Tips For The Pregnant Runner
One of the most joyous times in a woman’s life can also be one of the most stressful (or so I’ve heard). When you’re pregnant, your body goes through so many hormonal and physical changes that keeping your running routine on track may be the last thing on your mind. But many runners don’t want to give up their favorite hobby for nine months, so what do they need to know about the physiological and nutritional changes that occur during pregnancy? We’ve got the lowdown on running and nutrition during pregnancy.
Is it safe to run during pregnancy?
Dr. Sonali Ruder, author of Natural Pregnancy Cookbook says, “Yes, if you are healthy with an uncomplicated pregnancy, then running can be great for your physical and mental well-being.”
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, pregnant women should aim to get about 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week during pregnancy. Healthy women who engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running, prior to pregnancy can continue to do so during and after pregnancy, so long as no complication arise. Dr. Ruder suggests chatting with your doctor before starting an exercise routine and keeping a few things in mind. “Don’t run to the point of exhaustion, and stay cool and hydrated,” she advises. She recommends running indoors with air conditioning to avoid overheating. As you enter your third trimester, your center of gravity may shift with your growing belly. Dr. Ruder warns that pregnant women “be cautious of falling,” especially while performing activities with vigorous movement, like running.
What about nutrition?
As any woman who has gone through pregnancy knows, eating is not always pleasant. “Pregnancy may cause changes in appetite, mood, energy levels and food tolerances,” says Heather Caplan, RD. As a pregnant runner and dietitian, Caplan is aware that you may crave different foods than your usual diet (more carbs, anyone?). “Your day-to-day meals may not be the perfect picture of health, but eating enough and often is important,” says Caplan.
As far as nutrients go, it’s important to up the ante on certain things, including:
Iron: “During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by a whopping 50 percent, so you will need much larger amounts of iron to make more hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your organs and tissues as well as to your baby,” says Dr. Ruder. “The extra iron is also needed to fuel the growth of your baby and your placenta.”
Folic Acid: Maybe one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy, adequate intake of folic acid prevents against neural tube defects. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, but eating enough leafy greens helps the mommy-to-be to get enough of this vital vitamin.
Water: “I carry water or a hydration mix on all of my runs, even short ones,” says Caplan. Pregnant women actually feel an increase in thirst, so they typically drink more than their non-pregnant counterparts.
Calcium: “Your baby has especially high calcium needs in the third trimester when their bones are growing rapidly and the teeth are forming,” says Dr. Ruder. She cautions that if the diet is lacking in calcium, the body will take it from the bones to supply your baby’s needs. This can decrease your bone mass and put you at risk for osteoporosis. “Low calcium intake also increases your risk of developing preeclampsia, a serious medical condition.”
Choline: This little-known nutrient supports healthy brain growth and offers protection against neural tube defects. The American Medical Association recommends that choline be included in all prenatal vitamins to help ensure women get enough choline to maintain a normal pregnancy.
Do pregnant runners need more calories?
“General recommendations are to increase daily caloric intake starting in the second trimester and continuing through the third,” Caplan explains. “In general, you need about 300 additional calories per day during pregnancy, but this number changes depending on your activity level.” She also advises that these extra calories should come from nutritious foods to “provide you and your baby with important vitamins and minerals, keep you feeling full and give you long-lasting energy.” Caplan uses intuitive eating principles to stay in tune with her hunger levels and eat the proper amount to satisfy her hunger.