Monday, March 22, 2010

Fitness During Pregnancy

This topic is so big and so very important that I recruited an expert to guest write. Erin is a nutritionist as well as a nurse and proud mother of a charming 1 yr old.

Erin Blackwell Igo

Fitness in pregnancy can be challenging thing. You are not only responsible for your own well-being, but now you are entrusted with the sole responsibility of growing another human being. For some people, pregnancy can be a very difficult time. We spend our entire adult lives trying to be "fit" and maintain an ideal weight. Then one day, we wake up pregnant and are told we must gain weight, let our abdomens grow so we can't see our toes, and buy new HUGE clothes. This can be a struggle in two different ways:

  1. We are so excited for it to be socially acceptable to gain weight that we take "eating for two" literally and gain too much.


  1. We know that we are supposed to gain weight, but have such a hard time giving up our normal jean, that we decide to restrict our diets which can cause substantial harm to the baby.

    The International Organization of Health has set the following pregnancy weight gain guidelines:
    Underweight women- 28 to 40 lbs
    Normal weight women- 25-35 lbs
    Overweight women 15-25 lb
    Obese women 11-20 lbs (although, this is under scrutiny as many studies are showing that obese women can have healthy babies without gaining any weight).

    This weight should not all be gained in the first week. We shouldn't pull out the ice cream claiming we need to gain 35 lbs. In fact, in the first trimester weight gain should only be about 2-5 lbs and caloric intake does not need to be increased. If you are hungry- you are lucky! Eat! But continue to make wise choices. Because calcium and protein needs are greater during pregnancy (protein needs increase to 60 g/day), choose to have a glass of skim milk or opt for a protein snack. After the first 16 weeks, weight gain should average one pound per week and you can increase your calorie intake 300 calories per day. Once again- this shouldn't be seen as opportunity to eat a candy bar everyday because there are 300 extra calories to consume. Add two healthy snacks a day- yogurt, cottage cheese, a handful of nuts, or even a tablespoon of peanut butter.

    Some people follow another train of thought. Instead of "I get to gain 30 pounds??? Bring on the bacon!" they think "I have to be fat and gain how much??" This is normal. In my first trimester I gained 5 lbs, couldn't fit in to any of my clothes, and felt like a fat slob. I knew that the fetus weight was about an ounce at this point and had a really hard time justifying how large I was getting so quickly. But, this is how the weight gain plays out by the end:

    8 lb of baby
    3 lb of amniotic fluid and placenta
    2 lb of uterus
    4 lb of extra blood
    3 lb of extra breast tissue
    5-10 lb of "maternal stores"

    So even though that fetus is 1 oz and you have gained 5 lbs, that is 5 lbs of extra fluid and tissue that is being laid down to appropriately create and develop another organism. The hardest part to swallow is the 5- 10 lbs of "maternal stores." It is a pleasant way of saying "fat." This is necessary, though (unless you are already overweight or obese.) The belief used to be that this fetus was a parasite- it took everything first and mom got the leftovers. This is true in terms of vitamins and minerals, but not calories. Studies have shown that if mom doesn't have a high enough body fat percentage, the baby will break down mom's muscle tissue to use as energy while mom's body uses the calories consumed to increase her body fat. This is not good for your baby's developing brain. While you aren't looking forward to laying down 5-10 lbs of fat, it is good for your baby. Also, if you cautious not to lay down more than that- you will be able to easily get rid of it by breastfeeding and chasing your baby around within the first year.

    The last thing is exercise. It is important to exercise during pregnancy, but I cannot stress enough that every person is different. Some women can run marathons while pregnant (although, I don't recommend it), while some can't find the energy to walk down the block. I am an avid runner and before I was pregnant I ran about 20 miles per week. By the 4th month, I had stopped all together. I was TIRED, and the extra weight made me feel like I was running through mud. So, I switched it up. I walked a lot, I did prenatal yoga, and most importantly- I did what felt right. If your body is screaming, "Stop! This is too much!" then it probably is. As you gain weight, the activities you do burn more calories. Therefore, you can take it down a notch and still have an equally as effective exercise routine. Also remember, the point of exercise during pregnancy is not to lose weight- it is to be healthy.

Monty Moran's Notes

Thanks Erin. In addition, I would recommend the protein intake increased to at least 60 g and up to 120 g per day depending on your lean body weight. More lean body mass requires more protein. Go with whole milk, there is a reason why it started out that way… more proteins and healthy fats that all work together to nourish the body. Obviously omit if milk allergies are an issue and those with diabetic conditions definitely need to stay away from skim milk because it's basically white colored sugar water. Healthy fats are vital for baby's development and NO – healthy fat in meals does not beget fat moms.

After bouncing some theories off of Aaron Jones (a chiropractor here in the Fargo-Moorhead area) we agreed I should address a few more things. With exercise, I wouldn't recommend starting a running routine during 2nd trimester and on. However if you are a runner, keep these things in mind as you progress through your pregnancy term:

You will gain weight which obviously adds a form of resistance training to your running.
Your center of balance will change which will change your running mechanics.
Like Erin said, you may not have the energy to run like you did and may need to either cut the mileage back or cut the frequency down to recover between runs.
There are other options or complimentary activities such as yoga, Pilates, strength training, biking and so on.
With strength training, the same issues apply. Weights may not be as heavy but higher reps can suffice. Certain exercises will not be comfortable to perform for obvious reasons.
Luckily, maintaining a fitness routine is somewhat easy as it is a way of your life, your body changes gradually and fit people are more in tune with their bodies and know what works or as Erin said, "I did what felt right."

As far as taking vitamins & minerals consult somebody who knows what they're talking about, mega vitamins are not the answer. Quality, absorbable, well balanced, non-toxic vitamin/mineral supplements should be sought after – with that said, by all means don't go shopping in the Wal-Mart aisles for anything health related.

If you are not in a fitness routine and want to start (even during pregnancy) consult your OB/GYN and a competent fitness professional to put you on the right track and monitor your progress.

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