It is important to keep fit and healthy while you are pregnant, but it is not the time to try to lose weight or go too crazy in the gym. Muscle building requires healthy nutrition and as most of this will be diverted to your baby, you may find that building your own muscle is an uphill struggle.
Some so called experts recommend supplements, but if you do want to go down this route it is crucial to ask your doctor first. Many muscle supplements contain added ingredients that could potentially harm your baby, so it is certainly not worth the risk.
When you are pregnant it is better to be over-cautious. There are two of you now and once the pregnancy is over you will have plenty of time to get back into shape. That said, fitness and strength will help you through pregnancy and labour, and will help your body recover afterwards.
If you do not usually exercise, it is a good idea to get into the habit early in your pregnancy with some gentle work that builds fitness and stamina.
The ideal muscle plan while pregnant is something that suits your current lifestyle and fitness. If you generally work out in the gym, you can continue this activity, though you may have to cut back on some of your usual moves. If you usually do yoga you should avoid exercises that twist the abdomen, or hot yoga.
However, if you are not already doing these activities, now that you are pregnant it is not a good time to start, so you may need to look at other ways to keep fit.
Let’s take a look at the ideal muscle building plan and the dos and don’ts of exercising while pregnant.
You are eating for two now but this doesn’t give you an excuse to overdo the unhealthy stuff. Neither is it the time to cut back on calories.
According to most advice, you should be consuming around 300 more calories a day than usual and including plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, meat and dairy (avoiding anything unpasteurised or containing raw eggs). Eating regularly, at around every 3 hours rather than 3 massive meals a day, is considered the best policy.
You could make this simple for yourself by devising a menu plan to see you through the day, incorporating added healthy snacks and nutritional extras to fill in between your regular meal times.
You will put on weight. A slow steady weight gain is a good sign that your baby is growing steadily. The amount of weight you gain will depend upon your base weight before pregnancy.
Most health guidelines state than an average-weight woman should gain 25 to 35 pounds when pregnant. If you are underweight you should gain 28 to 40 pounds. If you are overweight, you probably will need to gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. Your health professional will be able to advise you more on this.
Eating regular meals will help you keep your energy levels up. Many women find pregnancy is tiring, and regular nutrition will help combat the fluctuations of blood sugar levels. If you have cravings for sweets and unhealthy stuff, have them, just don’t go mad.
At this time in your life, it really is all about you and your baby. Listen to your body, and when you are hungry eat something that will be good for your own health as well as for your baby.
It goes without saying that you should avoid smoking, alcohol and cut back on caffeine. Many women switch to decaff for many of their teas and coffees during this period.
It’s really important to stay fit. It will help you through labour and will help you recover much faster.
If you like working out, you can continue, but it is important to not overdo it. According to bodybuilding experts, now is the time to maintain and not to train.
Repetitions with low weights or light resistance training is fine, but slow and steady is the watchword, not heavy lifting or high endurance exercises.
You need to avoid sudden jerky movements or anything that strains the abs. Bear in mind that your body is undergoing hormonal changes that can weaken bones as well as soften connective tissue.
If you are not already a fan of the gym, other modes of exercise are probably better. Swimming and walking in the sea or pool is great for pregnancy. Walking or low impact aerobics can also be good. Taking a walk every evening for around 30 minutes can be a great way to unwind and improve your health.
If you want to be more active, some places provide aerobic classes especially for pregnant women. You can also find these online to follow at home. Don’t be afraid to sit some of these out in a class if you feel the moves are too much for you.
When you are pregnant it is extremely important to not over heat and dehydrate. This applies throughout the usual day when you are not exercising but is especially important when you are active. You should ensure that you drink plenty of water and stop exercising when you get too hot.
You should never exercise so intensively that you cannot manage to have a conversation while you exercise.
Weight training for pregnancy
If you are an habitual gym goer you probably want to continue with a form of your usual regime.
According to bodybuilding advice, the following routine should be safe for most women:
Perform 2 exercises per body part, versus 3 sets each.
Increase rest periods to 2 minutes between each set. Make sure you don’t become too hot, and monitor your heart rate. You need to keep below 140 beats per minute, so just stop if your heart rate and temperature rise too much. Make sure you avoid holding your breath. Your exercise should be fluid and slow, not fast and jerky.
When you are using the machines, keep the resistance on a low to moderate setting, depending on your stage of pregnancy and keep your reps between 8-10.
Avoid all exercises that require lying on your back. This position may decrease the blood flow to the uterus and the baby.
Avoid all abdominal exercises or exercises that require lying on your stomach (Eg. Lying leg curls).
Stay away from any exercises that could cause you to lose balance and fall over. Lunges and squats should be substituted for seated leg curls and leg extensions. Be cautious about using weights and putting strain on your body.
If you are going to undertake exercise it is important that it should help you and your baby, and not cause unnecessary dangers. You should speak to your doctor first so that any risks can be assessed. Most doctors agree that continuing with your exercise is fine as long as you avoid falls, contact sports or anything where you could get hit in the belly.
So if your usual exercise is as a cage fighter, or you like judo or horse riding, you will probably have to give these up until after the baby is born.
Some doctors will recommend health supplements and if you have your own ideas about this, such as protein powders or fish oils, you will need to ask for trained medical advice.
Many women suffer from preeclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy so it is important to get trained advice before you continue with exercise. This could be extremely dangerous if you do not realise what you’re dealing with.
If you experience any of the following effects stop exercising immediately and call your doctor for advice. In many cases symptoms may not be dangerous or even caused by exercise but it is important to find out.
You should seek medical advice in the case of:
- Falls or knocks to the abdomen – these are not always dangerous to your baby but you should contact your doctor or midwife on the same day
- If this is followed by any contractions, bleeding or leaking you need to get to hospital immediately
- Pains in your middle or lower belly
- High temperature
- Blurred vision or spots before the eyes
- Increased swelling or puffiness
- Severe headache that won’t go away
- Sudden thirst that won’t go away
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Baby’s movements have slowed down
- Increased vomiting
- Pain anywhere, especially back and pelvic region
- Excessive fatigue
- Uterine Contractions
- Headache or dizziness
- Increased shortness of breath
- Difficulty walking
Finally, listen to your own body and follow your instincts. If you feel that something might be wrong, your doctor or midwife will be able to help you.
Pregnancy does not last long, although it can feel like it. And although you don’t have to put your life on hold you do need to take much more care of yourself throughout this time.
Overdoing exercise is potentially much worse for you and your baby’s health than minimal exercise, so take your efforts slowly and carefully to keep safe. After all, once your baby is born you are going to need your energy levels and will soon be able to pick up where you left off when it comes to muscle and fitness.
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