November 30, 2013
[04:13] Why Exercising While Pregnant Is Good
[08:44] Effects of Exercise on the Baby
[11:48] Standard Recommendations for What Women Should Do During Pregnancy
[17:57] Impact-Based Exercise During Pregnancy
[21:19] Exercises for the Core and Abs for Pregnant Women
[22:46] Best Exercises to Get the Flat Stomach Back
[27:31] Dealing with Morning Sickness
[34:08] Effective Regimens for Getting Your Body Back
[38:00] Biggest Dietary Mistake Made by Pregnant Women
[45:26] Their Favorite Exercises for Pregnant Women
[51:51] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield. And you may remember, if you've listened to the podcast for a little while, how a few weeks ago, we had a kind of controversial discussion on the show about whether you could exercise hard if you're pregnant, and whether or not that'd be good for you or good for your growing baby. We've also had controversial guests on, like Cassandra Forsythe, who came on to the show last year and talked about how she was powerlifting and doing Crossfit while she was pregnant. And we've had doctors on who have actually recommended, in many cases, the complete opposite. So, today we're going to keep on digging into this whole issue about not only how to exercise when you're pregnant, but how to look good after you've had your baby and get your body back, so to speak.
So, before I introduce today's guests, let me mention that this audio may sound a little bit different, and that's because I am recording from the mighty Starbucks about a half-hour before we started this interview. The internet decided to go bye-bye at my house, so I had an “Oh, crap” moment, I hopped in my car, I drove over here to Starbucks, and we're going to get this interview done for you. But that's why you might hear things like music in the background, or people talking, or cars driving by. We're not in my little sound-protected office anymore. So, that being said, now that you know what's going on with that, let me introduce today's guests for you. So, today I've got two people on the call. That's right, it's going to be a three-way conversation. I have Amy Ramage, or Ramage. I'm not entirely sure. Amy, how do you pronounce your last name?
Ben: Ramage. And Amy is the mother of two little girls, and she's been training people for a long time to be fit and healthy on the outside and on the inside, and she's a busy mom herself. And she also specializes in prenatal exercise. And along with Amy, I've also gotten Deveren on the call. And Deveren is a personal trainer in New York City. He's been voted twice as one of the best personal trainers in New York City by City Search Magazine. He's been in Entrepreneur magazine. He's a former attorney who is now a specialized personal trainer who has worked with Amy to create this brand-new website called prenatal365.com. I'll put a link to that in the show notes, I'll put photos of Amy and Deveren in the show notes, and everything for you at bengreenfieldfitness.com. But Amy and Deveren, thank you so much for coming on the call today.
Deveren: Thank you.
Ben: So, can you guys hear the music piping out through the Starbucks radio?
Amy: Not too bad, no.
Deveren: It's good.
Ben: It's like a little background music, right?
Deveren: Mood music.
Ben: So, you guys, I don't think it's any secret to people listening in, whether husbands, or wives, or men, or women, that exercise is something that is probably good for you during pregnancy. But before we even get into how much exercise to do, what kind of exercise to do, how hard to exercise, what you should and shouldn't be doing, why is it that exercise is good for you if you're pregnant?
Amy: Well, there is a billion reasons why it's good for you. It would actually be a really fast show if I said the cons because there really are none. The benefits of exercise during pregnancy is, the number one motivator for every woman out there is just gaining less weight during pregnancy is typically the reason why women come to me. And then honestly having easier labor and delivery, I mean, there's a huge list of benefits for women to work out during pregnancy. And everybody I've talked to, all the doctors that I've spoken with, the ones that I've actually spoken with said they encourage, I mean, they were sending people to me. They're encouraging women to work out during pregnancy because they're seeing women that are, whether they're fit or not, the opposite of that is the ones that aren't staying active and working out during the pregnancy are actually having harder labor and delivery than the ones that are, which is making their job way easier if they go in healthy and fit. So, there's a huge list.
Ben: So, in terms of healthier delivery, or easier delivery, or basically a more comfortable delivery, is it just because you have stronger pelvic floor muscles or stronger abdominal muscles? Or is there an actual physiological thing that happens when you're exercising during pregnancy that would make labor actually easier?
Amy: Yeah. Absolutely. So, I actually didn't get to experience labor with either of my babies. They were four C-sections. So, I stayed active and fit, and sometimes we don't end up with that choice in the end. I tried to stay fit as a fiddle the whole time and arrived there with my midwife and had the opportunity to have a natural labor, and then didn't actually get that choice. So, a lot of women need a strong core because they do have C-section, and that's happening more and more frequently now. But the benefit is all the way down to cardiovascular system. If you have a strong cardiovascular system, pushing and breathing, all of those techniques that you learn in a lot of prenatal classes are all wrapped around being healthy and fit, and having that strong cardiovascular system helps you just even with the breathing part. Then obviously with the strong core, that's going to help you push. And then pelvic floor muscles are majorly necessary to get the baby out, but then also to recover.
Ben: Now, when it comes to delivery, you talked about how you were going to do a natural delivery, and you ended up needing to do a C-section, something similar happened to my wife and I. We were doing a water birth and we were doing a lot of kind of like natural, kind of more ancestral squatting positions for delivery. Her hips ended up being so narrow, she's a very petite girl, she was having twins. We actually ended up after about eight hours of work at home with the midwife trying to deliver, having to drive to the hospital for a C-section. But do you think that even in the case of someone wanting to do a natural birth, wanting to do a squatting position type of birth, that exercise is still going to help in that kind of situation?
Amy: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. If you were going to even attempt that kind of birth and you had a doula or a midwife around with you, I actually don't even know one that wouldn't tell you to be doing your squats and your core exercises during pregnancy. I mean a typical person, you and I, who are trainers, who have been doing this for years, if we hold a squat well while having contractions, that's going to be insane for anybody, just to hold the squat. Period. And then to have somebody that wasn't physically fit try to do that also, I mean I can't imagine that they'd be able to even stand in a squat for 30 seconds, let alone have a complete birth.
Ben: Interesting. So what about for, we talked about for the mom, but what about of the baby? I've seen some talk about, for example, blood sugar regulation, as well as better oxygen and glucose delivery to the pancreas, things of that nature. What happens with the baby when you do exercise versus when you don't exercise?
Amy: Well, what's really awesome is, all the research shows it actually, fitness and staying active during pregnancy can lower your gestational diabetes, developing it by 27%. So, that's pretty encouraging alone to not have to even deal with that. ‘Cause I know a lot of women that come in, we all have to have the blood sugar test around week 25 to see if that's affecting us, and affecting the baby in turn. So, just staying active is a huge motivator to not developing that. But then for the baby's sake, if you do run into that, it just is daily monitoring that, and as well that can also cause a lot of early delivery. And then going into that, staying fit, the number one reason of premature birth is actually preeclampsia, which is when you develop high blood pressure. And so avoiding any premature birth that we can is, we're going to stay as active as possible to avoid that just for the baby's sake.
Ben: So, let's delve into standard recommendations for exercise for pregnancy. So, Deveren, do you work with a lot of women who are prenatal?
Deveren: Are you asking me, Ben?
Amy: Oh, it's for Deveren.
Deveren: I think you meant Amy, but go ahead.
Ben: Yeah. Deveren, do you work with a lot of pregnant women?
Deveren: I tend to work with women who have had children. That's where my kind of interest in this came from is the fact that I had a lot of women who didn't work out during the pregnancy. And so, they would tell me, “I gained 50, 60 pounds,” and these are petite women. And I was like, “Wow,” obviously, I'm not a woman. I never will be pregnant. But it seemed a lot to gain for a woman to gain 60 pounds. And they, of course, would always have questions on whether or not, “How can I bounce back,” “How can I get my flat tummy back,” all these questions. And these are questions that in fact I had, and that's one of the reasons why I reached out to Amy. And I believe Amy actually now does have a significant amount of a prenatal clients at the moment.
Ben: Now, Amy, what are the current standard recommendations for exercise for pregnancy that most women are thinking of when they walk in the door to train with you, or that you've kind of run into in the past as far as like just the [0:11:25] ______ standard recommendations for what women should be doing during pregnancy? And then kind of a follow up question, two-part question here, do you think that stuff is outdated, or irrelevant, or unnecessary? Or what's your take on the way that women are told to exercise right now by their physicians, or magazines, or books, or what not?
Amy: Sure. I actually have women that come in, and it always, always goes back to where you're starting at, and I love breaking the myth that women a lot of times think that if they didn't work out before they got pregnant that they cannot start up, and actually, that is so false. I love breaking that and having women that have no fitness background come in, and we do start off slower, but we're really always listening to how their body feels. I'm always watching out for signs, if they're dizzy, if they feel light-headed, if they're spotting. And all those things are things that I'm watching my clients, and even online coaching, telling people to watch out for no matter what trimester they're in. But it's recommended that you get 30 minutes of exercise a day while you're pregnant. And if you start off, like if I have a client it's a half marathon runner and she has been doing that, she feels fantastic, and she's got the okay from her doctor, I'm going to be completely okay with that. And typically, that means that she's jogging 45 minutes to an hour every day or doing 45 minutes of weights. And I am completely okay with those standards because she's been doing it that long.
And so, it's really, really just so individual on that. And I know most doctors are pushing for 30 minutes a day, and I think that that's completely realistic. But unfortunately, I feel like even with their doctor's recommendation of women hearing that they need to do 30 minutes, knowing how much it helps their labor, knowing that it'll help get their baby body, post-baby body back quicker, I think that a lot of women are afraid of that. More so afraid of anything risking, losing a baby over something as exercise, and or not doing it right. So the awareness and giving people a tool to use so that they can see someone else doing it and know that it's safe enough for them to do…
Ben: Should women be taking their heart rates, do you think? If they're exercising while they're pregnant?
Amy: Oh, absolutely. Yup. If you're very active, for the women that are currently extremely active, if you are a Crossfitter, or half marathon runner, or have done bodybuilding in the past, whatever, I actually recommend that my clients go get a Garmin, or whatever watch they want, but wear a chest monitor so that we can watch their heart rate while they work out and not get it about 140 beats per minute, so that they're really regulating that, watching it, and being safe more than anything.
Ben: Why is it 140 beats per minute?
Amy: It's actually, so that you just, not scientifically-based, but what my studies and watching, obviously, it's just so that you don't get light headed and dizzy. Your oxygen, we need to keep the baby obviously healthy, number one. And so, our bodies are always trying to feed the baby, give the baby oxygen, number one over anything. And so, if we are trying to take too much from that, that's where I've seen the dizziness and all of that come in.
Ben: What about the recommendation, oh, go ahead.
Deveren: Yeah. I just wanted to break into, that number is is a good number, and when Amy says it's not scientifically-based, it is in a way. But at the same time, for a long time that was a definite number. Everyone was supposed to stay under 140. But I feel like, now, what we did and what we even talked about in the series is that 140 number is kind of like a base number. And what Amy was talking about before is like if you are a Crossfitter, or a marathoner, or a person who's been in the gym for their whole lives, an athlete, that number can be a little bit higher because you obviously have more fitness. You, of course, understand the whole, because you've done triathlons and things. When you build a base, you're basically teaching your body to be able to burn fat more efficiently and to kind of have a lower heart rate. So, that means you can kind of take a little bit more work. So, if you're a person who, like Amy says, is a beginner, then, yeah, that 140 is a good baseline to kind of watch yourself.
But again, like she said, depending upon the clientele she has, you can maybe go a little higher and still have no effect on the baby whatsoever. And just one quick thing too, I just want to, the standards that she was talking about, the 30 minutes a day for exercise for pregnant women was actually the same thing that the Center for Disease Control and the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians recommend for all people. So, in their studies, this is the big-time studies, the fact that women who are pregnant can work out just the same amount of time, and duration, and frequency as a person who is not pregnant, that's their findings. So, it's not even just someone who is coming to you and telling you this by word of mouth or by experience which is probably the best way to tell is when we want to hear from experience, from people like Amy, like, “Look, you can work out.” But even with that, it's also verified by studies from the CDC and the ACOG. So, there you go.
Ben: Gotcha. Okay. What about running and impact-based movements during pregnancy? There's like a recent article on a woman who did Crossfit all the way up, I think, well into her third trimester. You see some women jogging, and jumping, and doing group aerobic classes and stuff like that. Do you think that this stuff is good at increasing bone density and helping women to burn fat? Do you think that the fears are unfounded when it comes to impact-based exercise? Or what's your take on that type of thing during the prenatal period?
Amy: Yeah. I love this question. There's a couple of local OBs that actually are runners, and I have found a lot of comfort in them, and even sending women that I run with to them just to reassure them that a lot of it, and I mean most of it is fear-based for women. And so, that comes down to how do you feel. And so, for me personally, I was always a runner and I love being active. My stepdad is actually a triathlete like yourself, and so, I grew up watching him do all that stuff and I copied him. I was active my whole life. And up until I was pregnant, and I'd say around the second trimester, all of a sudden, it just felt weird. So to me, I know that you can be a Crossfitter your whole pregnancy, and you could run, you could swim, you can do all these things listening to your body. But when you feel personally, like it just doesn't feel quite right, that's when I always say, “Take it back a little bit. Give yourself [0:19:04] ______. There is another person growing inside of you.” So, it's really just listening to your body and not pushing yourself so far or making yourself feel guilty that you're not able to keep up your current regimen of what you've always done just so that you stay safe and comfortable.
Ben: What about stuff like Crossfit?
Amy: Yeah. Crossfit, it's totally fine. I actually train some people that style, and I don't call myself a Crossfitter or I don't, my gym is not a Crossfit station, but I've had quite a few actually, injuries come in lately from Crossfit. So, I think that is kind of more of a risky sport because it's just throwing around weight. Your first trimester, I'd say you can get away with that. And if you're super strong and you have an amazing core balance, then you could probably go into second and third. But I would be just really weary. I would never suggest a woman start Crossfit going into her pregnancy just because of the throwing of the weights and just the balance. Your body is changing immensely, and so unless you have incredible core strength and your glutes are strong, and having a baby grow in your midsection, that's going to throw off all of your balance. And so, it's just being aware of that every day.
Ben: Now how about when it comes to abdominal exercises, and keeping the core strong, and maybe eliminating the possibility of you tearing an abdominal wall during delivery? What do you think are the best core exercises, and I definitely am going to want to pick Deveren's brain. I know Amy's getting most of the talking done, but I'm going to be asking Deveren about the postnatal stages here in a little bit. But as far as during the actual pregnancy, Amy, do you have specific ab exercises and core exercises that you've found really help women? Because we all hear that you're not supposed to be lying on your back, doing crunches and sit ups, especially towards the third trimester. But do you have like staple exercises that you recommend for the core and for the abs?
Amy: Yeah. I actually definitely have, for during the first trimester, pretty much the movement that I can train, they go into the same amount of crunches, and Russian twists, and all of the core stuff that we do typically, they stick with. And again, until they feel like it's uncomfortable or they're not comfortable with it, or 'til second trimester, and that's typically when we go into more plank. We just do longer plank holds, a lot of bird-dog type yoga, pilates moves so that you're really able to [0:21:58] ______ your core, and I love telling women to hug their baby 'cause that really gives them a mental picture of holding their abs in super tight, contracting, and they're visualizing their abs kind of hugging around. Keeping your abs so strong and tight is huge for preventing tearing. And that's all stuff that you can help work on postnatal, but Deveren, go ahead.
Ben: Right. Yeah. Deveren, after you've had the baby, what do you think are the best exercises to kind of get that flat stomach back? I guess, while taking into consideration that your abdominal, your midsection, your pelvic floor might be a little torn up or might need a little TLC.
Deveren: Yeah. What's interesting is people always talk about like during pregnancy, they talk about kegel exercises, and we all know that's kind of like the kind of tongue-in-cheek, “Oh, practice your kegels while you're pregnant to help you with your pelvic floor and make it strong.” I think what a lot of women don't realize is the amount of care they need to take before they are not pregnant again. So, the whole thing of, like you said, “Can I get my stomach back? Can I get the flat stomach back after I was pregnant?” And what I always say is it's very important during your pregnancy, so you don't gain the extra weight, because that of course leads to more work after your pregnancy. And then working on your pelvic floor strength while you're pregnant because that's what also will help you when you get finished being pregnant obviously, when you've given birth. If you don't work on those things, the road is a lot longer. Because if you do have something like diastasis recti, which is the tearing of the rectus abdominal wall, if you have that after you get pregnant, after you've given birth, a lot of times, if it's not very big, then the doctors don't have to sew it back together.
But even in those cases, you still have limitations on what you can do six months, 12 months after your pregnancy because you can't do any flexion exercises, you can't do any crunches, you can't do any traditional abdominal work until that is healed. If it's not healed, you risk a lot more injury. So, my answer to your question is, first, while you're pregnant really be careful of how much weight you gain and definitely do the exercises like your kegels, but not only kegels. The kegel exercise pulls your pubis bone in, so it kind of gives your, when you do a kegel, you're basically doing a posterior tilt with your hips. And what people don't realize is that's fine, it's a good exercise to do. But if you don't balance that out, you're not really getting the full benefit of the exercise, of the kegel. And the way you balance that out is doing something that will then help you with the more lordotic tilt, or more anterior, sorry, anterior tilt to your hips. So, things like squatting should also be included with your kegel exercises as an all-encompassing plan to keep your pelvic floor strong.
Ben: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up because I think that kegels, and I'm actually going to be bringing on another podcast guess at some point in the near future, Katy Bowman from Alignment Matters who wrote a really good book about this. But kegels are a horse that are kind of kicked to death, and we almost neglect taking into consideration things like strengthening of the posterior chain and the glutes, or really, really tight psoas and hip flexor muscles from not only carrying a baby around, but maybe sitting for long periods of time. If you're just doing kegels, you're leaving a lot on the table when it comes to being able to get, not only being able to prevent diastasis recti, but being able to get your flat stomach back. Right?
Deveren: Exactly. I meet a lot of women. The first thing is I try to have them activate the glutes. Let me see, can you squat? Can you do a bird-dog? Can you lie on your stomach and raise your legs off the ground? Do you have any glute activation? And I think one of the things too is getting the butt out there while you're doing a squat is something that a lot of women, it's hard to get women to do that and me to do that. I think it's kind of like a socio, something in our society where getting the butt out there and doing a proper squat that really benefits you posterior your chain like you're talking about to then help you with your pelvic floor and getting your stomach flat. Those are things that women definitely need to keep in mind when they're doing that.
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely. By the way, I should throw this in there. One of the best ways that I've found to kind of teach people how to get the butt out, and I don't know if you guys have done this before, is you simply do a wall-facing squat where you have someone literally put their toes up against a wall that's right in front of them, and squat down. And it's impossible to do a squat without getting your booty back when you do something like that. It's a little trick to teach people how to get their butt back. So, I know that you guys talk about a lot of stuff over at prenatal365.com, but one of the things that I notice that you write about, Amy, is morning sickness. Now do you have exercises, or quick fixes, or workouts for women who tend to experience morning sickness during their pregnancy?
Amy: Yeah. Morning sickness is a touchy subject anyways, because typically, if you wake up and you have morning sickness, you feel like your whole day is kind of shot. I mean, that's just part of the game and it makes it harder for you to feel energized. It isn't something exciting to wake up and look forward to, which makes it even less motivating, I guess, to get active after you feel like that. So, I always just have everybody wake up and obviously want to start their day with a huge glass of water just to get everything flowing. And then, obviously, I recommend, more so for morning sickness, is more, for me, I talk to them about their nutrition and how to balance food around how they feel, so that they're active, but I would have them do either a prenatal yoga session or something really light that allows them, that I guess aren't having to get up and down, and up and down, or throw around weights, but something that just kind of gets their blood flow moving.
Ben: So, you get up, you drink water, and then you do yoga in the morning?
Amy: That's what I recommend, but also it depends on how sick they are. Like if they really feel like they're going to lose it at any second, that kind of determines how I tell them to structure their activity. But for the most part, I have been pretty blessed in my training that the women that come in here, if they're having, if they're really nauseous or anything, typically we are just doing a basic workout of keeping on the same [0:29:26] ______ and they just take longer breaks, they drink a lot of water, they stand in front of a fan. So, they're just trying to pretty much avoid the dizziness. Most of them have the drive and the want to stay fairly fit that I get to see, so they kind of push through it. So, that's a tough subject for me because I experienced it in my first trimesters and most women, if that's when they're going to get it, is right then in the beginning also. And so that's kind of a new thing where all everybody's at the very beginning of their pregnancy, and so they want to push hard in their workouts, but they are also listening to their body.
Ben: Yeah. What about like supplementation or food strategies? Did you find that certain things worked in terms of morning sickness when it came to things that went above and beyond yoga? Like did you use acupressure or anything like that?
Amy: I haven't studied the acupressure. But even women that are pregnant, if they have a huge issue with it, I have an amazing acupuncturist locally that he can really help a lot with that. And so, that's something that, if that's a big struggle for women, they can look into you know that kind of medicine also. But most of the nausea is a lot of times dehydration also. So, getting in a ton of water, and I always recommend that even for regular clients, .6 times your body weight is recommended for water intake. And so when you're pregnant and you're needing more fluid, you have way more fluid going through your body the entire pregnancy, so, I recommend that everybody gets a gallon. And I don't know if that's based off of science or not, but I just know that when I have my prenatal clients chugging water, they just feel way better and less nauseous. And then if they're still nauseous after eating fruit and having, like if they need a natural grain-based cracker, something that's typically they want comfort food a little bit. So, making just really healthy choices.
And then going into nutrition and supplements for them, it's kind of tricky. A lot of women want to say, “Oh. Well, this is my time to be pregnant, so I'm just going to give myself this.” So, to motivate them, I really say, “What do you want to feed your baby?” ‘Cause it's no longer about, it's no longer about them. It's actually about what we're giving your baby. That, a lot of times, motivates them to eliminate processed junk, garbage, all the things that our bodies can't use. And so, I will make them a lot of just different healthier recipes that are really pure and natural sources of carbohydrates and that kind of stuff so that they feel good and have some energy but are not just giving themselves garbage 'cause they don't feel good.
Ben: Yeah. For my wife, she had three things that worked well for her. She did the acupressure. Like there's the Chinese Meridian point. They'll use it in acupuncture too, but it's the point right on the inside of your wrist, it's called P6, and pressure against that really helped her to relieve nausea. And then ginger root, like she would buy ginger root at the store and cut it into slices, and boil it, and then just chew on that. And then also essential peppermint oil, like she would just put a few drops of that in a glass of water and that really helped her as well. I know those are few of the tricks that she used from kind of like a supplement and alternative medicine kind of standpoint.
Amy: Yeah. And they do sell bracelets that help with the trigger points also on the wrists. So, if people didn't know that…
Ben: Yeah. I've seen those before, like acupressure-style bracelets. Now in terms of, and this is a question for Deveren, as far as getting your body back after you've had a baby, we talked a little bit about out ab exercises, kegels, and pelvic floor, and squatting during pregnancy, but do you have specific workouts, specific regimens that you've found to be particularly effective and doable for women when they're trying to get their body back after they've had their baby?
Deveren: Yes. One of the things I really focus on is, first, did the woman have diastasis recti? If they did, was it sown back? Was it to a severity level where it had to be sown back or was it at the severity level where [0:34:25] _____ it can be rehabed or it can be corrected? And then from there is when I develop the program. A lot of times, if a woman has had diastasis recti or still has it, or maybe she doesn't even know that she has it, I kind of run her through a little test that anybody can do at home, laying on the floor and kind of working their fingers in between their rectus abdominis and seeing how many fingers they are, whether one finger, two fingers, five fingers, the whole gamut. And then from there, it's like, “Okay. You can't do any normal hardcore core exercises.” I had a woman who had actually had a baby, her last baby that she had was two years ago but she still had significant diastasis recti. So, she couldn't do really any traditional abdominal work for the first year I trained her. So, we did planks, and then I had her do kegels just for her pelvic floor. There are some interesting exercises where you can take, even while you're pregnant, you can take a towel and wrap it around the trunk of the woman, and she can lay on her back and she can do abdominal contractions while laying on her back or while sitting on a chair. What she's doing is she's gathering that towel around her core and kind of pulling her rectus abdominal wall together in the front and then doing contractions while it's there.
That's like the basic, easy part. Once you get past that or if you've had your diastasis recti fixed via doctors, then of course, then you can start doing all of them crazy core exercises that she would like to do. But of course, we all know that getting your body back or getting your stomach flat is less about abdominal exercises and more about diet. And again, I always go back to, “Are you taking any processed foods? How much are you eating?” Sometimes a lot of women, because they have postpartum depression or whatever, they have a lot of cravings still even after pregnancy because they have a lot of feelings of depression, and that leads to cravings of sugar because our body wants sugar or something simple to eat if it's feeling under stress. So, lowering the stress level and then having a plan of what you're going to eat are the best ways to get your stomach flat as opposed to having a boatload of abdominal exercises. We have a boatload of exercises for you to do with our program or any trainer can do them. Between the three of us who probably have a book load of abdominal exercises, but none of those really do anything if you don't try to monitor your stress level, monitor your cravings even after you're pregnant, so you can eat properly and not eat food that's going to cause swelling in your body, to make that stomach feel like it's a little bit bloated. If you can reign that all in, then you can definitely get your flat stomach back. But there's definitely more to it than just being able to say, “Okay, I'm going to go out and do a hundred sit-ups,” or, “I can't do any sit-ups because I have had diastasis recti.” Now you can correct your diastasis recti, while at the same time you can still have a proper diet, proper eating habits to then get that stomach back.
Ben: Right. Gotcha. So, question for Amy and a question for Deveren. I want to ask you both this question. What do you think is the biggest dietary mistake that pregnant women make? Whether during or soon thereafter, in the prenatal or the postnatal period.
Deveren: Amy, you can go first.
Amy: Sure. For myself and a lot of my clients, I'm very thankful that if you don't have a plan, I suggest even having prenatal plans. If you don't have a plan, I feel like, just as well as any other athlete in general, that's when you kind of go, you could easily go off the deep end based on how you feel. And so I think that the biggest mistake that women make is, “I have something growing in me. I need to eat twice as much,” or “This isn't really affecting me right now because I'll be able to lose it all later after I have the baby. I'm not worried about it now.” So, I think overeating is insanely easy to do while you're pregnant. And then not also just thinking, forgetting, considering the baby growing inside of you, and rather than thinking of all of valuable things that we have here to eat that can actually benefit the baby, just thinking about basically emotional eating or stress eating based on your feelings, I guess, for the day is most of the biggest I see for prenatal.
Ben: Gotcha. Now what about you, Deveren?
Deveren: Just going back to the point I just made earlier, eating out of emotion is very, very easy to do. And of course, I don't want to sound improper here, but of course when women are pregnant, they have a lot more hormone going on into the system and they become more stressed. Not only is their body stressed because, obviously, they're growing a second person inside them, but then they become stressed from the outward stresses that kind of affect us every day. And those affect you even more. So, I feel like, not just pregnant women, but people in general, understanding how stress works and how it affects what we crave to eat is the first step and being able to stop eating sugar or something that's processed, and instead going for something that's a little more wholesome. Because, again, our bodies can't tell the difference between different types of stressors. It just knows it's stress. And once that happens, the body starts to burn, it kind of goes into a fight or flight zone, for lack of a better word. And so, that's when your body starts to burn the simpler calories, and those are sugar, simple sugars, and carbs, and things of that nature.
And so, once our bodies get in that state, it's burning 'em off. So what does it want? It wants to get them back. The first thing you grab, you go and you grab a Snickers bar or whatever, because your body's like, “Oh my gosh. I just need something to get in me so I can handle the stress.” But if people realize it's that stress is causing them to crave those simpler molecules for your body to burn off quicker because that's what stress is having you do, once you learn that, okay, let me take a step back, like Amy said earlier. Let me take a step back, figure out what's causing stress, let me try to hit it off at the pass and then, “Okay, am I really hungry or is this just,” and then, and if you are really hungry, then grab something that you've kind of taken a step back and thought about eating. Make it something a little bit, like whole wheat crackers or something else, instead of something that's sugary and going to stay with you for a lot longer than you really want it to.
Ben: Yeah. I agree. Although whole wheat crackers are going to spike your blood sugar almost more than a regular cracker.
Deveren: Yeah, yeah. That was me, just talking out of turn. Yeah, that would definitely not. That wouldn't be what I would say. But, again, what a lot of women will do is they'll just kind of eat, overeat, and it becomes like a, trying to find the best option. If you're in a grocery store and you feel like you're going crazy and you're in line, instead of grabbing for a bag of chips, maybe it'd be better eat a Wasa cracker than it would be a bag of chips. But obviously, Wasa crackers may not be the best…
Ben: Or some nuts. The one thing I've found is a lot of women get so concerned with their post-baby weight, they do some nervous system damage to themselves or to their baby. When you look at neural tube defects, and neurotransmitter production, stuff like that, choline is huge. We're talking about standing at the grocery store, walnuts, for example, a great source of choline. Eggs are a really good source of choline. Organ means, many women aren't going to eat liver, but still, really good source of choline. But I've found that, I do some consults with women who are prenatal, and a choline deficiency, which is like the most important fatty-based nutrient that you could give to yourself or to your baby during pregnancy. I've found that to be a huge issue. And again, you can get it in fish, and egg yolks, and walnuts, and stuff like that, but dietary fat, cholesterol, vitamin D deficits, all that stuff tend to be huge, especially among pregnant women who are essentially caring for one nervous system and then growing another simultaneously. Literally.
Deveren: And, again, I think it goes back to, like you said, some women will become vitamin deficient or because they, a lot of women, first, they're afraid they're going to gain too much weight, and then they end up gaining more weight than they thought they would for being afraid, and I think it's because, then they start to, they don't eat for so long, they don't have a plan. And then once they get hungry, they just eat whatever's in front of them. It goes for a lot of people. If you don't have a plan and a lot of people who, I mean I'm sure you meet tons of clients, I'm sure Amy does too, you meet clients who're like, “I don't know what happened. I barely ate today. But then, I got home and I ate the legs off my table.” And it's like, “That's because you weren't getting the things you should've been getting in the first place. And then once you got to that point, yeah, you weren't eating the things that have choline, or good vitamin D. You were eating just whatever came in front of you.”
Ben: Right. Yeah. Now you guys have put together kind of a prenatal program over at PreNatal365. You've got a year-long program to help kind of guide women through their pregnancy and show them the exercises that they could do at the home or at the gym and kind of point out everything that they're supposed to do for each trimester, which is really cool. And I'm going to put a link to PreNatal365 in the show notes, or folks can go over to prenatal365.com. But to finish up for folks, if you could choose, let's say a woman is pregnant, she's listening in. If she could choose like one mode of exercise, 'cause a big part of this is just like stress and keeping things simple. But the one mode of exercise that you think is one of the best ones for pregnant women, do you have like one specific thing that you've found to be really, really good. It could be elliptical, it could be running, lifting barbells, kettlebell training, whatever. Do you have one that's kind of like your favorite? For each of you.
Amy: Sure. I love walking. I mean, I love every exercise out there, but I think that for women to get out, and if they can keep with their weight, if they can keep with their strength training, that will help them immensely. But when it all comes down to it, if you don't feel well, if your energy's low, if your feet hurt, if you can get out for a walk, or even if it's horrible out and you can get on a treadmill, if you can just walk 30 minutes a day on the days that are just the roughest, you will feel so good. Most of the time, that also encourages you to want to eat better also, which I love and which in turn helps with anti-depression and so many other thing, just doing one basic thing of walking, along with your nutrition, can help you more than anything.
Ben: Gotcha. How about you, Deveren?
Deveren: I think walking is by probably the best thing for women to kind of try to do while they're pregnant, like she said. But just to add something different, I think isometric contractions are good for pregnant women for a number of reasons. Most of which is because of the increased estrogen levels and the increased relaxant. Those are the things that are going to cause your joints to become a little bit more limber because, of course, you're getting ready to give birth. So, while the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, I like to bring that up 'cause, one, everybody knows we plan these workouts according to what they recommend, even though they say that chances of injury are very low even doing normal exercises, I also think that being able to do isometric holds even decreases that even more because, obviously, you're not constantly going up and down and things in your later terms of pregnancy, like when you're at third trimester. If you are a little bit afraid that you may fall or do something of that nature, being able to isometrically contract and increase your times of holding.
So for instance, let's just bring the squat into the equation. So, I'm going to set up a squat, hold the squat for 15 seconds. After 15 seconds, you stand up. You back down, you hold the squat for 30 seconds, you come back up. And then you may want to go back down again and hold it for 60 seconds. Doing isometric contractions, you can do them in many different ways. With your arms, with your legs. You can use a chair to stabilize yourself. But being able to use that as a strength and conditioning exercise, like we spoke about before, going through natural birth, a lot of people are doing the more natural squat position. What better way than to, and that's basically an isometric contraction, is sitting there, pushing, while you're holding a squat position. So, why not practice that in your living room. You don't need any weight. You can just increase the time and duration, and that's going to increase your strength. So, I'm really a big believer for women doing isometric contractions.
Ben: I like it. We've actually done a podcast episode before with a guy named Jay Schroeder on this type of exercise called “extreme isometrics”, and another guy named Doug McGuff who wrote a book called “Body By Science”, and he's big-time into the super slow, like 10 seconds up, 10 second down, which are pretty similar to that kind of isometric, except a little bit more movement, but very, very slow. And I got to throw in there, for me, I know for my wife it was swimming, like that was her number one exercise. Kind of therapeutic to the baby to be sloshing back and forth as mom churns through the water, but also in women as they produce that you know greater amount of relaxing, and the ligaments become a little more lax, and impact might become more uncomfortable, she found that swimming was like the top thing for her. And she was, gosh, I think she was in the water like five days a week at one point during her pregnancy and that really helped her out.
Well, this has been really cool, you guys. I'll put a link to everything that we talked about in the show notes. For those of you listening in, there have been other episodes where we've talked about pregnancy. We talked about that controversial article on a Crossfit pregnant mom, I've got an article on 14 core exercises for pregnancy, we did a podcast on exercise in pregnancy with Cassandra Forsythe, I've talked about the “Better Baby Book” by Dave Asprey and Chris Kresser's “Healthy Baby Code”, and I'll put a link to all that stuff along with prenatal365.com in the show notes. And then the last thing that I wanted to mention before I let our guests go for today is that this podcast is actually brought to you by Audible. And I want to make a specific recommendation to you if you are going to have a baby to an audio book on Audible. You can actually get this book for free at audiblepodcast.com/ben. This is one that my wife and I went through when we were pregnant, and it's called “The Business of Baby”. It's a little controversial, but it's called “The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don't Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottomline”. So, if you're interested in kind of the issues in America, specifically, with the business of having a baby, good one for you to check out. You can get it for free over at audiblepodcast.com/ben. So, Amy, Deveren, thank you guys so much for coming on today's call.
Amy: Absolutely! Loved it!
Deveren: Thank you so much!
Ben: Alright. So, folks, until next time, this is Ben Greenfield and the folks from prenatal365.com signing out from Ben Greenfield Fitness.
In this special podcast episode, I interview Amy and Deveren (pictured above and right) from PreNatal365.com. During our discussion we answer important questions like:
-How hard can you exercise when you're pregnant?
-How can you get your body back after you've had your baby?
-Are there exercises or quick fixes for morning sickness?
-Can you do things like running and Crossfit when you're pregnant?
-Are Kegel exercises the best way to get good abs after you've given birth?
-And much more!
Additional Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
-Previous BenGreenfieldFitness podcast: “Can You Exercise Hard If You're Pregnant?“
–Better Baby Book by Dave Asprey