Women's Diet and Fitness


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Q & A with Jen Heath on Pregnancy and Fitness

Training & Nutrition Consultant
ACSM CPT, NGA Pro Bodybuilder

WDF:I have heard that exercise is very beneficial before getting pregnant and that the better shape you are in, the easier it should be to get 'your body back'. But when it comes time to get pregnant, does there come a time to slow down or hold back on some exercises and is there a percentage of BF that will hinder your chances of getting pregnant?

Jen: In my own personal experience, I have not had to slow weight training or cardio at all up to getting pregnant or in the first stages of pregnancy. If a woman is on a rigorous training schedule, she ought to be able to continue with it throughout the first trimester of her pregnancy. Morning sickness may interfere with this, and then adjustments one can only do what they can do!

As far as getting pregnant at ultra low levels of body fat: If a woman is menstruating, pregnancy is possible. In my own mind, I am conditioned to think that attempting pregnancy at ultra low bf% (under 10%) is not the best idea. However, if that were to occur, body fat would naturally rise to a level that is more common to maintaining a healthy pregnancy all on it’s own.

WDF:  Are there any supplements that you recommend or you would advise women who are pregnant not to continue taking once they become pregnant?

Jen: Yes. Creatine, BCAA, and any thermogenic supplements. These are just not meant for pregnant women. I encourage fish oil, folic acid in the form of pills and food, and a multi/prenatal vitamin.

WDF: How many more calories, if any, does a women who is pregnant need to be eating while she is working out and what ratios do you recommend? Do you need more of one nutrient than the others?

Jen: What ever the calories w woman was eating pre-pregnancy should remain roughly the same until about the second trimester of pregnancy. At that point a pregnancy really requires about 300 more calories per day. So, if you were training before hand and maintaining your weight, keep things steady until the 2nd tri. If a woman was dieting before getting pregnant, it would be important to shift back to maintenance calories thus an immediate increase, and then the 300 calorie increase could come at the second trimester.  

WDF: Are there any exercises that a pregnant woman should avoid? Or are there any exercises that might help with labor?

Jen: After the second trimester or when a woman starts to “show” laying on the belly becomes near impossible and can put pressure on the baby. Crunches also become contraindicated after what my doctors have indicated at the 10 week mark or so. Once the uterus has expanded a significant amount (usually about half way through the 2nd trimester to the beginning of the 3rd trimester), balance becomes and issue. Movements like walking lunges, squatting to deeply, and deep deadlifting can take a person off balance and increase pressure on the abdomen. Also, high impact aerobics such as stepping become dangerous because of the risk of losing balance. HIT can still be performed on a treadmill or other equipment as they are more stable. I have known many pregnant women to continue going to aerobic classes and lifting as heavy as they can clear up until the day they delivered. It just depends on the individual. It is never good to elevate the heart rate to the maximum in the later stages of pregnancy, so monitoring the intensity to which training is performed is also a smart idea.

As far as exercises that helps with labor, I think all of them do. I think that training all the muscle groups of the body, particularly the back and legs help to strengthen the muscle involved in childbirth. Rowing for back is great, and shallow stationary lunging and squatting are great for the legs. There is much more, but basic, effective movements are the best ones to focus on.

WDF: How did you stay focused and motivated on diet and exercise after your babies were born and did you incorporate them into any of your workouts?

Jen: My diet always consists of lots of clean calories and good combinations that give great satiety. I just made sure I was eating a lot of clean items so that I didn’t get too hungry. That helped with adherence. As far as training, it always give more results when diet is in check. So, by sticking to diet, I allowed the training to give great and fast results. That in and of itself was enough to keep me motivated! As far as incorporating my children, when I had only two children, I would run with them in the double running stroller on cardio days. Now that I have four children, I simply bring them with me to the gym. If you ask my kids what we do in the morning, they’ll tell you, “we go the gym with mommy”. They know that going there is as much a part of their lives as it is mine. It provides a routine, and security for them that promotes good habits.

Carmel Wieland ~ ISSA

Certified Personal Trainer


Angie Schumacher~NFPT

Certified Personal Trainer

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