Interview with Cassandra Forsythe

When you can talk to a dietitian, who is also a strength coach and on top of that pregnant, you want to ask them a million things. Cassandra Forsythe was extremely kind to accept my invitation, and answered some of the pressing questions that many girls looking for healthier and fitter pregnancy wonder and worry about.

What are the nutrition rules that pregnant women should follow?

The rules are basically the same as for anyone who would like to be fit and healthy. Pregnant women should eat whole natural foods and make sure that they eat often to maintain energy levels. There are some very beneficial foods. Whole eggs, for example, provide choline. Choline plays a critical role in helping fetal brains develop regions associated with memory ( choline aids in neuronal cell creation and maturation), so whether the mother got enough choline is crucial to the child’s life and memory. Choline may also contribute to avoiding neural tube defects, even if you are taking enough folic acid. 2 eggs a day provide half of your daily needs, and you can also find choline in meats and organ meat, in cauliflower and wheat germ.

It’s important to get healthy fats, such as fat from fish and fish oil. There have been some serious concerns about the quality of our fish, because of pollution and heavy metals, so eat fish from clean sources and look into purified fish oils and krill oil for supplementation. It’s also important that you eat green leafy vegetables throughout your pregnancy, and explore new ways to eat them, like Kale chips for example.

How did your exercise program change when you got pregnant?

I was very active before I got pregnant. I didn’t feel great during the first trimester. I took it very easy in the beginning, because I was nauseous, and very tired. I just could not train. Then as my energy got better, things picked up and I went back to my usual activity.

I feel best when I challenge myself, I am not afraid to be sore. I do a lot of core exercises, stability work, as well as exercises using cables. Guidelines often say to not do exercise on your back, but there is some new research, showing that it’s OK to be on your back if you are moving. I think your body can tell you when you are not comfortable in a certain position and you can make changes yourself!

Are some people saying that the workouts you do are too challenging?

They aren’t easy, but labor is challenging, too, right? I am currently at the end of the second trimester and I am teaching 8 boot camps a week, doing intervals of 45 seconds work and 10 seconds of rest. We do kettlebell swings, snatches, ropes.

You can see a video of Cassandra training, here:

Did you find it was harder to recover from workouts once you got pregnant?

Definitely. It takes more nutrition to recover. I see that I feel sore more and it takes a lot more food to recover. I just eat more. I am not counting calories, I make sure I eat mostly healthy.

Why do you think not many women train during pregnancy?

I think doctors are more aware of being liable if they do tell you to be physically active, so they don’t. They would rather play safe and not give recommendations.

Do you think the cravings that women get during pregnancy, specifically for carbohydrate, are physiological, that sugar is something your body needs?

I think that the hormones are changing rapidly and this has an effect on brain chemistry, which in turn affects appetite and makes us reach for that box of cookies. I was in my first trimester when I found myself in the cookie isle in the supermarket. I don’t think I had ever been there before.

What are some books you would recommend to women who would like to educate themselves about nutrition and pregnancy?

You can always read the ACOG exercise guidelines for pregnant women and I also recommend these books:

Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp
Super Fit Mama: Stay Fit During Pregnancy and Get Your Body Back after Baby by Tracey Mallet

They are all good places to start.

What would you like to say to women who are worried about exercising through pregnancy?

No matter what you know or read, if you can listen to your body, you will know how much you can do and you will know when you have to stop. Of course, if something hurts, you should stop. I think your body is very smart at telling you what you can and what you cannot do. Pregnancy is a time when you have a lot of renewed energy and you can improve your fitness as well. If you are healthy and you can exercise, you should by all means do it. If exercise is something that you enjoy doing, you should keep doing it and make sure you monitor how you feel, because your body will tell you!

Cassandra Forsythe is a PhD Kinesiology graduate of the University of Connecticut. Her MS is in Nutrition and Metabolism from University of Alberta, Canada. She is certified as a Registered Dietitian (RD) through the ADA, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN). She is a researcher, a coach, a writer, a motivator. Her books, the New Rules of Lifting for Women, and The Perfect Body Diet, have made a world of difference to tens of thousands of women.

You can read more about Cassandra Forsythe and her experience with pregnancy, exercise and nutrition, on her blog.

Listen to a great interview Cassandra recorded with Krista Scott-Dixon, talking about body image, disordered eating, and training during pregnancy, here.


  1. Galya,

    Thank you for sharing this interview. I'm not certain if you will have further contact with Cassandra any time soon or if she will stop by, but I had a follow-up question pertaining to seafood (a bit wordy, but hopefully you won't mind me sharing it). If possible it would be great to get some additional insight.

    A few months back, I started ordering seafood from Vital Choice for me and my wife. According to the Vital Choice website, their Albacore tuna has 0.05 ppm of methyl mercury and that number falls to 0.03 ppm for their sockeye salmon (which Is what I typically order).

    I often here a general guideline that 2 servings of non-predatory fish (preferably wild caught and definitely not farm-raised) is generally accepted as safe, or at least minimally risky, and that this is likely a good guideline for everyone, but especially pregnant women and children. However when I would place a sizable order, I would find myself serving it at least 2, and often up to 4 times per week. So that would be up to 4 servings of roughly 4-6 ounces of fish during some weeks that I would serve to my wife and for myself.

    Given that she is now pregnant, should she cut back to 2 or fewer servings or are the levels listed by Vital Choice low enough to skirt potential issues? For that matter, should I also be wary of cutting back on my seafood intake. NOTE: the only seafood I eat is what I purchase from Vital Choice, so that I know the source. While the methylmercury is a focus, I am also curious if this level of consumption is also risky in terms of PCB’s and dioxins. It’s frustrating to realize that there will always be some measure of inherent risk.

    My wife and I aren’t eating this in place of supplementing with a purified fish or krill oil supplement, we simply add this to it, so on days when we eat fish we lower our dose a bit and on days we don’t, we bump up that dosage. Our primary reason for consuming it is the delicious taste, along with the “bonuses” of protein, astaxanthin, vitamin D, and omega 3’s that come along for the ride. But now that my wife is pregnant I have begun to think about the relative health risk to the both of us.

    On one final note, I am also curious if the selenium content of the seafood is at all protective against methyl mercury, particularly at these lower levels found in the Vital Choice fish. I’ve heard selenium has the potential to chelate methylmercury, but I am uncertain if this lessens the risk to any noteworthy degree, that is if I am not misinformed to begin with on this front.

  2. Hi and thanks for your comment. I will ask Cassandra for her personal opinion and I hope she has a chance to chime in.

    Here are my two cents:

    You are already doing your best by staying educated and getting the fish with the lowest amount of mercury you can find.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has the strictest recommendations I have seen. They go as low as 0.1 0.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day.

    Here is a cool calculator you can use to determine safety.

    I found cool charts on the selenium - mercury connection you are interested in:

    I would say you have been making good choices and if you keep your fish intake as is, you should be fine.

    Here is a cool source on how to choose fish:

    It is very interesting to see the interaction between selenium and mercury. There are a number of scientific studies I have seen, that show high binding affinity of selenium for mercury. I think it's safe to say that selenium would play a protective role when consuming fish.

    Either way, you are a winner, getting the best fish you can get, taking purified supplements and staying on top of things.


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