Fueling through Pregnancy: Nutrition tips for pregnant Cyclists
Lori Russell is a board certified sports dietitian and certified personal trainer. She is also a competitive and experienced cyclist who has raced in United Stages pro cycling road races for several years.
Currently Lori is in her second trimester of her first pregnancy, due May 2021, and working hard to prioritize health, nutrition, and continued cycling fitness throughout her pregnancy. Follow her journey (@hungryforresults) and gain knowledge on fueling your own fit pregnancy with Lori’s top five prenatal nutrition tips for cyclists.
Forget fasting workouts. Many athletes get out of bed and start spinning without grabbing fuel. While you might get away with this for short workouts, pregnancy is not the time to risk starting a training session in a depleted state. You could risk restricting blood flow and nutrients to your baby and will see decreases in performances and overall energy levels. Aim to fuel each ride with at least 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight an hour prior to training. If you’re experiencing morning sickness, try moving your training session to later in the day to prioritize consuming food.
Fuel often and adequately. Blood sugar is less stable during pregnancy. In fact, in pregnant athletes, blood sugar drops faster and more drastically than in non pregnant female athletes, leaving you at bigger risk for bonking in a workout. Aim to stuff extra snacks in your kit so you have at least 45 grams of carbohydrate for each hour of riding and take fuel every 30 minutes to keep energy levels from dropping.
Control cravings. Pregnancy can be a very weird time for athletes who are typically quite disciplined with eating habits. While this isn’t the time to restrict, it also isn’t helpful to indulge in every eating impulse. Instead of ignoring cravings, try choosing more healthful versions or smaller portions of the real deal. For example, instead of a pint of ice cream, savor a scoop of frozen yogurt with dark chocolate or if you’re craving salty potato crisps, roast up a pan of salt and vinegar potato chunks. You definitely have more leniency during pregnancy, but the optimal goal is to maintain a healthy body for you while providing high nutrient quality to baby.
Prioritize quality. Speaking of quality, what you eat is what the baby eats, so make it count. Research shows that maternal eating habits influence taste preferences and gut health of the infant in utero. Eating high quality whole foods will also help you feel your best during this time as nutrients such as omegas, protein, folate, vitamin D, calcium, and iron are vital to healthy pregnancy outcomes. Fill your plate with a diverse mix of grass fed/ wild animal proteins, leafy greens, beans, lentils, berries, whole grains, citrus, root vegetables, olives, nuts, seeds, and organic dairy or fortified plant based dairy alternatives. Many women find this difficult in the first trimester between nausea and cravings, but try to sneak in small amounts of produce wherever you can. Smoothies and pureed soups are great options.
Silence your watch and scale. Calorie burn is 300 to 600 calories higher per day throughout pregnancy. In cyclists who continue to train (even at reduced intensities and durations) this daily burn is even higher as it takes more effort to be active. Your typical wearable tracking device will not account for this extra, making it seem like you need less than you do and putting you at risk for under fueling. In addition, your body NEEDS to gain weight during pregnancy and most active women will benefit from a 25-35 gain to support healthy infant growth. Active females might see a higher gain early on due to increased fatigue, hormone surges, and decreased training. Try not to compare your pregnant body to another woman's as every body and pregnancy is unique. that this is the time for nourishing your body (and your growing baby’s) not for restricting.
A sample prenatal meal plan for cyclists
Breakfast (pre ride)
Oatmeal with fruit, nut butter and maple syrup; greek style yogurt. Or: Thick slice of whole grain bread with almond butter, honey and banana; 2 hard boiled eggs.
2 water bottles w/ electrolytes, 2-3 non caffeinated sport gels.
Post Ride (within 20 minutes)
1 cup kefir with 1/2 PBJ sandwich or a smoothie made of kale, blueberries, banana, chocolate whey, almond milk.
Massaged kale with sweet potatoes, parsley, lentils, quinoa, dates, and a tahini vinaigrette. Or: Burrito bowl with grass-fed beef, pinto beans, fajita veg, rice, salsa and avocado.
Cottage cheese with whole grain crackers. Or: Protein Bar and an apple.
Herb salmon with brown rice and roasted vegetables. Or: Veggie burger with sweat potato fries.
Dark chocolate and berries. Or: Popcorn with nutritional yeast.
Learn more about Lori's work at hungryforresults.com
Pregnant, still a cyclist: Read also Juli's story