Weightlifting Safely While Pregnant

Originally published on RxGirl on Monday, 27 January 2014

Pregnant with weights
Female competitors don’t have to give up lifting weights while pregnant, but it is very important to make modifications so that the growing fetus and the mother are both protected from injury. Make sure to inform your doctor of your desire to continue weight training while pregnant, and be prepared to put your exercise regimen on hold if conditions such as pre-eclampsia or cervical insufficiency exist.

Though you may be accustomed to training like a warrior, you need to drop your intensity while pregnant and remember that the focus is on maintaining current muscle tone rather than on gaining muscle. It is even more important to listen to your body’s cues, and stop exercising if any pain emerges during the routine. Whatever you do, do NOT be stubborn and engage in heavy lifting or contact sports which could harm you and your baby!

Usually even the most athletic and conditioned women will tire very quickly while exercising during pregnancy, requiring an additional hour nap for every 30 to 45 minutes spent working out. Balance will also become an issue, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, so free squats, lunges, bosu work, and plyometrics should be replaced with exercises which are more stable.

When performing cardio, it is probably best to switch to an elliptical machine which will confer more stability than a treadmill and will be more comfortable to use. Slow your pace down so that you avoid ballistic movements, and increase rest intervals to about 2 minutes per set. You will also need to drop the amount of weight lifted. Lastly, keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute.
It is important to remember that during the later stages of pregnancy, a hormone called Relaxin will relax ligaments in an effort to prepare your body for delivery, which means that joint stability will be compromised. At this point it is best to switch to machines for all your resistance training so that you have maximum support during your lift. Another important thing to remember is to avoid lying on your back for any exercises, as this position can make you feel dizzy as well as compromise blood flow to the fetus. If you are concerned about retaining some tone in your abdominal muscles, you can perform a cat stretch which is done on all fours, in which you pull in your abdominal muscles and curve your back towards the ceiling.

The good news is that women who are fit before pregnancy typically enjoy easier pregnancies and shorter labor. They are also able to bounce back into pre-baby shape more quickly (gotta love muscle memory!). There are countless competitors and fitness celebrities (Gina Aliotti is one awesome mommy who comes to mind) who have remained fit during their pregnancies and bounced back to their pre-pregnancy bodies. So, as long as you practice consistency while turning down the intensity enough to ensure a safe environment for you and your baby, you should be able to enjoy the same benefits.

Eating For Two: Nutrition For Competitors During Pregnancy

Originally published on RxGirl on Thursday, 09 January 2014

Kettlebell pregnancy
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

pregnant belly
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.

Nope, I Really Don’t Want Kids

I do not want kids
People are continually amazed when I reveal my utter lack of desire to have children. Though I have found myself pondering the concept of having children while in relationships (including my most recent one), I find that as a single woman, I truly don’t see myself ever pursuing an opportunity to have a child. I have felt this way my entire life, even when I was married, and knew in my heart that unless a man swept me off my feet and somehow convinced me that having a child would be a great idea, that I would never willingly sign up for motherhood. Yes, I have come very close to agreeing to the whole kid thing, and I think I am probably still at risk of being somehow convinced that the idea might fly, but I would never make such a decision on my own. I have NEVER been the kind of woman who has watched children playing, or has seen babies in a nursery, and thought, I want one! I don’t yearn for the mother-child connection, and I don’t feel the need to create a mini-me.

There are a multitude of reasons besides my general lack of interest in the concept of having children which support my decision to remain child-free, but the three main reasons are:

1. KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE: Raising a child is unbelievably expensive. Be prepared to spend $245,000 to raise a child in the United States from birth at 2013 up to age 18. Here is a reference article so you can see the breakdown of costs:


This is insane to me. I can barely get by as it is, and cannot imagine dealing with the financial burden of raising a child. No thank you.

2. TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE: I have so many projects that demand all of my time and focus, and am well aware of the fact that ALL of that would crumble if I were to have a child. Since I have no intention of redirecting my attention, no children will come into the picture. I certainly would never want to be a neglectful mother, and that is why I would relinquish all of the activities (EXCEPT gym time and eating clean!) that consume the bulk of my time and energy. I am not selfish enough to rob a child of all that he or she should experience, and would make every sacrifice to send the child to the best schools and provide everything possible. That would mean the end of all that I have known in my life as an independent woman.

3. I VALUE MY FREEDOM: It is pretty liberating to be able to leave at a moment’s notice (provided it doesn’t conflict with my work schedule) to go out of town, pop over to a store to run an errand, go out with friends from time to time, or just take a rare nap in the middle of the day. If I had a child, I would have to plan EVERYTHING in advance, arrange for child care, or take the child with me, along with diaper bag, formula, etc. I would feel so incredibly encumbered that I know my spirit would suffer.

For those of you who wonder if I feel any sadness over being childless, I can tell you without hesitation that I value my freedom far more, and as a result, couldn’t be happier about the fact that I have no children. People still seem so shocked by that, as if an adult is supposed to feel some type of longing for parenthood. Society often regards people who choose not to have children as somehow inadequate, which is ridiculous, since those of us without children often have schedule flexibility which people with children can usually only fantasize about, and we have just as much value despite the lack of progeny.

I also find it extremely irritating and condescending when a WOMAN asks me if I have any children, and upon my negative reply, says, “Oh, yeah, that’s why you look so good.” This only prompts me to bust out photos of women in the fitness industry who have borne as many as SIX children and who rock washboard abs and fantastic muscularity and conditioning throughout their bodies. The desire to keep my body in its best shape ever has been a minor factor in my decision to avoid having children, but it by no means has been a primary reason. Fit women have proven over and over again that it is possible to bounce back into great shape after having children.

If you’re worried about me being child-free, remember that I love the flexibility and freedom in my life. I have pets whom I love dearly, and I have incredible friends. I don’t perceive any hole in my life because I never bore a child.


nakedpregnantwomanI was utterly shocked when I first learned of this term and could not believe that some pregnant women were willing to endanger the health of their unborn infants as well as their own health in an effort to avoid weight gain. Pregorexia is a psychological condition in which a woman’s obsession with being thin persists during pregnancy. It has the same features that anorexia does, with the stark exception the fact that a developing fetus is also endangered by the restriction in calories and nutrients.

About half of pregnant women will only eat certain foods which they have determined to be thin figure-friendly, while about one-fifth of pregnant women will actively restrict caloric intake. A small percentage of pregnant women will engage in excessive exercise, induce vomiting or take laxatives in an effort to rid themselves of ingested calories. Other pregnant women will binge, which exposes the infant to widely varying levels of nutrients. These erratic behaviors increase the risk of gestational diabetes, post-partum depression, c-section, miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight and breech delivery, yet these risks fail to deter many women from engaging in them.

More than half of women end up feeling more insecure about their bodies while they are pregnant, and many will harbor such intense fear of gaining weight while pregnant that they will starve themselves or employ some of the methods mentioned earlier. Even breastfeeding behaviors may fall prey to the psychological mechanism of restricting calories. Some women may resort to breastfeeding or pumping for the sole reason of shedding calories, an activity known as “pump purging”.
Pregnant women need to ingest an additional 10% more calories per day, which usually amounts to about 300 extra calories per day. As for ideal weight gain during pregnancy, women of normal weight should expect to gain between 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are overweight should aim for a pregnancy weight gain of 15 to 25 pounds, while obese women should only gain between 11 to 20 pounds.

The number one most important concern a woman should have while she is pregnant is the health of her unborn baby.