Interviews with experts

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.