WHAT DO POSTPARTUM MUMS AND BODY BUILDERS HAVE IN COMMON?
When people think of protein powder it can often conjure up images of ultra tanned body builders flexing their carefully sculpted biceps in a huge mirror. You might very well be questioning why a women’s health nutritionist is even writing about protein in the first place.
THE KNACKERED MUM CLUB
It’s because it’s my secret weapon for knackered new mums. I came to this discovery first hand whilst very much falling into the aforementioned category when my second child was born. My partner worked away, I had a three year old and now a brand new baby. Even as a nutritionist I found cooking the meals I knew I should be eating often just too much to deal with. I couldn’t get my baby-muddled head around what I needed to do.
Of course I knew I needed to stay hydrated, especially whilst breastfeeding, of course I knew I needed healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals to help heal my post partum body. But there is only so much nutrition you can get from beans on toast eaten with one hand on the sofa whilst desperately trying not to wake the sleeping baby. I had been relatively well prepared, batch cooking and stocking the freezer but sometimes that’s just not what you want.
BRING IN THE PROTEIN POWDER
Welcome the protein powder to the stage. Some days it would just be a scoop of powder in some milk. On other days I would add some flax, spinach, maybe half a banana and some chia seeds and blitz into a smoothie. On the days I was channelling my inner celebrity chef, I’d add some protein powder to banana, oat and egg pancakes. There are no hard and fast rules. I look back and wish another mum had passed on this wisdom a bit sooner. I would have appreciated some protein powder and protein bars as a newborn baby gift much more than another soft toy (don’t get me wrong I was very grateful for all the very kind gifts).
Now for the science bit. Protein is essential for tissue repair, new cell formation and wound healing. It also helps control the hangry sugar cravings by making you feel fuller for longer and balancing blood sugar. Whilst our bodies will always ensure there is sufficient protein in our breastmilk, if there is insufficient in our diet, it is mum that goes without. For me, my go-to was and still is the Energy cacao and maca Supershake. The added maca is really useful for balancing hormones and supporting milk production, whilst the added B vitamins go that one step further in supporting energy production. However a plain protein powder would still give you all the healing and recovery benefits. Watch out for artificial sweeteners, sugars or artificial flavourings.
LIFE GOES ON
Now I have a two year old and a five year old, and whilst I feel out of that initial post-partum haze, I still need to find a routine that supports me as a business owner and mum of two. I might reach for it less now I have the capacity to cook more balanced meals, but I look to the B vitamins in the Supershake now to support the liver break down waste hormones, ensuring my menstrual cycle remains regular and pain free. They also play an essential role in supporting our stress response. Improved mental resilience to whatever life will throw at me and balancing hormones as I move closer towards peri menopause are just as important to me now as postpartum recovery was two years ago.
BUMP UP BREAKFAST
For my clients who are trying to balance motherhood, successful careers and their own health, we always discuss a protein powder to help support energy, hunger, blood sugar and stress. With an egg containing only 13g of protein, a lot of women are shocked that we need around 65-75g of protein every day depending on how physically active we are. Protein breaks down into amino acids. We need amino acids as a precursor to a lot of our hormones, such as estrogen, insulin and thyroid hormones. Where I tend to suggest a bit of protein powder is normally at breakfast. We have been conditioned to think a breakfast of toast, cereal and fruit juice sets us up for the day. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this type of breakfast is far from what our body needs. It offers little fibre or other vitamins and minerals, but breaks down quickly into sugar leaving you on an energy and stress rollercoaster which often crashes mid morning and mid afternoon. By adding protein to carbohydrates at breakfast you delay the rate at which the sugar hits the blood stream, levelling out energy levels and reducing the desperate need for a double shot latte at 10.30am. A simple breakfast tweak can leave you feeling more balanced, energised and less anxious. Try it.
A RADICAL IDEA
So why is it that mums don’t traditionally reach for the protein powder? Why don’t we prioritise our own postpartum recovery and mental resilience? Perhaps it’s years of just being expected to just get on with it. I propose a radical idea; perhaps we do need to pay as much love and attention to our post partum healing and own maternal health as the body builder does to their biceps. Because perhaps we might just find we also perform better and feel better, even if the biceps remain elusive.
Becca Meadows is a registered nutritional therapist specialising in women’s health. She runs a clinic from the Cotswolds and also delivers corporate wellness events and retreats. She is passionate about empowering women to find balance through nutrition and lifestyle