Fueling Your First Trimester: Tackling Myths, How Much to Eat, and What to Eat

Fit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising before, during, and after pregnancy from athlete-moms, Dr. Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.

Myth busting

There are lot of myths out there in terms of how much diet and nutrition during pregnancy. One recent controversy is the FDA’s recommendation of pregnant women eating more fish. Fish is your friend; you just need to watch how much and what kindsalmon, fish, eating fish, eating fish during pregnancy of fish you eat to avoid the intake of too much mercury. Steer clear of shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish during pregnancy, but you can eat halibut, rainbow trout, wild shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish, all of which have low mercury content.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what other lies have I been told about what and how much I can eat during pregnancy? What about the “eating for two” myth? Contrary to stereotypes about expectant women, pregnancy—particularly the first trimester—isn’t best served by a caloric free-for-all. U.S. News and World Report recently came out with a great article entitled: “The Best and Worst Foods to Eat During Pregnancy” The first point the article makes is “eating for two” can lead to overeating.

How much should I eat?

While cravings come along with the territory, overeating can put you at risk for complications during pregnancy. Physiologically, your body has no need for extra calories during those first 12 weeks. However, women active in endurance sports (or other activities) need sufficient caloric replacement for what they’re burning. Remember to talk to your doctor about your specific training and eating additional calories when you’re using energy through exercise.

In terms of how much to eat, aim for small meals every few hours during the day to avoid a drop in blood sugar, which is a risk in early pregnancy because of the major metabolic changes happening. Eating small, frequent meals also helps prevent nausea and dizziness, particularly an hour or so before a workout and right after you finish, when your blood sugar is likely low.

What should I eat?

beans, complex carbohydrates, carbs, carbohydrates, carbs during pregnancyGoing back to the U.S. News and World Report article, they say, “carbohydrates are a pregnant woman’s best friend.” Indeed! They’re essential to fueling your performance as an active woman, and they help fuel the workout happening inside of you. Your body is using more carbohydrates while you’re pregnant, which can lead to low blood sugar when exercising, so replacing carbs immediately after a workout is essential.

In terms of what kinds of carbs, you’ll want to focus on replenishing your calories in the form of complex carbs such as whole-grain pastas, quinoa, nuts, beans, and brown rice, because complex carbs offer more fiber that slows digestion. (Not to mention that high-fiber can help alleviate the oh-so-unwelcome constipation and nausea that comes along with the first trimester).

On top of complex carbs, you’ll want sufficient protein from meat and/or legumes to build muscle and promote healthy growth. Hydration is also one of the most important factors throughout a fit pregnancy, but it’s especially critical in early pregnancy. Dehydration can prompt uterine contractions, so it’s extremely important to stay hydrated when exercising—make sure your urine is clear! And ask any woman who’s been pregnant, and she’ll probably tell you that prenatal vitamins are like a gift from the gods. Your prenatal vitamins will give you the extra iron and folic acid you need because of increased blood volume and an increase in red blood cells.

Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.

Fit & Healthy Pregnancy dispels generations of old wives’ tales about exercise and pregnancy. Exercise during pregnancy isn’t just safe, it’s healthy for you and your baby. This modern, comprehensive guide shows active women how to stay strong and in shape before, during, and after pregnancy.

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