After spending some time a few weeks back with my pregnant sister-in-law, it dawned on me the essentials of knowing what to do in terms of nutrition and exercise during each trimester of pregnancy. We spent some time working out together and talking about what is safe, what to avoid, and the changes that the body goes through. And while most of the blogs that we write tend to revolve around our comfort level and expertise, I thought I’d get out on a limb a little bit and write about some key things regarding exercise and nutrition while pregnant.
Trimester 1 (Weeks 1–12)
Nutrition: Not a lot of nutrition changes occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. During this time you might experience some of the more common unpleasant side effects of all of those hormones your body is producing—mainly nausea. Most research shows the best way to keep the nausea at bay is to constantly keep some food in your stomach. This could be crackers, fruit, half a sandwich, yogurt, etc. The key is to eat frequent meals throughout the day. For those that have nausea the worst in the morning, this might mean setting an alarm in the middle of the night to have a snack. Your calorie needs are not higher during this time and your weight should stay the same.
Exercise: During your first trimester, it’s typically okay to continue most things. You should continue whatever workout program you have been doing. Exercise is good for both you and your baby to assist in your mood, energy levels, weight, and overall health, so keep exercising; and if you don’t currently work out, try to start moderately. While most exercise is good, there are some things that you want to avoid. Make sure you avoid exercises done laying on your back, movements where your feet are in the air above your head (common in yoga and headstands), too much twisting of the abdomen, and explosive movements. Pay attention through the entire pregnancy to your temperature: keep yourself cool and regulate your breathing, being sure not to be overly strained.
Trimester 2 (Weeks 13–27)
Nutrition: The key thing to keep in mind is that you are not eating for two. Your body and your baby require only an additional 300 extra calories per day for the second and third trimester. Ideally, these calories will come from food sources that are good for you and the baby. Here is a list of important nutrients and an average goal to achieve:
- Protein: 75–100g each day to help with brain development and increasing your blood supply for the baby. Lean sources such as chicken, cooked fish, pork, eggs, beans, and nuts or nut butters are important to incorporate at meals and snacks. Keeping track with a food-logging app such as MyFitnessPal is the easiest way to reach your goal.
- Calcium: 1,000mg each day to help form the baby’s bones and tooth buds. This is around three to four servings of dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, or cheese each day. In addition, eating foods such as leafy greens and fortified foods is another way to reach this goal.
- Iron: 27mg per day is ideal to help increase blood volume. The best sources of iron are leafy greens, whole grains, and lean seafood.
- Folic acid: 600–800mcg per day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This can be achieved by consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, veggies, whole grains, and lentils.
Exercise: It is important to continue your fitness routine; however, you want to choose activities that are low impact like walking or swimming. Most exercises during this trimester are safe in moderation. Because of the muscles being distended, you want to avoid exercises that are done overhead like the military press. Also, be sure to eliminate jumping exercises or things like outdoor biking where there is potential to fall onto your stomach. Continue to avoid exercises on the back and keep your heart rate and breathing under control.
Trimester 3 (Week 28–birth)
Nutrition: While trimester 2 and 3 follow the same nutrition guidelines, there are some important things to keep in mind with foods while being pregnant. Some foods have been known to cause harm to the developing baby. The best way to avoid this is to be sure all meats have been cooked to their proper temperatures. Also, reducing or eliminating the caffeine from your diet is recommended. Sticking to 200mg or less per day (the amount in 1 cup of coffee) is ideal. In addition, avoid fish high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, and mackerel and have only small amounts of canned white albacore tuna. Finally, deli meats have been known to have listeria, so if you are eating it heat up your meat in the microwave to kill any possible bacteria.
Exercise: It is important to continue low-impact exercises. If you are a runner or someone used to high- to moderate-intensity exercise, make sure that you consult your physician before continuing your routine. During the third trimester, there should not be any lifting of heavy weights due to the stress it puts on the ligaments. Again, do nothing on your back. The important thing is to get adequate rest and hydration as you prepare to meet your little one.
As you can see, exercise and nutrition are both essential pieces to having a healthy pregnancy and birth of your child. If you have any questions regarding either your exercise routine or nutrition, consult your doctor at the start of your pregnancy to ensure a safe trip down baby lane!
This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager, and Angie Mitchell, Registered Dietitian. For more information about the NIFS bloggers, click here.