A lot of my pregnant nutrition coaching clients want to know if they can keep taking their training supplements like pre-workouts, BCAAs, creatine, and highly branched cyclic dextrin. My thoughts on this are always 2 fold:
1. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
2. Is this the best use of our calories given our current goals?
In regards to the first point of “do the benefits outweigh the risks?”, for me, the answer is typically “no”. I have yet to find sound evidence that training supplements are safe during pregnancy. It’s important to note that I haven’t seen research showing that BCAAs and HBCD are harmful either (and know of some women who have continued taking them) so it might not be an issue. However, I tend to err on the side of caution and phase it out. As for creatine, again, it appears to be safe, but a full evaluation has yet to be completed. And a lot of supplemental powders, such as pre-workouts, can contain fillers, caffeine, sugars and other ingredients which could be harmful.
If I can’t conclusively answer “this is fine for you and baby”, I skip it. If I can’t say “there may be a little risk but the pros really outweigh the cons” like I would with something like runny eggs, I skip it. It’s not essential. It doesn’t serve you nutritionally. And you’re no longer eating to perform or recover from training- you’re eating to build a baby from scratch, and manage your own health in the process.
As for the best use of our calories, pregnancy is a time to get as many vitamins and minerals into our bodies as possible so that baby can use them for fetal development, and mom isn’t left depleted. While caloric needs increase during pregnancy, we aren’t “eating for two”. I’d much rather a client get 25g-50g of carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits or complex carb sources during pregnancy than from a fast-digesting powder that won’t offer nutrients and will likely leave them hungry faster. I’d also rather them not continually put themselves into an unnecessary surplus due to the addition of a powder they don’t really need. Again, the current goal is mission: make a baby, not compete for a spot at the Crossfit Games. Keep your eye on the prize, and know that you can get back to your training goals further into the postpartum period.
As for protein powders, whey and plant-based sources don’t seem to be an issue during pregnancy. Again, while I prefer animal and ocean sources (and the B vitamins, iron and Omega 3s that come with it) protein powders can help maintain adequate protein intake if aversions or morning sickness get in the way. Bone broth and collagen can be great additions too for pregnancy or the postpartum period. Check out my favorite store bought bone broth and my favorite collagen peptides!