Your 5 Postpartum Questions: ANSWERED
I get asked quite often about popular postpartum topics such as pre-workout snacks, how many calories should be consumed after pregnancy, and when it’s safe to get back into running after having a baby. Since there is a lot of conflicting information out there, I pulled together answers to the 5 Most Frequently Asked Postpartum Questions and dropped all of it below in one easy-to-access place. So, here goes!
Do I need a pre-workout snack?
It really depends on when you work out. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you can exercise on an empty stomach, but if you need a little something to get you going, try eating half an apple or banana. Your body's glycogen stores are full from the day before, so if you feel okay, you can go without food prior to your workout. Unless you’re planning on a high-intensity workout of at least 50 minutes in length, you should have enough glycogen stored in your body to fuel your workout. If you work out for more than 50 minutes, I recommend eating half an apple to help you get through the workout.
If you work out in the late-morning, afternoon, or evening, and are within a couple of hours of having eaten a meal, your muscles are full of energy and should have enough glycogen to power you through your workout.
*If you are breastfeeding, make sure you eat a snack of protein and carbohydrates (i.e. an apple with peanut butter, milk and a slice of bread, or yogurt and a few almonds) within an hour either pre- or post-workout. Also, be sure to stay well-hydrated before, during and after the workout.
How many calories do I need if I am breastfeeding?
Breast milk is made mostly of water, so it’s important that you’re drinking enough liquids throughout the day. Staying hydrated will not only help you maintain an adequate milk supply, but will also allow you to feel your best. The Institute of Medicine recommends that lactating women consume 3.8 liters of water per day. This equals about 16 cups. Sixteen cups may seem like a lot, but you can consume more than water alone to help you reach your daily hydration needs. Any non-caffeinated, non-sugary drink counts toward the 16 cups and foods (such as fruits and vegetables, which contain high concentrations of water) usually account for about 20% of water intake. In order to reach your hydration goals, you can create routines around liquid consumption; these will also encourage you to increase your fluid intake. For example, slicing fresh fruit into a large pitcher and filling it with water will give the water flavor without adding extra calories or sugar. Or, leaving a reusable water bottle by the door will remind you to take your fluids with you when you’re on the go. If your milk supply drops, many times it is due to dehydration, or not consuming enough water. So, be sure to strive for sixteen cups of water every day.
How can I get of the “shelf” that protrudes over my C-section scar?
The good news is you can and will get rid of the “shelf,” “muffin top,” or whatever ugly name we like to call it. There are two ways to go about getting that flat tummy back again – scar massage and daily core exercises.
First, you need to let your scar heal completely. Once your incision is fully healed, put your fingers down along the incision and move your incision/scar in every possible direction. Make sure to start gently and be aware that it may be uncomfortable and sore at first. It does not matter if your scar is four weeks old or 10 years old, you can still use gentle movement and massage to break up the scar tissue, which may cause adhesions to the abdominals, pelvic floor and surrounding muscles. Consistency is key and by taking the time to gently massage your scar every day, your “mummy tummy” will soon look and feel better. For more detailed information on how to massage sensitive scars/incisions, you can refer to the Ab Rehab Guide.
Daily Core Exercises:
Exercising after a C-section should be done with caution. As long as your doctor is comfortable with them, you should be able to perform pelvic floor exercises soon after your surgery. You can begin with simple and safe core strengthening exercises such as Hold ‘Ems and Quick Squeezes, which can be found in the Ab Rehab Guide. These exercises take just a few minutes a day to perform and can be done anytime, anywhere. After your doctor releases you to exercise around the 6-8 week postpartum mark, you can start the Daily Core Exercises, which are also found in the Ab Rehab Guide. These exercises should be done without pain. If you feel pain at any point in time, you should defer back to the Hold ‘Ems and Quick Squeezes until you can exercise pain-free. Of note, the Bridge and Clamshell exercises are very beneficial for C-section mamas, as they create stability as well as take the strain away from your incision area.
I am at the 3-4 month mark postpartum and stopped losing weight. What should I do to get the scale moving again?
This happens time and time again. Most of the time, we stop losing weight because we are overdoing it! This is why postpartum specific programs are so important; we gradually build up your strength and endurance. In order to avoid weight-loss plateaus, your workouts need to include three main components – strength, cardio and flexibility. Also, you should always warm up and cool down, especially during your postpartum recovery. Although we all wish that we could spot train or spot reduce our bodies (i.e. unfortunately, can’t crunch your way to a flat stomach), there is no such thing as spot reduction. You have to work the entire body to see any results. If you are a member of MIF and are using the Postnatal Slimdown 360 program, you’ve got your bases covered. Pairing toning, cardio and flexibility will help you get your pre-baby body back!
I want to start running again. What is the safest way to get back into it?
As a runner myself, I know how exciting it is to lace up those running shoes again after being pregnant for 9 months. But, it’s important to take it easy and to start off very slowly. You shouldn’t begin running again until you have clearance from your doctor and are two months postpartum, unless you have been very consistent with activating your transverse abdomius and pelvic floor. On the other hand, if you are a hard core runner, you can start running again 6 weeks post a vaginal delivery. Just be sure you get your doctor’s permission before you begin.
Below you will find a postpartum running schedule. If you have good core strength and stabilization, you can progress through the following recommendations more rapidly. Just listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, you may need to take things more slowly until you feel stronger. Otherwise, you should spend 2-3 weeks in each stage. Make sure you properly warm up by walking for a few minutes pre-workout and be sure to cool down with some additional walking and stretching. Remember, you never want to subtract to add -- don’t put your pelvic floor at risk by upping the mileage too much and too soon.
Postpartum Back-to-Running Schedule:
• Timed I: Aim for 20 minutes of run 1 minute/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Timed II: Aim for 20 minutes of run 2 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Timed III: Aim for 20 minutes of run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Mileage I: Aim for 2-3 miles of run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Mileage II: Aim for running 1 mile, walk 2-3 minutes, aim for running 1-2 more miles
- Mileage III: Aim for running 2 miles, walk 2-3 minutes, aim for running 1-2 more miles
Other considerations before you begin…
A strong pelvic floor will help you ease back into your running groove by minimizing pelvic pain, improving or preventing incontinence and allowing you to run with proper form, thus reducing injuries. To keep your pelvic floor strong, be sure to incorporate daily pelvic floor exercises into your routine. These exercises can be found in the Ab Rehab Guide.
As a rule of thumb, running alone isn’t the silver bullet to weight loss. It’s important to incorporate strength training and flexibility into any running routine. If you are 5 to 6 (or more) months postpartum, I recommend you try out our Ignite your Inner Athlete program (if you are a MIF member, it’s on your dashboard). You can also try one of our running mashup workouts (these are included with your MIF membership). Because running happens in only one plane of motion, it’s a must that you strengthen your core as well as all of the muscles that move in the lateral direction (i.e. gluteus medius). Toning will help you stay injury-free, make you a stronger runner and enable you to sprint from one weight loss goal to the next!
Nutrition Questions Answered
I want to introduce our kitchen hacks by answering some popular nutrition questions. You can pull the info from https://members.momsintofitness.com/nutrition/more-nutrition-hacks/
You are your family’s brain, which usually equates to no extra space to think about all- things-nutrition. And, with so many options these days, well, who isn't confused?
So, I asked our Registered Dietitian to help us (including, myself). And, I learned so much.
Can you do this “diet” thing on your own? Absolutely. But, I know for me, if there is ONE thing that I can take out of my Family Brain, I am ALL in.
What can I do about bloating/water retention?
Any swelling, bloating and water retention that you may notice is due to extra water that is being held in and around your cells. Water retention is commonly seen and, unfortunately, experienced around the abdomen, ankles and lower legs. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the bloating and to make yourself feel more comfortable – both inside and out!
- As counter-intuitive as it may seem, do not eliminate or reduce you daily water intake. You actually may need to drink more water to keep your kidneys functioning properly and to help flush out the fluid you are retaining.
- Avoid standing for long periods. If you must stand, wear supportive hose of stockings.
- Dress comfortably – taking special care to avoid tight or restrictive clothing.
- You do not have to restrict your salt intake, but avoid adding salt to foods – put the salt shaker away.
- Also, limit highly processed foods that may be exceptionally high in sodium.
- Get moving – Exercise helps minimize swelling!
Should I completely eliminate GMOs?
For the past two decades GMOs – plants with cells that have been genetically modified – have been a part of our food system. GMOs are mainly found in corn, canola, soybeans and cotton. Recently, we’ve seen more and more information about consuming GMOs, as people are becoming increasingly aware of the types of foods they’re putting into their bodies.
The agencies that regulate food in the US (the FDA, USDA, and EPA) all maintain that GMOs are fine and do not require companies to identify if their products contain GMOs. However, it is becoming increasingly common nationwide for foods marked as non-GMO to be popping up on store shelves. In fact, more than 20,000 products are now sporting non-GMO labels.
Farms that grow non-GMO products have to take considerable measures to prevent cross-contamination of their crops. Due to this extra care, it is likely you will see a higher price tag on these items. As an informed shopper, you must take cost into consideration before deciding if reducing GMOs in your family’s diet is a priority.
The good news is that there are several ways to decrease the number of GMOs in your diet. One option is to prepare food from scratch. This means that you make staples such as sauces, marinades and dressings with your own ingredients so that you can control exactly what is going into your food. Our MIF Recipe Box contains a variety of simple, easy and family-friendly recipes for making your own non-GMO favorites at home. The Homemade Ranch dressing is always on the menu in our house! And as a MIF member, you get access to all sorts of non-GMO nutrition hacks and meal plans.
You should also be on the lookout (don’t be afraid to peruse those labels) when shopping for foods. Because GMOs can be tricky to spot, we created a quick guide to grocery shopping to limit GMOs. If you are a MIF member, you can find this grocery guide under the Nutrition Section of our site.
Should I eat carbs?
When I think carbohydrates, I, like most people, immediately default to bread, rice, pizza, pasta, etc. I don't always think of foods such as yogurt, grapes, green beans and strawberries. So let's get straight to the point on this one – not all carbs are bad! Carbs are one of the three major macronutrients your body needs, but they are also the ones that stir up the most debate. One of the reasons controversy and confusion surround carbs is because the carbohydrate category is so broad. You will find sugar, starches, and fiber all in one family. Your body needs carbohydrates. Without them, your brain, muscles, and other bodily systems would struggle to function.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel and craved by the brain and muscles to supply energy. It is true that restricting carbohydrates can lead to weight loss, but it is not a long-term solution and can cause serious damage to the body. In order to fuel your muscles properly, focus on eating healthy carbs such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. If you need a bit of carb-spiration, check out some of the healthy carb snacks in the MIF Recipe Box. The Secret Recipe Protein balls are one of my personal faves!
Can I eat bread?
Many of us have a love/hate relationship with bread. It’s a staple in many people’s diets and can be consumed at any time of the day. It can also be a good source of carbohydrates and used to fuel both your brain and muscles. Despite all its positive points, this does not mean that you should to fill up on the bread basket at dinner, though.
While it is perfectly acceptable to eat bread, there are a couple of things to consider. First, you should avoid eating white bread, as it is filled with troublesome ingredients such as refined flour and sugar. Some research studies have linked these ingredients to an increased amount of inflammation in the body (i.e. fibromyalgia, asthma, allergies, and arthritis), type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Instead, you should choose to eat breads that are made with whole grains, such as whole wheat or whole oats. Store shelves are filled with all sorts of good-for-you breads including whole wheat, multigrain and whole grain varieties. You can also make your own bread at home and choose to incorporate whole grains into the mix.
So, while you can still have your bread (and eat it, too!), be sure that it’s made with whole wheat or whole grains and try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 slices per day, as bread can be a higher calorie source than other carbs such as fruits and vegetables. If you are a MIF member, you can find our 7-Day Meal Guide, which takes the guesswork out of incorporating bread into your diet, on your Dashboard.