommend adding a scoop of protein a day to your diet to help get your protein during pregnancy.
Recommended Whey Protein Supplements for Pregnancy
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When it comes to a whey protein option, it really comes down to taste for me as there are many options for protein. If you can't get yourself to drink or eat your protein powder, it really doesn't serve its purpose! Ryse Loaded Protein is one of my favorites for protein powders, among many others. This Chocolate Cookie Blast is one of my all time favorite flavors.
Recommended Vegan Protein Supplements for Pregnancy
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Another option for protein powder is a plant-based vegan protein. There are a few very good options out there. If you have bought vegan protein in the past, you know that if it doesn't taste good it is very difficult to drink! AP Regimen recently released this new flavor in their vegan protein that is to die for! There are some good options out there as we see the flavoring of vegan proteins improve! Try this one out.
Collagen Protein During Pregnancy
Collagen supplementation is generally considered safe for pregnant women to take! It has many benefits while pregnant or for general health. These benefits include for joints, pelvic floor tissue, skin elasticity, and postpartum hair. There are different forms of collagen and some are more beneficial than others. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up skin, bones, cartilage and more. During pregnancy, studies have shown increased protein intake needs. With nausea and morning sickness, this can be difficult. Collagen supplementation can benefit and help with protein intake as well. Thinking of the amount of stress a mother's joints and skin during pregnancy, it only makes sense to take collagen.
Recommended Collagen Protein Supplements for Pregnancy
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I listed many benefits above for Collagen supplementation. MuscleSport is known for their flavoring, so I truly do love this Toasted Almond flavored Collagen Peptides. But these are also a high quality Hydrolyzed Grass Fed Bovine Collagen Peptides at 10g per serving. They also include Biotin at 2500mcg. I have been experiencing crazy hair loss this pregnancy, so when I noticed they included Biotin added to the benefits for hair that Collagen is known for I was all in! This is a great option when looking for a quality collagen supplement. I would highly recommend continuing this for postpartum to prevent the infamous hair loss!
Vitamins and Fish Oil During Pregnancy
When you find out you are pregnant, the first thing they will recommend is starting a Prenatal Multivitamin. These are not all created equal and I would definitely recommend getting a high quality prenatal vitamin.
Folic Acid is a very important component of your prenatal vitamins crucial for your baby's development. The recommended dose is 400mcg. You can also get folate from eating green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin D is also an important vitamin during pregnancy for regulation of calcium and phosphate in your body. A couple other important ingredients you should have in your prenatal are iron and calcium. It is recommended to get about 30mg of iron per day. It is recommended that you have 200-300mg of calcium per day.
Fish oil is recommended during pregnancy to boost brain development and also there is some research that suggests that it may decrease maternal depression. Though, once again, research on this topic isn't conclusive. While observation studies have shown improved cognitive function for babies whose mothers took fish oil during pregnancy, several controlled studies have also failed to show a consistent benefit.
There is also a study that showed that supplementing with fish oil prevented preterm delivery and also suggested some fetal eye development benefits. These are all benefits, and most importantly showed that it is considered safe during pregnancy.
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA, DHA, and EPA are the 3 types. ALA plays important roles in energy production. Other research suggests that ALA may reduce heart disease by helping maintain normal heart rhythm and pumping. DHA levels are especially high in retina, brain, and sperm cells. According to Mount Sinai, EPA is used to potentially reduce ADHD symptoms, depression, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause and more. There is an article on our website that dives deeper into Omega-3 Fatty Acids here.
Unfortunately, when it comes to herbal supplements there is very little research done on what is safe during pregnancy. This is why it is recommended to simply avoid these as it is often unknown how they may affect you or your baby during pregnancy. Make sure you are reporting everything you are taking to your doctor.
The second you find out you are pregnant, the first thing your doctor will tell you is to find a quality Prenatal Vitamin. This is a great option and includes many of the key essential vitamins and nutrients I mentioned above. There are many prenatal vitamins available, but it is important to look at the ingredients and make sure they have the recommended amounts. This is the prenatal I have used for both of my pregnancies.
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There are also many fish oil supplements available on the market. Make sure you are finding a quality source of fish oil. There are an overwhelming amount of options when searching. They should always list the EPA/DHA ratio on their label. GHOST Lifestyle is known for their quality products. This is a great option that also includes Smart Prime, which helps with the absorption of omega 3s, when looking for a Fish Oil Supplement
Diet and Macronutrients During Pregnancy
I have always been a strong believer that pregnancy is not an excuse to eat whatever you want and forget the healthy meal plans. My first pregnancy, I was nauseas and sick my entire pregnancy. The idea of chicken, steak, rice, and many foods I would generally love made me sick. Even shakes and smoothies with protein powder were hard to choke down most days. The idea of tracking my food and staying on a plan sounded impossible during pregnancy ever. I ate whatever sounded okay at the moment, which often was not healthy foods.
I am currently pregnant with my second baby. During first trimester, I did experience some nausea it was no where near as bad as last time. I am now in second trimester and my appetite has greatly improved. I am proud to say I have set up a plan with tracking my macronutrients and calories. My recovery and energy level is unreal. If you are able to track and stay on a plan, I would recommend doing so!
I have done a lot of research about how to calculate your intake during pregnancy. You should not be in a deficit. We should be a maintaining calorie intake according to our height, pre-pregnancy weight, and activity level in first trimester. In second trimester, we should be increasing 200-300 calories per day above maintaining. In third trimester, we should be increasing 300-400 calories per day.
You should not be "eating for two" as many say! We do not need this many calories and this is what often causes the excessive weight gain during pregnancy. There are calculators to figure out where your baseline calories and macronutrients should be! Pregnant women have an increased need for protein in their diet during pregnancy due to the many changes going on in their body.
Protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. Protein also aids in breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy and plays a role in a mother's increasing blood supply.
Healthy fats are also very important during pregnancy. Healthy fats not only important to help improve both heart health and cholesterol, but also are essential for baby's development. The healthy fats help in proper brain and eye development for the growing fetus. While tracking during pregnancy, a great way to get healthy fats in is by eating avocados, olive and coconut oil, eggs, fish, nuts, and nut butters.
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FIt Butters is an obvious option for healthy fats. Not only is nut butter considered a healthy source of fats, but FIt Butters also adds coconut oil for a natural source of MCTs. Not to mention its a delicious snack to add to your meal plan!
After being pregnant once, you are more aware of what you are putting in your body. I highly recommend all women who are wanting to have babies to monitor your caffeine intake prior to finding out you are pregnant! I continued to keep track of my caffeine intake after breastfeeding and I am glad I did as decreasing my caffeine intake this pregnancy has been much easier.
While there is little conclusive research on pregnancy and supplements, there are some definite ingredients to avoid. Ultimately when it comes to a healthy pregnancy, being active and eating the healthiest you can is going to be the best thing you can do. Get your water in, get your steps in, get your calories and protein in, and you will feel much better throughout your pregnancy! Not to mention feel better postpartum.
If you need that extra little energy burst to get your activity in, at a moderate amount, take some caffeine. If you need help to get your water in, have a serving of BCAAs, EAAs or electrolytes. If you need some more protein in your day, find yourself a protein powder you enjoy. And don't forget your prenatal vitamins and fish oil. Here's to having the healthiest pregnancy possible!