In this video & blog post we wanted to talk briefly about pregnancy nutrition and exercise, and what I’ve been doing in this regard to build the healthiest baby I can.
Let’s start from the beginning… I didn’t work out at all the cycle I was trying to conceive, or the first trimester. This was more out of precaution than anything. I come from a history of hypothalamic amenorrhea and didn’t have a period for over a decade until I moved to New York, reduced my exercise intensity, and gained some body fat. I mention this because if you come from a history of disordered eating and/or excessive exercise habits that cause your reproductive function to shut down, you may need to take it easy on your exercise for a bit while trying to conceive and through the first trimester of pregnancy.
When you do start exercising in full capacity again, anything that doesn’t put your baby at risk is fair game. So, no rock climbing or bungee jumping—but you can do squats, deadlifts and other compound movements provided that you don’t strain excessively and listen to your body when it needs breaks or less weight. Walking, yoga, and other low impact activities are also great for both you and the baby.
Exercise during pregnancy is incredibly beneficial for most pregnancies both because it makes giving birth easier, but also reduces the risk of neonatal complications and improves growth outcomes. Of course, if you start bleeding, or have any funky things happen; work with your doctor! Better safe than sorry is my motto. With that said, it’s been my experience that most practitioners are grossly behind on the current literature in regards to exercising during pregnancy.
Transitioning now into nutrition… my diet changed quite a bit to get pregnant and maintain the pregnancy. For example, I prefer eating a ton of fibrous vegetables at the expense of starchy carbohydrates, so my net carb intake isn’t very high out of food preference. To help become pregnant, I needed to increase my digestible carbohydrate intake to help optimize my hormonal environment. Regular healthy insulin signaling is required to optimize egg growth and development, and to help lower sympathetic nervous system activity (the stress response) that can impair fertility.
With pregnancy, I maintained eating more digestible carbohydrates and started eating more frequently, both of which helped with nausea and other pregnancy symptoms (which are often a result of low blood sugar). My protein intake was already on-point (you require about 1.8 g/kg body weight while pregnant, and this assumes light activity only). Ensuring adequate protein intake is important for ensuring proper growth and development of the baby.
While every nutrient is obviously important in one way or another, special attention should be paid to DHA, choline, lutein, iron, and methylated folate, which can be obtained from smart supplementation and/or ensuring you eat fatty fish or other seafood, pastured eggs, lean meats, and leafy greens.
Here is the book I reference in the video.