As I approach the mid-point of child-bearing, give or take a week, I thought it was time to talk a little bit about adjustments to my food and nutritional intake over the course of these past 20 weeks. As an endurance athlete, nutrition has been something that requires attention in order to optimize training recovery and performance. As a pregnant lady, the necessary attentiveness to my dietary intake is probably even greater than before. While there are some similarities between feeding endurance athletes and pregnant women, there are many key differences. I’m going to skip over the obvious stuff, like needing to avoid certain kinds of fish, soft cheeses and other items on the do-not-eat-at-the-risk-of-overwhelming-guilt-and-horrible-risk to-your-fetus list. Those items are easily discovered as a result of any quick google of the terms pregnancy and nutrition. Instead, I will highlight the adjustments I’ve made, and continue to make, as a result of trial and error and noticing how my body responds as the pregnancy progesses.
First, it’s important to understand what happens to our digestive organs as the little one takes up more and more space. To put in lay terms, things get crammed and shoved around every which way. Combine this effect with hormones that lessen the speed at which food digests, you can imagine that a little extra effort is required to ensure that Mommy stays regular.
These factors have resulted in me added psyllium to my daily intake. Yes, psyllium, that gelatinous, gritty-grossilicious stuff they put in Metamucil. I tried Metamucil way, way long ago and decided then that, yick, that stuff is not for me. Well, luckily we found a different brand without the disgusting fake-o orange flavor, chemical coloring and refined sugar additives. This kind even says “gluten free” and “safe during pregnancy” right there on the container. How about that? Might as well say, made for Alicia and all her major issues. Turns out that plain psyllium with some fruit juice isn’t so bad and, with practice, is reasonably palatable. Plus, it really does the trick that I hoped it would do. Hurray, psyllium! I might just keep up this habit after pregnancy, as there are other benefits. What? TMI? Well, what do you expect reading a pregnant woman’s blog?
Another difference between food intake needs for a high volume endurance athlete and a low volume training pregnant woman are the relative percentage of need for carbohydrates and protein. When training a lot, you need extra protein to keep those muscles rebuilding. You also needs lots of carbohydrates. When pregnant, you need extra protein to keep those baby’s body parts building and keep ones own personal stores at good levels. Extra carbohydrates? Not so much.
After reading The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm, I’ve also added some herbal teas to my daily intake. After reading up on the options of things she recommends and how they help, I decided that Burdock root, Red Raspberry leaf and Dandelion root are good choices for me. Now, admittedly, if you’re the really anxious, super-duper pharma only, afraid of natural remedies type, you’ll be quick to point out that one can always find an internet site somewhere to warn you off just about anything. What that really means is that there’s not a host of double blind, controlled studies confirming one way or the other on some items. It’s worth considering that there are some herbs that have been used traditionally for a long, long time to good effect, and we all have to make a personal decision on what experts’ philosophies we feel most affinity for. I find Aviva credible for a variety of reasons that I’m not going to list because I don’t find it necessary to justify my position on my own blog at this point. My only wish was that I’d bought that book much earlier in my pregnancy, because it has a lot of helpful information. Regarding a good online resource listing benefits, risks, etc. of a seemingly exhaustive list of herbs and supplements, I recommend this health library site. It appears to provide an unbiased listing of traditional uses in addition to actual research results.
Other than these things, the main things I try to do is eat frequently enough but not in huge quantities, eat to satiation but no more, avoid refined sugar, ensure I get enough complete proteins, and take in plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. I also try to get in plenty of sources of good fats, including nuts and flax seed oil. These guidelines, however, are perfectly applicable to endurance athletes, so not too much has changed there. I think that’s about it. Time to hop on the trainer.