Exercise and Nutrition Advice for Mommies-To-Be

It’s a beautiful, sunny morning, and the little bun is still cooking away in the oven. I can hardly believe that there are less than 20 days until my due date! Wow, how this pregnancy has flown, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to meet our little love in just a couple weeks!

Going into the pregnancy, I had no clue about anything. I didn’t know the best lifestyle habits for myself or how to provide the best environment and nutrition for our developing baby. Honestly, this pregnancy was a total surprise, but going through the journey has been incredibly eye opening, deepening and all-out rewarding!

For all you soon-to-be new mamas or even those thinking about babies in the near future, I want to use these next two posts to share all the most important aspects to having a healthy and happy pregnancy. This week I will share some awesome pregnancy advice on exercise and nutrition from one of my closest friends who is an outstanding wellness coach! Seriously, the woman is a genius!

Then next week I will share a few of my personal favorite pregnancy tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way as well as a couple must-have products that have really made a difference in my pregnancy!


Elsa Marie is a wellness coach in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Her mission and passion is to better educate and serve the people that she works with.  She coaches her clients in wellness, environment, fitness, and nutrition.  She earned a B.S. in Exercise Science and Allied Health from the University of Tampa and is a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach. 






Exercise and Nutrition Advice for Mommies-To-Be!

When it comes to mommies-to-be and pre-natal health there can be a lot of confusion.  No matter who you ask you most likely will get a slightly different answer.  Each person is greatly unique.  What might work in a fitness program and nutritionally for you may not work for someone else.  Why should your positive exercise habits immediately change once you become pregnant?  Why should your nutrition drastically change, for better or for worse, once you become pregnant as well?  As a mommy-to-be your goal should be to create an optimal environment for your baby to grow in while maintaining your own health.  

Establishing an exercise regimen before becoming pregnant would be ideal.  Allowing your body to become healthy and function optimally prior to becoming pregnant allows yourself to adapt easier to pregnancy.  Better lifestyle habits, nutrition, gut health, and hormone levels prior to pregnancy will affect your baby’s development. (Kruse, 2012) Participating in some form of exercise on a regular basis can assist in balancing hormone levels and increased energy.  It is no secret that exercise creates endorphins (the stuff that makes you feel good) and manages cortisol (your stress hormone) levels…that does not change when you become pregnant.  If you were active before becoming pregnant, there is no reason to reduce or to stop exercising unless the movement(s) generate pain. 

Common pregnancy exercise myths include:

1.           If you weren’t exercising prior to becoming pregnant, you should not start exercising.

2.          If you were extremely active before becoming pregnant, you should slow down or reduce your volume and intensity.

3.          If you are pregnant your heartrate should not exceed 140 BPM, beats per minute.

4.          If you are pregnant you should not work your core.

5.          If you are pregnant, you should only do low impact exercises…stay away from resistance training, running, and so forth…

1. Even if you were not participating in any activity before you were pregnant, there has never been a better time to start.  Always listen to your body!  If a movement or exercise creates a lot of pain or discomfort don’t do it.  Increasing your aerobic capacity and strength will only help you stay fit and have an easier delivery when the baby makes his or her grand entrance!  Exercising not only benefits you during pregnancy and delivery, but it will also help you bounce back faster afterward. 

2. Creating healthy exercise habits can take a long time for some people!  There is no reason to pump the breaks.  A lot of women encounter morning sickness, decreased energy, headaches, nausea, etc…during the first trimester.  Even if you weren’t pregnant and encountering those symptoms it would affect your daily routine, which may include exercising.  You should always listen to your body. If you need to slow down a little in order to offset your symptoms, then so be it.  If you are fortunate enough to not have any of the negative symptoms associated with pregnancy, then keep on moving!  Pregnant women that participate in exercise will experience an immediate decrease in stress reduction effects. (Kusaka, et. Al., 2016) A body in motion will stay in motion. 

3.  The “140 BPM” was/is a very common guideline for pregnant women.  The more popular recommendation today is called the “Borg Scale” or the talk test. (McLaughlin, 2016) You shouldn’t be so out of breath that you can’t speak.  Pregnant or not, exerting yourself physically will increase your heartrate.  The more fit you are the higher the intensity it will take to raise your heartrate from its resting rate.  You may notice when you become pregnant it increases a lot quicker than it used to.  No worries, that is all part of being pregnant and nothing to alarm yourself with.  

4. Your “core” is not just your abdominals but also includes the muscles in your back and pelvic floor.  There are many exercises that are not your typical “crunch” that you can do while pregnant.  For example: various plank positions, rotation exercises with or without resistance, pushing or pulling in a kneeling position, farmers walks, diaphragmatic breathing, etc…  Strengthening your hips and pelvic floor will also help during the delivery process.  In all exercises that you do, your core should be engaged.  If you are keeping a “ribs down” position and not overarching your lower back it will be very easy to active your “core” muscles.  Continuing to perform core exercises also decreases the size and/or severity of diastasis recti.  Diastasis recti happens when your abdominal muscles stretch farther apart due to your growing baby pushing into your abdominal wall. (Fernandes da Mota, 2015) Diastasis recti can also occur from the connective tissue becoming softer from an increase in the hormone relaxin while pregnant.

5. Resistance training is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.  Studies show that women who maintain or participate in strength training and aerobic activity while pregnant have shorter labors and fewer complications. (Perales, et. Al., 2016) Strength training not only increases raw strength but also increase your stability and stamina.  Three things that you will need a lot of during labor!  Your fitness should progress along with your goals.  Focusing on five basic movements: push, pull, squat, hinge, and a loaded carry, is a great start to your pregnancy fitness program. The squat will be especially important if you plan on delivering in a natural squat position. What you may have been able to do before pregnancy, first trimester, and so on… may not work in your last trimester.  Always go back to the golden rules of listening to your body and do not move in pain.

Creating healthy nutrition habits will also yield many benefits throughout pregnancy and after birth.  It is tremendously important to ensure that the baby is getting the proper nutrients while in utero.  That means that the you must be consuming the proper macro and micronutrients and staying well hydrated. 

Common pregnancy nutrition myths include:

1.           If you become pregnant, you are now eating for two! It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you’re eating enough.

2.          If you become pregnant you need to stay away from seafood, because of mercury and pollutants.

3.          If you become pregnant, you can continue to eat the same way that you have been eating.

4.          If you become pregnant, a low-fat diet will help you keep off excess baby weight. 

5.          If you become pregnant, a low salt diet will help you not to swell up.

1.  Well, that is slightly true.  You are eating for two, but that doesn’t give you free reign to just eat whatever you want.  In fact, what you are putting into your body as an energy/fuel source and nutritionally now is more important than ever! It is clear in modern medicine now that you can’t have optimal human brain development unless you have a secure nutrient rich food supply for both mother and child.  (Kruse, 2013) This relationship is especially important after birth, for several years, until the brain is developed.  As far as the amount of food you should be consuming, it entirely depends on each individual.  Food intake is dependent on many things such as body composition, amount and intensity of your exercise program, your environment, etc… Once again, every person is unique in figuring out what amount of food she needs to fuel her body. 

2. False.  The benefits from eating wild and fresh seafood far outweigh any minimal negative effect you can come up with.  Seafood contains essential nutrients, DHA, protein, vitamins, and minerals. DHA is an essential nutrient for developing and growing your child’s brain.  DHA is almost exclusively found in seafood!  If you are hesitant to eat seafood due to the mercury content, avoid eating shark, swordfish, and mackerel which tend to be higher in mercury.  As a matter of fact, the FDA now recommends, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or plan on becoming pregnant, to eat more seafood.

3.  In order for you baby to develop properly you need to eat a vast array of different vegetables, protein sources, and healthy fats.  There may nutrients you don’t normally eat in your own diet that you should incorporate once pregnant.  As mentioned above: DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, is essential for the development and growth of the human brain.  (Horrocks, 1999) Pregnancy nutrition is not exactly common sense.  It absolutely matters what and how much you eat, reach out to an expert or nutrition coach to help guide your through nutritional pregnancy if you are uncertain what you should be doing!

4. False. (insert me laughing right here!)  When it comes to a fuel/energy source you have two options to choose from.  Well, technically three, but we won’t discuss light energy from the sun here.  You will either use sugar/carbohydrates or healthy fats as a fuel source.  To decrease or stop eating an entire fuel source is pretty silly.  Not to mention, it will not help you gain less baby weight…it most likely will do the exact opposite.  Consuming large amounts of carbohydrates creates an extra “stress” on your body, pregnant or not.  Eating healthy fats will give you energy without causing hormonal changes and blood sugar imbalances. 

5.  False.  A low salt diet will not help you decrease swelling.  Truthfully, it would be harmful to participate in a low salt diet.  Salt is an essential nutrient for biological processes.  In 1958 Dr. Margaret Robinson conducted a study of 2,019 pregnant women, chosen at random.  Half were instructed to reduce their salt intake; half to increase it.  The results were: The low-salt group had nearly three times more damaged placentas, two and a half times more toxemia and twice the number of infant deaths; whereas, the high-salt group fared better in other ways.  They had fewer delivery complications and even a reduced incidence of leg cramps during pregnancy than mothers in the low-salt group!  (Robinson, 1958) Swelling is natural while being pregnant.  If you find that you’re swelling more than what you consider normal, make sure you take adequate time to rest, recover, and hydrate during your daily activities. 

Every woman will experience pregnancy differently.  Educating yourself on the proper nutrition and exercise habits while being pregnant can make a huge difference.  Exercising and eating the right nutrients for you and your baby can make the difference to an enjoyable pregnancy and healthy baby to one that is not so.  Reading, educating yourself, and consulting with a professional or nutrition coach is a great idea to help guide you through your pregnancy and post-natal care of yourself and baby.




Fernandes da Mota, P. (2015, February 20). Result Filters. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25282439

Horrocks, L., & Yeo, Y. (1999, September). Result Filters. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479465

Kruse, J. (2012, August 5). BRAIN GUT 7: INTRO TO YOUR GUT MICROBIOME - Living an Optimized Life. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from https://www.jackkruse.com/brain-gut-7-intro-to-your-gut-microbiome/

Kusaka, M., Matsuzaki, M., Shiraishi, M., & Harlan, M. (2016, April 16). Result Filters. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27094980

McLaughlin, R. S. (2016, April 29). Result Filters. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=talk test exercise prescription while pregnant

Perales, M., Santos-Lozano, A., Ruiz, J., Lucia, A., & Barakat, R. (2016, March). Result Filters. Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26850782

Robinson, M. (n.d.). SALT IN PREGNANCY - The Lancet. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(58)90665-2/abstract

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015, February 2). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm393070.htm