By: Natasha Lowe Osho MD, FACOG, NASM CPT
Congratulations on making the decision to get active during your pregnancy! Trust me, you and your baby will be glad you did. Now, you may be wondering how to best prepare for your workout session. In this article, I will discuss three easy tips to make sure you are well prepared to exercise.
Tip #1: Make sure you are adequately hydrated.
Hydration is key to making sure your body is prepared for your workout session. An easy way to think about hydration is to drink half of your body weight in water. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink 80 ounces (about 2.3 liters) of water throughout the day. That may seem like a lot, but it can be done. For instance, you can drink 10 ounces of water as soon as you wake up, then 32 ounces before lunch and another 32 ounces before dinner. The good news is that food is also a source of water, so you should be pretty close to the 80 ounces that is recommended. Another way to determine if you are adequately hydrated is by looking at your urine. Your urine should be light yellow in color. If it is dark orange or bright yellow, you need to increase your water intake. If it is clear, like water, you can decrease your water intake.
It is recommended that you should drink 14-20 ounces of water two hours before your workout. Then, during your workout, you should drink 6-12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. If your workout lasts longer than 1 hour (which I don’t recommend during pregnancy), a carbohydrate containing sports drink is recommended.
Tip #2: Eat a healthy snack 30-60 minutes before your workout.
I can’t stress how important it is to eat before your workout. Your body is supplying energy, in the form of glucose, to both you and your baby. It also has to produce extra energy to fuel itself during exercise. A good rule of thumb is to eat a full meal 2-3 hours before exercise or a small snack 30-60 minutes before exercise. This will decrease your risk of hypoglycemia (too low blood sugar) during and after your session.
The key to your pre-workout meal and/or snack is macronutrients. Macronutrients are the amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins present in the food we eat. Looking first at carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates are recommended instead of simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index and slowly releases glucose into your bloodstream over time. The slow and steady release helps to prevent hypoglycemia during your workout. Foods with a high glycemic index (simple sugars) will cause an immediate increase in your glucose levels, followed by a “sugar crash.” This leaves you without enough energy to sustain your body for your workout. Examples of foods with low glycemic index are plain yogurt, peanuts, apples, blueberries, raspberries, chickpeas, beans, lentils, non-starchy vegetables, lean red meat, chicken, fish, and turkey. High glycemic index foods are typically your processed and junk foods.
Your pre-workout meal or snack should also include healthy fats and some protein. Your body can quickly breakdown fat and convert it to glucose to help fuel your workout. This is why the body stores fat for future use. Protein, on the other hand, is used mainly for building and repair. It can be used as an energy source, but the process of converting protein to glucose is less efficient and slower. In terms of energy production, protein is the last resort. This is why the recommendation is to eat more complex carbohydrates and healthy fats leading up to your workout.
Tip #3: Choose the proper location for your workout.
During pregnancy, it becomes very important to make sure you are exercising in the proper environment. You should be in a cool, non-humid setting. This is very important for regulation of your body temperature. Also, it is okay to sweat. You may even notice that you sweat more during pregnancy, than you did before pregnancy! Again, this is totally normal and an appropriate response by your body to regulate your internal temperature. Also, anticipating an increased amount of sweat is another reason to make sure you are well hydrated before exercise. It is also important to avoid exercising in extremes of temperature, especially heat, because it can adversely affect the pregnancy. For example, you should avoid saunas, hot tubs, and “hot” yoga. These extreme environments increase your risk for dehydration. In the first trimester, excessive heat can cause abnormalities in the development of the baby’s nervous system. Lastly, you should avoid putting yourself in a situation where you have an increased risk of fall and/or injury such as horseback riding, scuba diving, gymnastics, contact sports, and mountain biking.
Exercise is highly encouraged during pregnancy and offer many benefits for both you and your baby. Because each pregnancy is different, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you to start an exercise program, then use these tips to prepare for your workout.
About the author: Natasha Lowe Osho MD is a Board Certified OB/GYN, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Founder of Bump Fitness Club. I started Bump Fitness Club to help women have healthier pregnancies. Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive, and supervised environment to encourage exercise during pregnancy with the goals of helping women perform their daily activities, build strength and stamina for the physical demands of labor and delivery, and assist with postpartum recovery while building relationships and providing encouragement throughout the pregnancy journey. For more information, visit bumpfitnessclub.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.