Pregnancy fitness is something I have a lot of experience with (yes, even as a guy!). With 5 children (daughters!) I know a thing or two. Being a loving husband and supporting my wife through five pregnancies, I knew, as a Personal Trainer and Qualified Chef, what was required to give my wife and my unborn child the best support in relation to nutrition, physical activity and health in general.
There’s a lot of advice out there about fitness during pregnancy as well as general health from conception to pregnancy to postpartum. Unfortunately a lot of the information targeted at soon-to-be Mums (and Dads) is fear-based. Whether it’s a new supplement that’s ‘crucial’ to get pregnant or a powder to maintain folate levels, there’s an overload of products, information and misinformation coming non stop.
With the bombardment about all these products that you seemingly can’t-do-without, it can easily lead to confusion, frustration and fear about what to take, what to do and what not to take and what not to do… and when!
Often, simplicity is best. And while the information in this article isn’t meant to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional (notice my ‘disclaimer’? 🙂 ) I’ll try to keep it simple and explain some options around pregnancy fitness, nutrition and well-being so that you can make informed decisions with your doctor.
Let’s get started…
Head Trainer at Exercises.com.au, Triathlete, Personal Trainer, Qualified Chef, Father of 5
Trying To Conceive? Eat These Top Fertility Diet Foods
Trying to get pregnant? If you want to start a family of your own, it’s important that you consider the foods that you’re eating on a daily basis.
You want to be putting foods into your system that will help enhance your reproductive system and also ensure that if you do get pregnant, those initial first weeks of your baby’s life (when you often don’t know yet you are pregnant) are well nourished.
There are certain foods that do hold fertility boosting powers, so let’s talk about a few of them here today so that you know what to put on your menu.
Add Healthy Oils
The first thing you’ll want to be doing is adding in some healthy oils. Women who have diets that are too low in fat may struggle to keep their reproductive hormones at optimal levels.
Choosing olive and coconut oil for instance to sauté your vegetables in is the perfect way to bring more healthy fats into your pregnancy diet plan. In addition to that, also try sprinkling small amounts of nuts and seeds on salads or as a quick snack throughout the day to get your intake up.
Grass Fed Beef
While you should aim to move away from eating too much animal-based protein as that can lower your fertility levels, that doesn’t mean you should cut it out completely.
Grass fed beef is an excellent source of both zinc and iron, something that those who are trying to conceive definitely need enough of. Iron is found in food in two forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron, which makes up 40% of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed.
Non-heme iron, which represents 60% of the iron in animal tissue and all the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts) is less well absorbed. As such, it’s important to include 2-3 servings of grass fed beef each week.
Adding some spinach to your diet is also a great way to help boost your fertility level. Spinach is rich in vitamin C and A, both powerful antioxidants that will help keep your body healthy to aid in conception.
Additionally, it’s also a good source of folate, which is a must for any woman expecting a baby in the coming months or year ahead. Adding an assortment of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, not just spinach, is a very wise move.
Aim for at least 7 servings per day of vegetables and 2-3 fruits during this time. Excellent options include berries, oranges, peppers, cabbage, and kale.
Organic Free Range Eggs
Finally, make sure to get some organic free range eggs from time to time, but make sure they are properly cooked. They’re not to be eating raw in any form (to avoid potential salmonella bacteria poisoning), particularly when you actually become pregnant.
Eggs are another great source of protein, so will help you get your intake up and are also a rich source of choline, which is needed to help foster proper brain function in a developing baby while also helping to lower the risk for birth defects.
Choline is a nutrient that many women are naturally low in, so it’s a must to pay attention to. You can also get choline from cauliflower, so that’s another food that’s a must-add to your diet. Do keep in mind however that eggs still trump cauliflower, containing 75% more choline per serving.
So keep these foods in mind if you are trying to get pregnant. If there was ever a time to focus on eating healthy, wholesome foods, now is it. Also make sure that your partner is doing the same as his fertility will also come into play when trying to conceive.
4 Must-Have Foods In Your Pregnancy Diet Plan
When pregnant, paying attention to your diet is a must. Eat the right foods and this can make all the difference on your developing baby. Eat the wrong foods and he or she may be deficient in key nutrients required for growth and development.
Wondering which foods are best? In addition to the ones mentioned above, let’s take a closer look at the six best foods to consume during pregnancy.
While you may have focused on consuming asparagus when you weren’t pregnant to benefit from its diuretic effects, during pregnancy it can be helpful thanks to its high folic acid content.
A serving of asparagus has 200 micrograms of this B vitamin, which is important throughout the entire pregnancy period. Serve it with a little lemon juice or olive oil drizzled on top.
Not only are beans an energising food to help keep you moving throughout the day, but they’re also rich in protein as well. When pregnant, you’ll need around 10-15 grams of protein more than normal and a cup serving will give you just that.
Beans are also high in dietary fibre, which will be important for helping ensure that you stay regular as well. Some women do experience constipation during pregnancy, so swapping out one of their normal meat sources of protein for beans instead may help get things moving along.
One of the most nutritious greens that you can consume, Broccoli is a great food to eat while pregnant. It’s high in vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant for the body and will help fend off free radical damage.
Serve Broccoli with some cooked beef and you’ll also absorb more iron than you would without it. The vitamin-C rich food boosts the absorption of this important mineral.
One of the best grab-n-go snacks during pregnancy is the banana. Bananas are rich in potassium, which will help fuel muscular contractions and help prevent some of the fatigue that many women experience during this time.
Bananas do contain some sugar, but also provide a good dose of dietary fibre and starch carbs to balance that sugar out. Pair that banana with some natural nut butter for the perfect pregnancy snack.
As most women need around 150-200 calories more per day during pregnancy to support their growing baby, simply adding this snack to your day could provide this. So there you have six of the best foods to eat while pregnant. Add them to your daily pregnancy diet plan to provide optimal nutrition for you and your baby.
6 Foods And Drinks To Avoid During Pregnancy
As I’ve mentioned above, what you eat will have a large influence on your baby’s health, so paying attention to ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ foods is important.
Let’s take you through some of the unsafe foods that you’ll want to avoid during your pregnancy. Steer clear of these for the next 1-9 months ahead and your baby will be thanking you.
As healthy as sushi is most of the time, while pregnant, it’s really not the best of options. Some fish varieties are also relatively high in mercury content, which is also critical to avoid while pregnant. Such fish varieties include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna.
Many sushi dishes are also prepared with mayonnaise and since raw eggs or anything containing raw eggs should be avoided, that’s strike two for this type of food. Steer clear of sushi restaurants for the time being.
Another protein source that just got banned from your grocery list is deli meat. Deli meat is often contaminated with listeria, which can bring on a miscarriage.
Even if you are choosing healthy options like chicken or turkey, it’s still not a good idea to include these in your plan. If you must cook the meat prior to eating. This ensures any harmful bacteria are killed off in the meat.
Soft cheese is another food to avoid during pregnancy. This includes cheese such as brie, feta, gorgonzola, as well as camembert, along with any other cheese that is not made from pasteurised milk.
Which then only stands to reason that you should be avoiding all unpasteurised milk itself as well.
As much as you may crave that cup of coffee to get you going during the morning after not getting much sleep at night, you need to refrain from doing so. There are some reports that caffeine, especially during the first trimester, can be linked to miscarriage.
While one small cup of coffee on occasion likely won’t cause too much of an issue, don’t take in any more than around 150-200 mg of caffeine. In addition to the miscarriage risk, caffeine will also dehydrate the body and that can also lead to problems for both you and the baby.
Sip some hot water with lemon instead for a much smarter option.
Which leads us to the next thing to avoid – herbal tea. Unless you have been told by your doctor that the tea you are thinking about having is fine, skip over these beverages. The data is out on what influence herbal tea can have on your baby, so you’ll want to proceed with caution.
While eating an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables during pregnancy is important provided they are all thoroughly washed, you’ll want to steer clear of any raw sprouts. This includes alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts, as well as mung bean sprouts.
These sprouts have are often known to contain disease carrying bacteria, so if you are going to include them in your diet plan, cook them first to be safe. These are some of the main foods and beverages to keep out of your diet for the months ahead.
Your developing baby is depending on you to get his or her nutrition in, so be sure that you are feeding your baby the right foods.
How Much Exercise Is Too Much During Pregnancy?
Now that you’re expecting, you won’t be exercising at the same intensity you perhaps have been. You want to ensure whatever exercise you’re doing is both safe for you as well as your baby. So where does that leave you? How much exercise can you safely keep doing on a weekly basis?
Here are some key points to remember as you answer this question.
Your Current Fitness Level
First take into account your current fitness level. If you were exercising twice per week before you became pregnant, avoid starting up a plan that has you exercising four times per week while pregnant. You should aim to maintain the same frequency of exercise or decrease it. Never increase it.
If you never exercised before, you may be able to start some light exercise now if being pregnant has prompted you to take better care of your health and body, but note that it needs to be light in nature.
Now is not the time to focus on increasing fitness. Instead, focus on maintaining your current fitness level or simply staying mobile and active.
Your Choice Of Exercise
Also think about your choice of exercise. You may find that you’re more fatigued during your pregnancy, so if you used to do three cardio workouts and three weight sessions per week, now this may be a little too much.
You may find that you need to drop back down on the intense exercise training, doing just two workouts of weights per week and then add in another two or three very light walking days. The lower the intensity of the exercise, the more frequently you’ll be able to do it.
You also need to think about your trimester as well. As you get closer to delivery, the frequency and volume of exercise you’ll be able to tolerate will decrease, so adjust according to how you feel.
This said, many women find that it’s during their first trimester they’re most fatigued, so you may find that at this time you’re also cutting back on the volume quite heavily as well.
It’s important to listen to your body during this time. You’ll be going through numerous changes and it’ll guide you to see what’s enough or too much exercise. Likewise, it may vary week from week. One week you may get in five workouts, keeping the intensity light and then next week, even two workouts feels like its pushing it.
Rest when your body tells you and get active when you’re feeling good. This will help take some stress away from planning your workout schedule and feeling guilty if you miss a session you had planned.
Your Doctor’s Advice
Finally, be sure to pay attention to your doctor’s advice. If you are uncertain if the amount of exercise and type/intensity is too much, ask. You never want to doubt yourself on this, so don’t be afraid to speak up at your next appointment.
At the end of the day, the question of how much exercise is too much during pregnancy is not a black and white answer. It’ll depend on your own body, how your pregnancy is going, and the type of exercise in question.
Generally speaking, anything more than five days a week and two or possibly three days of more intense type of training is going to be too much for you. During pregnancy, keep it below this level to stay safe, happy, and healthy.
Can I Do Core Strengthening During Pregnancy?
After finding out that you’re pregnant, you’re likely going to start researching all the different things you can and can’t do during the months ahead. You want to ensure your baby stays safe and healthy during its nine month journey.
You may have read that having strong core muscles can help prevent back pain during pregnancy, as well as possibly help with the delivery process. This said, it seems illogical to be doing crunches when a baby is developing inside you.
What’s the verdict?
Let’s look at some points to know about core strengthening during pregnancy.
Work On Your Breathing
First things first, no matter what core exercises you are going to perform, breathing properly is paramount. You want to practice breathing through your diaphragm, which in turn is going to help prevent diastasis recti (see below) and issues related to your pelvic floor.
It will also help keep your blood pressure at a safe level and prevent you from getting dizzy and passing out. Many women have a tendency to hold their breath while performing core work, but this must be avoided.
Know Whether You Have Diastasis Recti
Next, you’ll also want to look at whether you are at risk for or have diastasis recti. This is the natural separation that occurs in the ‘six pack ab’ muscles as your stomach begins to grow to accommodate your developing baby.
This is a natural process that happens to some women (not all women however) and is treatable with proper rehabilitation.
That said, if it does occur, you’ll want to stay away from crunches of all kinds as well as any front loaded exercises such as front planks and push-ups. These moves can make this situation worse, which is obviously something you want to avoid.
Focus On Non-Crunch Related Exercises
While you can still perform crunch based exercises very early on during your pregnancy (first trimester only), by the time you get to your second and third trimester, sit-ups along with any other exercise that has you on your back, are best avoided.
Instead, perform moves that have you balancing your body such as the side planks or front plank (if not diastasis recti). Other good pregnancy exercises to perform include an opposite leg and arm raise along with a standing cable rotation.
All of these moves will help hit the transverse abdominis, which is the muscle that helps keep your spinal column in proper position. These will all be safe for you and your baby, provided you have your doctor’s approval to perform exercise.
Note that if at any point you do experience pain or discomfort however, you should stop immediately and ask a medical professional if it’s safe to continue before doing so.
Don’t Forget Your Pelvic Floor
Finally, as you go about putting together a core workout program to do during pregnancy, don’t forget to include exercises that will help work your pelvic floor muscles.
Many women forget that this is an extension of their core and that it’s one of the areas that you need to work most during and especially after, pregnancy. Your pelvic floor is responsible for preventing urinary incontinence, so it can help ensure that you are not experiencing issues related to this after giving birth.
In addition to that, keeping your pelvic floor strong can also help with the delivery process as well as help you regain your pre-pregnancy form faster once again.
So keep these tips in mind as you go about your pregnancy exercise training. Avoiding core strengthening moves is not recommended as the right exercises can be very beneficial throughout pregnancy.
As always, seek out the appropriate medical advice and approval before beginning any pregnancy exercises.
3 Safe Cardio Exercises To Do While Pregnant
Whether you’ve just found out you’re pregnant or you’re a few months along already and are looking for ways to keep in shape, the great news is there are plenty of options. Many women are overly cautious while pregnant and while it’s good to make sure that you are safe, you can still keep fit and have fun at the same time.
The trick is to know which exercises are pregnancy-friendly and which you should refrain from doing. Let’s go over 3 safe pregnancy exercises that you can take part in if you want to keep your cardiovascular fitness level up.
The first great exercise to consider is swimming. Swimming is an excellent option for pregnant women because it’s completely non-impact. As your body will be going through many changes during pregnancy, along with the fact you’ll be carrying more weight, this no-impact activity will be very welcomed.
Swimming is also a great way to work both the upper and lower body, so is a very complete workout to consider. If you aren’t going to be doing much strength training activity, swimming is a smart go-to as you’ll be working against the resistance of the water while you do it.
Walking is the next activity you might want to consider as a pregnancy exercise. Walking is a great cardio activity you can do for most of your pregnancy as a low impact exercise, anytime, anywhere.
Brisk walking, either on flat ground or uphill if you want to get a little more glute and hamstring activation, is a perfect way to keep fit. It’s also a great activity to do with other pregnant women as a nice way to be social and do something good for your body at the same time.
If you are going to walk uphill, just be sure to pay attention to your heart rate and ensure that it doesn’t get too high. It’s okay to increase it a little, but keep it to around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
Aerobics class is the final option to consider if you want to get your cardiovascular training in while pregnant. The great thing about aerobics class is that you can often find classes that are offered just for pregnant women, so you can be sure that these are safe to do.
If you can’t find a local pregnancy aerobics class, consider finding a normal class and talk to the teacher before you begin and let him or her know that you are pregnant.
You may need to modify the exercises slightly based on what you can do and bring down the intensity slightly depending on how advanced the class is, but most aerobics classes do you have you performing upright exercises, all of which should you have no problem taking part in.
There are three great cardio exercise options that you can include in your pregnancy exercise plan. Also remember that exercise doesn’t have to take place in the gym or be ‘formal’ exercises.
Simply getting up and moving around while pregnant can help keep your fitness level up and make it easier to get back into shape after you give birth.
The most important thing during this time is to simply stay mobile, whether that means formal exercise as noted above or simply maintaining your active day to day life.
Newborn Diet Plan – What You And Your Baby Need
After having your newborn, the next step is making sure he or she receives the best nutrition. Many new Mums make the decision to breastfeed, which offers a number of advantages for both you and the baby.
Babies who are breastfed tend to have stronger immune systems than those who don’t and can tend to grow faster as well. Of course, going with nature by breastfeeding is the way it’s meant to be.
For you, breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby and it can also help shed some of the weight that you’ve gained during your pregnancy. Mum’s who breastfeed find they bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight faster and more easily than those who don’t.
In order to breastfeed, it’s important that you keep your diet on track. What do you need during this time?
Here are some points to know.
Observe Your Baby
The very first thing to know about your breastfeeding diet is that you need to watch how your baby is responding to the milk that you are providing him or her. If the baby starts becoming irritable or develops a rash or diarrhea, this could mean that they are allergic to something you are eating.
Start looking at the foods you are taking in and see if any common allergens are present. Make sure that you are cutting out all cows milk first and foremost. Generally speaking, we should not be consuming cows milk (it’s meant for baby cows… calves), so the breastfeeding mother should definitely steer clear.
Next, also consider eliminating eggs. This can cause some babies to react, so you may want to opt for other lean protein sources. On top of this, be sure that you have also eliminated any wheat-containing foods.
Here again, these foods should not be part of your usual healthy diet but when breastfeeding, they can become especially problematic for your developing baby.
Fill Your Diet With Leafy Greens
What you do want to eat is plenty of leafy greens. Leafy greens are rich in calcium content, so will help your baby get enough of this important mineral.
Additionally, they’re also very high in antioxidants, iron, and Vitamin C, all nutrients your baby is going to need.
Load Up On Smart Carbs
While you may be tempted to rush into diet mode soon after giving birth, avoid doing so. While a slight calorie deficit is okay, you need to keep your calorie intake up.
Your body is going to be working hard to prepare your breast milk 24 hours a day and if you aren’t supporting this process with sufficient calories, it’s simply not going to happen.
Plus, you’ll also need your energy up to care for your young baby as well. Carbs provide the energy you need. Just be sure to choose wisely, eating plenty of sweet potatoes, quinoa, wild rice, as well as fresh vegetables.
Plan To Eat Healthy Fats
In addition to keeping your carbohydrate quality in check, also be sure that you are bringing plenty of healthy fats into your diet. If you aren’t eating good fats in your meal plan, this can really impact the composition of your breast milk.
Olive oil, avocado’s, coconut oil, and fatty varieties of low mercury wild caught fish are all excellent ways to bring your intake up.
Minimise Caffeine And Alcohol
Finally, make sure that you’re focusing on minimising caffeine and alcohol during this time as well. Remember that while you may no longer be pregnant, consuming these substances will also add them to your breast milk, which can then impact your baby. Avoid at all costs until you finish breastfeeding your baby.
These are some quick tips to know and remember about eating right during while breastfeeding. Use these and you can feel confident you’re supporting your growing baby.
Post Pregnancy Diet Tips: Help! I Want My Body Back!
So you’ve just brought your new bundle of joy into the world and are really enjoying the new addition to your family. As an exercise buff, you’re no doubt wondering how you can get your pre-baby body back as quickly as possible? To help get yourself back on track, you’ll need the right diet in addition to a consistent exercise routine.
Here are a few post-pregnancy diet tips that will help you get your body back in a hurry.
Analyse Your Calorie Needs
The first thing you’ll want to do is look at what your calorie needs are. Try out one of the many calorie requirement calculators online to find a good estimate for your daily intake.
If you are breastfeeding, this can add a couple hundred calories to your daily energy requirements, so make sure that you adjust your intake accordingly.
Once you figure this out, adjust your diet accordingly ensuring a slight calorie deficit is in place. Aim for no more than 200-300 calories less than maintenance during this time.
Cut your calorie intake back too far, especially if breastfeeding and you won’t have energy to take care of your new baby.
Focus On Wholesome Foods From All Three Macro-nutrients
Next, it’s also important that you focus on wholesome foods that deliver all three macro-nutrients. This means consuming proteins, carbohydrates as well as dietary fats. Turn to lean meat sources of protein along with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for carbs and nutrients.
Sweet potatoes, quinoa, and wild rice can be consumed for complex carbs, which will fuel any workouts you start to do.
Finally, don’t neglect healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, fatty fish, and small amounts of nuts will all help you keep your energy levels up while also ensuring your hormones are where they need to be.
Emphasise Lean Proteins
As you focus on fat loss during this time, protein should come up slightly. Make sure that you emphasize protein from lean sources such as chicken, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, as well as fresh seafood provided it’s lower in mercury content.
These lean proteins will also help to fill you up, decreasing hunger and making it easier to stick to your reduced calorie diet plan.
Eat For Energy
Finally, don’t forget to eat for energy. When you are feeling tired and hungry, don’t refrain from eating just because your diet plan tells you not to. While it’s great to focus on weight loss during this time, make sure that you listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Some days you may have a higher energy need if you are running around with your baby all day or if you’ve stayed up all night trying to get him or her to sleep. Feed your body accordingly. In turn it will thank you and eventually it will lose the body fat that you’ve gained throughout your pregnancy.
Remember that your top priority at this time should be to take care of you and your baby.
If you are smart with your nutrition, you’ll get your pre-baby body back, start feeling like your normal self again, and have the energy you need to start up a regular workout program as well.
The journey from conception to pregnancy to birth and post-pregnancy is one of the most exciting, nervous and sometimes challenging times in a woman’s and a couple’s life. Together you can connect at a deeper level and together you can become healthier and stronger and raise and strong, healthy child.
As a father of 5 I can tell you it’s an amazing journey… I wouldn’t change it for the world!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me 🙂