Originally published on RxGirl on Thursday, 09 January 2014
Female competitors may already find it challenging to keep up with proper nutrition during prep, but pregnancy confers even more nutritional demands. As a general rule, increasing caloric intake during pregnancy by 300 kilocalories per day meets the essential nutrient needs of the growing fetus for the majority of women, regardless of whether they compete or not. So if you are already struggling to get calories in, guess what? You will need to add an extra meal or two in your regimen to meet the caloric needs of pregnancy.
One of the physiological challenges which pregnancy creates in an effort to make enough glucose available to the growing fetus is insulin resistance in muscle tissues. This is similar to the insulin resistance which often occurs when the post-workout refeed one-hour window is missed. As a result, the practice of consuming smaller and more frequent meals among competitors works very well during pregnancy as well. Every meal should include lean protein sources, and protein intake should be increased by about 10% to support proper fetal development and increased blood volume in the mother.
Let’s also look at the carbohydrate needs of a female competitor during pregnancy. It has been shown that sharp decreases in blood glucose occur in the late stages of pregnancy following strenuous workouts. Such precipitous dips in blood glucose may compromise delivery of glucose to the fetus, so pregnant women need to consume adequate carbohydrates prior to exercise. An ideal quantity is 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates which would be consumed prior to the workout, with an additional 25 grams if the workout period is prolonged or especially strenuous. Pregnancy is NOT the time to fear carbohydrates! Stick to lower glycemic index carbohydrates for
If you are already accustomed to drinking ¾ gallon to a gallon of water each day, and you plan to exercise regularly during pregnancy, you will also need to consume an additional 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of physical activity to maintain proper hydration and blood volume for you and the baby. Make sure to get clearance to exercise from your obstetrician, since certain pregnancy related medical conditions are contraindications to exercise. You should also take a good prenatal vitamin, as well as 800 micrograms of folic acid per day to guard against neural tube defects. Other recommended supplements which pregnant women can safely consume are magnesium, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and B-complex.
Though many competitors already refrain from consuming “white” foods (table sugar, table salt, enriched white flour), it is especially important to avoid such foods during pregnancy, not just for the reasons mentioned above, but also because white foods cause the breakdown of elastin in the skin. What that means is that your skin’s elasticity will diminish, increasing your likelihood of tearing during the process of labor. This is especially important in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. If you practice clean eating with the above guidelines in place, you will optimize your chances for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy, happy baby.