By Erica Jeung, Certified Sports Nutritionist and Principal at BumpVitamins.com
IN LATE 2018, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had a million and one questions about what to expect and what I could and could not do while pregnant. I knew I would have to adjust my life, but what all needed to change? Should I change the food I eat, the drinks I consume, what about skincare, maternity clothing, supplements, and what about my workout routines?! Was a fit pregnancy possible? So many things to consider…my mind was racing.
Freaking the F@#* Out!
From the nutrition classes I have taken, I knew the basics of pregnancy nutrition and knew I had to consume roughly 300-500 more calories a day. And from my fitness training, I knew I could still work out, but should avoid some movements. However, I was still a little wary of what might hurt my body or cause pregnancy issues. I’d like to say that I went to the doctor to get all my questions answered, but who can wait for that first appointment??? It was driving me crazy and I needed answers! I started reading as much as I could on what to do, and what not to do, in the early stages of pregnancy and beyond.
The good news was, I was already on my way to a fit pregnancy. I was eating really healthy. My meals consisted of mostly veggies and fruits paired with lean meat or eggs. At the time I was on a paleo-inspired diet and eating only chicken, turkey, and fish for my protein sources. I had to cut the fish to one serving a week due to concerns about consuming too much mercury. I started eating red meat to get some extra iron and variety in my diet. And frankly, I started craving things like burgers and bacon which I had not had in years! I switched up my protein powder to one that was just pea protein and stevia, both safe during pregnancy. I stopped taking my pre-workout because high levels of caffeine have been linked to miscarriage.
You’re (not) Eating for Two
Gaining weight is essential to any pregnancy, but I had to remind myself that despite what everyone tells you, you are not really eating for two! Your developing fetus does not need you to eat two of everything. Think of adding an avocado to your diet, just one avocado is roughly 300-400 calories depending on how big it is. Or add an additional snack like an apple with peanut butter or cottage cheese with tomato with a handful of almonds, or maybe you have an extra serving of quinoa at dinner. That’s it. That is all you have to add to obtain the additional calories your body needs!
That Body ody ody
Ok, so I checked all the boxes on what goes into my body during pregnancy but what about what I do with my body? I was working out on average 2-3 times a day. Morning jogs with the dogs, afternoon weightlifting, and sometimes yoga or barre in the evening. I was also teaching barre on Sundays, just two classes, but I have never been an instructor to just sit on the sidelines and command my class, I always workout with my classes.
From my training I knew that once an expecting mother hits the 10-12 week mark she should avoid laying on her stomach (no more supermans) and should avoid laying on her back for prolonged periods of time (no mas savasana) in the second and third trimesters but what about very early pregnancy? I kept thinking, I advise people on what to do with their bodies but when it came to my own I felt so lost.
Doctors used to think that women were in a fragile state while pregnant and used to advise against lifting heavy objects or working out from conception to birth. But in the 1970s-1980s, they also used to advise women to cut down on smoking, not stop completely. So, what did they really know, am I right?? Of course, it is strongly advised that you consult with your doctor about any exercise you plan to engage in while pregnant regardless of what you read online. 🙂
In my case, my doctor told me to continue working out as long as I had the energy to do so and was listening to my body and not pushing it too hard to the point of exhaustion. So I kept working out while I had energy… which in the first trimester, energy was hard to find. I skipped a lot of gym days and even had to have co-workers sub my barre classes a couple of times. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. Yes, working out can be very beneficial for you and your growing baby, but resting is equally as important. If you are too tired to get your workout in, take a rest and remember that your body is doing the most amazing thing ever…creating life!
On days I skipped my workouts, I would go to a relaxing yoga class or meditation class. Most yoga studios offer classes like restorative yoga, yoga Nidra, prenatal yoga, and meditation-based classes that are perfect for days you don’t feel like breaking a sweat. Take advantage of online classes so you don’t have to leave the house, and if you look around there are a ton of classes available for free.
Your doctor might mention to you that your body is producing a wonderful hormone called relaxin. Relaxin is responsible for relaxing your tendons and ligaments which helps your body in the birthing process, think of pushing a watermelon out of a lemon. So don’t overdo it when stretching and doing yoga, pilates, or barre. You will “fell” more flexible, and you will be more flexible, but you can also overstretch and create injuries.
Also, your blood pressure and heart rate are things you want to monitor while working out. The body is producing more blood which will affect your blood pressure and heart rate. It is typical for your heart rate to rise by 10%. Get yourself a smartwatch or fitness tracking device to keep an eye on your heart rate and if you are getting dizzy stop what you are doing, sit down and drink some water.
Once I was in the second trimester, I struggled with dizzy spells while weightlifting. Eventually, I gave up heavyweights for yoga, barre, and HITT classes exclusively. I was still able to do crunches and other abdominal exercises well into my third trimester. My doctor told me to keep my heart rate below 135-140, your doctor will be able to tell you what heart rate not to exceed, based on your pre-pregnancy heart rate and current health condition.
In 2019, I was only not pregnant for a total of 4 months. Baby number one was not even six-months-old before we discovered that bun number two was in the oven! When I say that out loud I still can’t believe it. As one might imagine I didn’t have much time for workouts or naps. I still got out and walked every day and tried to keep my diet in check. Keyword “tried”. It is hard when you don’t have a lot of time to prep food, or even eat a proper meal.
My main advice is to appreciate all the changes, get enough rest, try and eat healthy, try and get a workout in or at least your steps for the day, and most importantly remember to take your prenatal vitamins! The stronger you are, the easier it will be to carry your baby to term.
And when your family and friends inevitably say, “Don’t worry, you are eating for two now!” Remind them that you only need 300-500 additional calories each day, you are not eating for two grown adults. A fit pregnancy is totally possible! If you are not enjoying your pregnancy, just know it won’t last forever and none of it is so hard that you forget all about it when you see that beautiful and healthy baby’s face for the first time!
 Villines, Zawn, “What is a normal heart rate during pregnancy,” www.medicalnewstoday.com, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/heart-rate-during-pregnancy. October 13, 2020.