What is the best breastfeeding protein powder?
Protein is important.
Research suggests that the maternal diet may impact breast milk macronutrient composition. In other words, the foods that the mother eats while breastfeeding may make a difference in terms of the nutritional content of the breast milk. Maternal diets high in protein, for example, have been associated with higher protein and energy contents in breast milk. This means that the infant is getting more protein and more calories, both of which are essential for growth and development.
Eating enough and eating a balanced diet is the best way to promote healthy breast milk production. Eating enough is important because breastfeeding mothers burn more calories than most women. (They are eating for two.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) therefore recommends that breastfeeding mothers consume an additional 330 to 400 calories per day. Eating a balanced diet is important because it is the only way to ensure that the infant is meeting its nutritional needs. Remember, nutrients are transferred from the mother to the infant through breast milk. Mothers should therefore try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein at every meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), half of the plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, and the other half should be made up of grains and protein.
Protein powder is convenient.
Most mothers should be able to get all the nutrients they need from normal food. That said, getting enough of certain nutrients, like protein, can be hard for some women. In case you did not know, breastfeeding mothers need 1.7–1.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This means that a 140 pound breastfeeding mother needs to consume well over 100 grams of protein per day. That is a lot of protein! This is where protein powder comes in handy.
Adding protein powder to your diet is an easy way to boost your protein intake simply because it is easier to swallow your food than it is to chew it. It is easier to make a shake than it is to cook a meal. Before you start using protein powder, however, you should know that not all protein powders are good for you (or your baby). If you Google “breastfeeding protein powder,” the search results will feature a number of brands that target breastfeeding and postpartum mothers, but that use ingredients that breastfeeding mothers should not be consuming.
Take Milk Dust, for example, one of the most popular brands of protein powder for breastfeeding. It claims, on the homepage of its website, that it uses “non-GMO, clean, organic ingredients.” This is misleading, not only because some of their ingredients are not organic, but also because they use food additives like guar gum and natural flavors.” How can a company claim to use “clean” ingredients if it also uses food additives like these??? Guar gum is a heavily processed thickener, and “natural flavor” is more or less a catch-all term for everything that a manufacturer would rather not spell out on the ingredient list. While food manufacturers are required to disclose their ingredients, natural flavor manufacturers are not. They can add solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as “natural” under current regulations.
Majka, another one of the most popular brands of protein powder for breastfeeding, also uses food additives. Its flagship protein powder, for example, contains natural flavors and silica. Silica (silica dioxide) is a food additive used to prevent clumping. Keep reading to learn more about why you should you avoid food additives.
Avoid food additives.
Most protein powders are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are, generally speaking, hard to digest. They sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation.
In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems and widespread inflammation. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria) and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder for nursing, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit
Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.
Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.
Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.” We will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. The problem with ingredients that look nothing like real food is that they are hard to digest; your gut always prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation.
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for people with sensitive stomachs. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein.
If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. Unlike protein concentrates or isolates, almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients like calcium and vitamin E. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome. Research also suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties, meaning they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.