Hi ladies! As a Certified Personal Trainer, I have a passion for helping other women achieve their health and fitness goals through diet and exercise, and I know from both education and experience that pregnancy can be tough on a woman’s body!
Nutrition is a huge and complicated part of pregnancy that many women worry about when they’re expecting. How can you maximize your nutrition to stay as fit and healthy as possible during your pregnancy? How does your diet need to change when you’re pregnant? Which nutrients are most important, what should you avoid altogether?
Today I’m going to focus on one small but very important part of this nutritional puzzle: protein!
How Much Protein for Pregnancy?
As you probably know, we all need protein every day, pregnant or not! It’s especially important to consume plenty of protein if you’re an active woman working towards specific fitness goals. I recommend that an active woman who wants to build lean muscle and keep body fat at bay should eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. That means 140 grams of protein daily if you weigh 140 lbs.
But what about when you’re pregnant?
As always, you should listen to your doctor before you listen to anyone else, and ask your doctor before you make any changes to your diet. Most recommendations say that a pregnant woman should consume at least 70g of protein per day. That’s actually less than you’d be eating if you were following my recommendations for active women!
If you’re an active pregnant woman, doing regular exercise with resistance training, then I still recommend that you should get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. You’re not only growing a baby, you’re growing your own lean muscle mass! You should be proud of yourself for staying fit during your pregnancy, mama, and you can see amazing results in your continued fitness and in your muscle tone even when you’re expecting!
Why Protein is Pregnancy Fuel
Proteins are the building blocks of your body… and that means that they’re the building blocks of your baby’s body, too! Your body relies on protein to build and maintain every single part: muscle tissue, red blood cells, even hair, skin, and nails.
Normally, your body is using the protein you consume to fuel its repair efforts and to build new tissues, especially if you’re active. When you work out, you break down your muscles a little every time, and your body then builds your muscles up stronger and stronger using protein (this is how you build lean, toned muscle!). When you grow new hair and nails, you’re using protein to manufacture them and make them strong. Your skin uses protein daily to renew its cells, as does your digestive system and your bloodstream, which are constantly discarding old cells and replacing them with new. Your body can’t keep going strong without a steady supply of protein.
When you’re pregnant, your body is using all of these same processes to build the new tissues of your baby. So not only are you building and repairing your own body, you’re building and repairing a whole new one, too! That’s one reason why pregnant women need more protein.
In general, doctors recommend that a healthy woman should gain between 25 and 30 lbs over the course of her pregnancy. An overweight woman should gain just 15 to 25 lbs during pregnancy. Why the difference? Well, all of the weight you gain during pregnancy isn’t just baby! You also build fat stores to support childbirth and breastfeeding. If a woman is already overweight, she doesn’t need to gain these fat stores during pregnancy, because she already has them.
A healthy woman should gain between 5 and 9 lbs of fat during pregnancy. That isn’t much, is it? Less than ten pounds of fat! Most of the weight you gain during pregnancy consists of your baby, placenta and amniotic fluid, increased blood supply, and the increased mass of your uterus and breast tissues. Of course, many women gain more than 5-9 lbs of fat, and this can make losing the “baby weight” after pregnancy a lot harder. It’s definitely more difficult to drop 20 lbs of fat than 8 lbs of fat!
So how can you support healthy weight gain during your pregnancy, and avoid gaining a lot more fat than recommended? One way is by increasing your calorie intake in a healthy way. Pregnant women need more calories… but they should be wholesome calories from healthy foods, not calories from an extra helping of ice cream or a bag of Cheetos. Protein is a fantastic way to consume healthy calories during your pregnancy. Reach for a deviled egg instead of a donut, a protein smoothie instead of a milkshake, and grilled salmon instead of a double cheeseburger!
Protein plays an important role in the building and repair of every part of your body, and that includes your brain! Not only is your brain made mostly of water, fat, and protein, it also relies upon the protein you eat to maintain its function and communicate with your body. The amino acids that come from protein help your brain manufacture the chemical messengers that keep everything working properly both consciously and subconsciously.
One of the most important brain nutrients that comes from protein is DHA, or Docosahexaenoic Acid. This is a nutrient that you have to get from your food; your body cannot manufacture it on its own. You may have heard of DHA under the term “omega-3 fatty acids,” because it’s one of them! DHA is not only critical for the functioning of your brain: it’s also crucial for the healthy development of your baby’s brain. Getting enough DHA when you’re pregnant supports healthy brain growth and gives your baby a leg up after birth!
Some of the foods that contain plenty of protein and DHA are fatty fishes like salmon, whole eggs, grass-fed meats, and nuts and seeds like cashews, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Yum! Unless just the smell of meat and fish make you feel ill, that is. In that case, I can recommend my fave protein supplement, IdealLean Protein. It tastes like a sweet treat, no fishy smells to be found!
Every mom wants a quick and easy recovery after the birth of her baby. While that just isn’t in the cards for some of us–we don’t all get lucky with easy deliveries!–you can increase your chances of a fast recovery by paying attention to your nutrition and fitness during pregnancy. The more fit you stay while you’re pregnant, the faster and easier you will feel like yourself again after your baby is born. Trust me–I know from experience!
Protein is a huge part of maintaining or even increasing your fitness while you’re pregnant. Focusing on protein can help you gain a healthy amount of weight, which makes getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight later all that much easier. If you add protein to your diet and keep up with exercise–especially resistance training with your own body weight or free weights–you can gain fat-burning lean muscle in addition to the fat that will fuel you and your baby through labor and nursing.
That lean muscle–and the toned bod that comes with it!–will definitely come in handy when you’re a new mom. Not only will you feel like yourself again more quickly, you’ll feel stronger, more confident, and more energized, even with a brand-new baby on your hands!
Let’s Wrap It Up
IdealLean Protein for Women is an excellent source of lean, high-quality protein to fuel an active lifestyle. IdealLean includes nutrients women need to stay healthy, like calcium, vitamin D, and folic acid. Plus it has only 90-100 calories! And of course IdealLean Protein is less likely to trigger that annoying pregnancy nausea than a salmon, steak, or a pork chop will.
Get one of our delicious flavors like Cake Batter, French Vanilla, Chocolate Protein, Strawberries ‘N Cream, or Chocolate Coconut today!
*Always ask your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet, especially when you’re pregnant or nursing.