Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy: The Basic Facts

Given that the majority of people I know are either pregnant, have recently been pregnant, or will be pregnant soon, I figured that exercise and nutrition during pregnancy is a great topic to cover.  Most women fear the body changes that come with pregnancy, especially the idea that it is going to be difficult to lose the baby weight.  The key is to maintain a proper nutrition and exercise routine before, during, and after pregnancy.  Sure, many exercises must be modified during pregnancy, and it is certainly not a time for you to attempt to set any personal bests, but exercising during pregnancy is good for you and your baby.

When monitoring intensity of exercise while pregnant, it's important to use the "talk test."  This means that if you can talk comfortably while you are exercising, the intensity is just right.  Doctors used to recommend that a pregnant woman's heart rate not exceed 140 beats per minute, but that rule no longer applies.  The "talk test" is an easier and effective way to monitor your exercise while pregnant.  Depending on your stage of pregnancy, you might not be able to get into certain positions, like lying on your back or on your stomach.  In order to keep your core strong during and after pregnancy, planks are a fantastic exercise (see video in post Challenge #2 - Water & Exercise).  While you probably don't want to take up any new sports or try to learn a completely new way to exercise while pregnant, you can safely continue with your current regimen while modifying as needed (always check with your doctor!).  If you need extra help, seek out a pre/post natal exercise specialist in your area.  I also highly recommend checking out some pre-natal yoga classes!

You know your body better than anyone else.  Listen to it.

Your doctor will give you the necessary vitamins and supplements to take during your pregnancy, and typically these will include the following: Vitamin B12, Folate, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Fatty Acids.  During your second and third trimesters protein intake should also be increased by about 25 grams per day.  LOTS of lean protein and veggies are key.  In fact, a pregnant woman can easily follow the 5 Simple Tips to Eating Healthier I recently posted.  Always choose whole foods over supplements as a way to get all important vitamins and minerals.

WARNING!: You are not really eating for two.  Typically, a pregnant woman only needs an extra 300-500 calories per day, closer to 500 if you are exercising regularly.  Overeating or eating low-quality foods while pregnant is bad for both mom and baby and can have lasting consequences.

You are going to gain weight when pregnant, and the best way to ensure a quick bounce back after you deliver is to focus on high quality foods and to keep moving!  Sugars, transfats, fast foods, and all of those bad foods that taste good are bad for pregnancy.  If they are bad for you, certainly you don't want your baby to ingest them!  By eating a whole food based diet, most women should expect to gain the following amounts of weight (Precision Nutrition):

-Underweight/average women gain 25-35lbs
-Overweight women gain no more than 15-25lbs
-Women 5'2" and under gain 10-25lbs

Of course your doctor will give you the specific details on what you individually should expect out of your pregnancy with guidelines to follow.  It is likely that you can continue the same nutrition plan you were on while pregnant when you are nursing.

What are they keys to a quick bounce back?  Stellar nutrition focused on whole foods (lean protein, fruits and veggies, whole grains) and commitment to an appropriate exercise routine.  Take care of yourself better than you ever have while you grow your baby.  The reward is not only a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy state but also a healthy, happy baby!


  1. Great article. I was in the 'underweight/average' women category and only gained 25 lbs, with my first baby and I was so worried that it wasn't enough weight. A lot of other people would tell me that I wasn't eating enough but I had a great pregnancy and a healthy 7lb baby girl. I did a lot of yoga, as well which was great. Here's one video that I followed on prenatal yoga.

  2. I need to eat more fruits or vegetables and to make my diet more complex. What do you recommend eg. for second breakfast about 10 AM when my first breakfast is about 5 AM?

  3. what do you eat for your first breakfast? an omelet with vegetables and cheese would be a great option. another option could be plain greek yogurt with fruit. just be sure you're getting protein, veggies/fruit, and some healthy fats!

  4. My first breakfast are usually toasts with tomato, cheese and ham, sometimes it is just sasusage with roll, sometimes scrambled eggs with bread or roll.
    Then I drink green tea.
    But I always wonder what to take for second breakfast. I have to eat it in my job and now I am bored with greece salad which I have been eating for last two weeks. Usually I have two sandwiches but they a little boring. I need to find something new, not too hard to make at home and to take with me.
    Thanks for your propositions! I think I'll try yogurt with fruit.

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