Blog – REDCON1
The Fit Pregnancy: First Trimester

IIFYM, Workouts, and Morning Sickness!

Dealing with all the symptoms from the first trimester of pregnancy can be quite the challenge when you’re used to keeping a fit and healthy lifestyle.  I really had learned, adjusted and enjoyed going to bed early, waking up early, prepping and planning my food, and constantly challenging myself in the gym.  I grew beyond the point where I felt I needed to be a competitive bodybuilder and had learned to motivate myself to get the physique I wanted.  Finding out I was pregnant put a huge monkey wrench in these plans.  I was actually three weeks deep into leaning out and carb cycling when I got the positive pregnancy test!

There are some lucky women that don’t have any pregnancy symptoms and barely even notice differences in their bodies.  I am one of the many women that have morning sickness, wake up numerous times through the night to use the bathroom and experience extreme exhaustion throughout the day, along with other fun details.  By extreme exhaustion, I mean that if I sat down for longer than ten minutes, then I’d fall asleep for at least an hour – out for the count!  Although these symptoms are par for the course, I’ve had a learning curve on how to continue with diet, exercise and my fit life.

The Diet

The term ‘morning sickness’ used to describe pregnancy nausea couldn’t be more inaccurate.  Better names would be, ‘all day long sickness’ or ‘hits you at any time sickness.’  Usually, I’d wake up a little queasy, but still be ok enough to eat little bits throughout the day.  Then at night, like someone set an alarm for 8:00pm, I’d get super sick!  Other days, I’d wake up sick and couldn’t shake that sickness all day long.  Not only that, the foods that were usually staples in my diet, completely disgusted me and made me sick to even see or smell on my plate.  I kept hearing from other women who have children that I am not eating for two and to control my consumption.  All I could think was, “you’re kidding me, right?” I was having trouble getting down a thousand calories per day and dropped five pounds by eight weeks of pregnancy.

When I found out I was pregnant, I started reversing the carb cycle I had been doing.  I began eating a consistent amount of complex carbohydrates daily and increasing my daily caloric intake.  I stopped increasing calories when I was eating between fifteen to sixteen hundred calories per day.  For my activity level and body weight, that was enough nutrition for me and the growing bean – about two hundred to three hundred calories more than my normal caloric intake.  The challenge for me was not excessive eating, but getting down enough food.  The food I usually ate that was healthy for me, was now the grossest thing I have ever seen and knew I had to get creative.    

After consulting my OB-GYN as well as a registered dietician, I decided that I was going to use If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) as my style of dieting to simply eat enough.  I still eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day and try to somewhat balance my fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates.  But, nothing else I eat resembles what it used to.  Who eats a mountain of sour kraut with turkey dogs smothered in Grey Poupon on Ezekiel bread for breakfast? This girl!  I can’t tell you how much I despise fish and have avoided eating any kind at all costs.  But somehow, it now seems like the greatest food on the planet – in moderation of course.  Kashi Go-Lean cereals have taken place of eggs and oatmeal and I eat pickles like they’re going out of style.  Of course, I’ve gained a few of those five pounds back, but I’m eating and eating enough for me and the growing baby to be healthy.

The Gym

Before I found out I was pregnant, I was running sprints, doing sets of twenty burpees for time and reverse hack squatting 5 plates each side.  Not the wisest choice of work out for a woman six weeks pregnant.  Without realizing what was happening, I had actually gravitated towards doing more steady-state cardio or stair master intervals, because I didn’t feel like I had it in me to do HIIT.  But looking back, it now makes sense why I felt so sluggish and I didn’t have the normal motivation I felt when starting to lift or beginning HIIT.

My doctor was super excited that I was active and chose to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I explained to her that I was experiencing some abdominal cramping after the gym and her answer of, “lift lighter weights in the gym and keep your heart rate around 120-130 bpm when doing cardio,” caught me a bit off guard. She told me to keep my cardio within the ranges that I am used to and do not try to lose weight or work harder than I normally would.  At the next appointment, I was informed that come the second trimester, I need to stop doing abdominal workouts as well.  This translated to no more HIIT cardio and a high rep, low weight workout, which I mock other women that I see doing in the gym.  I must admit that I was pretty devastated.  After I collected my hormonal self, I remembered that this is not permanent, pregnancy is temporary.

For now, I am keeping my current weekly split and really haven’t deviated all that much from my normal routine.  I’m isolating muscle groups and lifting four days per week as well as doing forty-five minutes of cardio five to six days per week.  Seeing as I’m still comfortable without a baby bump, I really don’t feel the need to change all that much.  I’ve added a few extra exercises per each isolated muscle group and this is probably to make myself feel better about lifting as light as I have been!  The only change that is drastically different is my forms of cardio.  Rather than high intensity intervals of any form, I have limited myself to the elliptical and incline treadmill walks.  Other forms of cardio tend to increase my heart rate too much and I struggle to maintain the appropriate range of bpm.

Of course, every woman’s experience being pregnant will be different and she will get specific instructions from her doctor in regard to diet and level of activity.  What I’ve been learning throughout the first trimester, and being a hop-skip and a jump away from the second, is that being active and healthy is possible while experiencing the very beginning of motherhood and ALL of its symptoms.  I couldn’t be more excited to start feeling more like myself and find out what new surprises this baby has in store for me!

Stay tuned for more updates as the next phase of pregnancy is about to begin.