This week I’d like to build upon what my colleague Aoife discussed in last week’s blog around the importance of nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy. One of Aoife’s key takeaways from the Maternity Dietitians Ireland Conference was that ‘what happens in the womb lasts a lifetime’. A paper by The International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) in 2015 also strongly supports the message of ‘Nutrition First’ when it comes to ensuring the health of mother and child (Hanson, et al. 2015).
In this two-part blog post, I want to lay out some things for you to consider regarding nutrition if you are pregnant or trying to conceive. Part 1 will discuss additional calories needed, expected weight gain during pregnancy, and the fundamentals of nutrition. Part 2 will discuss food aversions and nausea, foods that you should eat in moderation or completely avoid during pregnancy and some particular nutrients and/or supplements that you might consider.
Like with anything, these recommendations are general recommendations for the average, healthy pregnant women who do not have any underlying health conditions or contraindications. Always consult with your own health care provider when considering supplements or dietary changes.
Additional Calories - Not quite eating for two
We have all heard the old wives tale that now that you are pregnant you have to “eat for two”. Before you start chowing down on double-portions, I have to tell you that that is a myth. There will be an increase in your daily calories as you move through the different trimesters, but for the most part, continue to eat as you normally would, focus on the fundamentals of good nutrition (see below), and add additional snacks as you need.According to Moms Gone Strong, your daily calories will increase over your pregnancy by the following amounts:
2nd Trimester - 340 cals per day
3rd Trimester - 450 cals per day
Breastfeeding - 500 cals per day
That equates to a few additional snacks or one additional meal per day, depending on how often you get hungry and what your preference is.
Expected weight gain during pregnancy
FIGO states that “adequate gestational weight gain is important for maintaining the health of both the mother and possibly for her baby” (Hanson, et al. 2015). According to Moms Gone Strong, the average weight gain during pregnancy is approximately 11 - 16kg ( 25 -35 lbs). This can differ from person-to-person and the recommended weight-gain for any one individual is based upon their pre-pregnancy weight. I have included a screenshot of Precision Nutrition’s Infographic as it is a great visual representation of this concept.
By the end of your third-trimester, your fetus, placenta, and amniotic fluid will weigh approximately 5kg combined whereas your own physical weight gain will be approximately 9kg. Your blood volume and extracellular fluid contribute a sizeable 1.5kg each! If you have any concerns about your weight gain (or weight loss) make sure to speak with your health care provider about them.
Precision Nutrition - How Much Weight Should You Gain During Pregnancy
Fundamentals of Good Nutrition
Pregnancy is a time to focus on nourishing yourself with adequate amounts of food, consuming a varied mix of foods to ensure that you are getting a good mix of macro and micronutrients, and staying hydrated. It is important that you are not under or over-eating and that the majority of your foods help you to maintain stable blood-sugar levels.
1. Eat the majority of food from whole food sources
As with any nutrition for health recommendations, getting your nutrients from whole food sources is key. Getting a mix of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and a mix of healthy fats (try and avoid trans fats in foods like cakes and fried foods) in that order. Aim to mix up the types of foods you are eating to ensure that you get a good mix of micronutrients as different foods contain different nutrients. This can be easier said than done in the first trimester due to food aversions and nausea (discussed in Part 2) so just eat what you can when you can during this time.
2. Protein, Carbs & Fats
Making sure that your diet contains a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and carbs is essential day-to-day and particularly during your pregnancy. As mentioned above, it helps you to achieve a sufficient mix of nutrients needed by your body for your own health and for building a healthy baby.
Here at FFS, we use the Precision Nutrition approach to serving sizes of protein, carbohydrates, and fats which uses your hands as a serving guide. It can be hard to know exactly how many grams of x or y you are getting and the emphasis of carefully measuring can not always be suited to people who may be susceptible to eating disorders.
Side note: if you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating then please speak to your health care provider as this can have impacts on both your and your baby’s health (Ward, 2008). Please speak to your health care provider or contact BodyWhys.ie.
Precision Nutrition - Female Portion Sizes
Protein is the building block of our bodies, including that of your growing baby. Our protein needs increase during pregnancy to help build all of the maternal and fetal tissues. FIGO recommends an additional 10-25g of protein per day to the recommended pre-pregnancy amount of 60g in the second and third trimesters. Protein also helps to increase the satiety of meals, stabilises your blood sugars, and helps you feel fuller for longer. Maintaining stable blood sugar and insulin levels during pregnancy is important if you are at risk of gestational diabetes. Furthermore, if you are training during your pregnancy then it is particularly important to make sure you are getting enough protein to support both your training and your growing baby.
Sources of protein include chicken, turkey, red meats, salmon, eggs, and legumes.
Typical Serving size = 1 palm size
NB - do not eat raw, undercooked, or cured meats, liver or high-mercury fish (swordfish, shark, marlin, and too much tuna) during your pregnancy.
I will be discussing this in more detail during part 2 of this series.
Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel of choice. Due to good old diet culture, women tend to demonise carbs and avoid them. However, they are a fundamental part of your diet if you want to have enough energy to fuel your day-to-day actions, hormone health, growing a baby, and any additional exercise you may be doing.
There is a continuum of “better choices” when it comes to carbohydrates from a nutritional standpoint. Try to focus on getting the majority of your carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; they have a higher nutrition content, such as B-vitamins, and higher fibre content. Fibre not only helps stabilise blood sugars by releasing energy at a steadier rate it but a bit of roughage also helps things move along the digestive tract. The HSE recommends getting 18-30g of fibre a day, particularly if you are suffering from constipation. Constipation and haemorrhoids
are common during pregnancy, so increasing your fibre and water intake can help.
Sources of carbohydrates include fruit, vegetables, pulses, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, and wholegrain rice, bread, and pasta.
Typical Serving Size of Starchy Grains or Fruit = 1 cupped palm
Typical Serving Size of Vegetables = 1 fist
Just as carbs can be feared by women, so too can healthy fats due to their high-calorie makeup. Please keep in mind that fats, especially polunsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6, are the building blocks of our fat-based tissues such as our brains, the sheaths of our nervous system, and our cell membranes, as well as acting as precursors to our hormones.
According to FIGO, fats should make up 15-30% of your daily nutrition during pregnancy, which is the same amount as pre-pregnancy. They do recommend that saturated fats and fats from fried foods should be limited during pregnancy whereas polyunsaturated should be increased. Most people get enough omega-6 through a western diet, with some suggesting that the 1:1 omega 6 to omega-3 ratio is a skewed as 16:1 in favour of omega-6 (PN, All about Healthy Fats).
Sources of healthy fats: Oily fish, flax seeds, chia seed (omega-3), olive oil, avocados (monounsaturated fats)
Typical Serving Size = 1 thumb
3. Stay Hydrated
Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water (ASCM, 2007) so it is essential that we stay hydrated. According to the International Life Sciences Institute (Sawka et al. 2005), 2.7 liters of water a day (from food and liquids) is sufficient to meet the average adult woman’s hydration needs.
However, during pregnancy blood volume increases by 40-50% which means that more water is needed. If you are exercising and being active during your pregnancy, then you will need to make sure you are staying on top of your hydration needs before, during, and after exercises. It is important for pregnant women, especially during the first trimester, not to overheat so having water with you during your activity is key.
4. Listen to your body
This point may seem like I am going back on everything that I just said above. But before you throw out the baby with the bathwater (pardon the pun), keep in mind that the above points are recommendations. They are there to help you if you are feeling overwhelmed by the tidal wave of information out there on ‘health’ and ‘nutrition’.
Diet culture is prevalent within our society and affects women in particular (Check out Laura Thomas’ brilliant book ‘Just Eat It’ for more info on this). The numerous food rules that bombard us day-to-day is outstanding, particularly around weight-loss, ‘perfect health’, and even the idea of ‘bouncing back’ to your pre-baby body.
As I said before, this is a time for nourishing your body and focusing on growing a happy and healthy baby. Focus on doing what feels good for you; listen to what your body needs. Hungry? Eat a snack. Craving something weird? Your body may need a specific mineral or nutrient. Feeling satisfied? Finish eating.
I hope you found this information useful. In a few weeks time, I will be discussing food aversions and nausea, foods that you should eat in moderation or completely avoid during pregnancy and some particular nutrients and/or supplements that you might consider. If you’d like any additional information on any of the above feel free to contact me (email@example.com).
Want to find out more?
Contact Coach Sinead
If you are interested in 1:1 Personal Training or Small Group Personal Training suited to pregnancy then email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or get her on Instagram @sineadbrophy.
Sinead's Prenatal Training is based in FFS Gyms Ivy Exchange. If this location does not suit, Coach Aoife also offers SGPT for Pregnancy on Leeson Street.
Hanson et al, 2015, “The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) recommendations on adolescent, preconception, and maternal nutrition: "Think Nutrition First"
HSE, Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Precision Nutrition, “What to eat during Pregnancy”
Precision Nutrition, “All about Healthy Fats”
Saweka, et al. 2005, “Human Water Needs”
ASCM, 2007, “Exercise and Fluid Retention”
ACOG, Exercising during pregnancy
Moms Gone Strong (by Girls Gone Strong)
Additional Reading & Resources
ACOG Exercising during pregnancy
HSE Pregnancy Health
Moms Gone Strong (by Girls Gone Strong)
Laura Thomas PHD, 'Just Eat it'
BodyWhys, The Eating Disorder Association of Ireland
About the Author
Coach Sinead is the success story of FFS Academy. She started training as a member in 2017 and was one of the proud graduates of the first FFS Academy launch. Sinead is now a certified Personal Trainer, Animal Flow® Instructor, and Modern Pregnancy & Postnatal Exercise & Wellness Trainer.
Sinead is particularly interested in the female athlete, from how the menstrual cycle impacts training to coaching women in strength and aerobic training during pregnancy. Sinead is heading up Small Group Personal Training for Pregnancy in the new FFS location across the road from the Rotunda, FFS Ivy Exchange Parnell Street - Dublin 1. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact email@example.com and she will be in touch.
Email Sinead at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find Sinead on Instagram at @sineadbrophy