I am a 22-year-old mother of two. Before my first child, I weighed between 55-60kg and was perfectly happy with my body. I gained weight during my pregnancies and have struggled to lose it. After my second child, I couldn’t find a nutrition plan that works. I now weigh 75kg, so at 1,6m tall my BMI is terrible! I am also addicted to sugar – I feel like I have withdrawal symptoms and become moody when I eat something without sugar. But I’ve had enough! I’m not happy with my body and I need to get back into shape.
I don’t have a gym membership and prefer to train at home, but need some advice on a plan that will work for me. I have an exercise bicycle, treadmill, weights, skipping rope and a swimming pool at home. Can you advise a workout and eating plan that will help me get back on track?
I’m not expecting the impossible to happen but I am remaining positive.
Many women gain excessive weight during pregnancy and battle for months, if not years, to shed those unwanted kilos. The best defence is to prevent massive weight gain during pregnancy, failing which, lose the weight once the baby has been born through diet and exercise.
Healthy recommended weight gain guidelines during pregnancy are:
- If you were underweight before pregnancy: 12,5-18kg
- If you were your ideal weight before pregnancy: 11,5-16kg
- If you were overweight before pregnancy: 7-11kg
Generally, the less you weigh before pregnancy, the more weight you should gain during pregnancy. Keep in mind that your weight gain shouldn’t exceed 18kg, especially if you start your pregnancy overweight, as this excess doesn’t serve a useful purpose.
The recommended average energy intake during pregnancy should be:
- First trimester – stick to your normal healthy diet (around 2200 cal for the average lady as you don’t need additional calories).
- Second trimester – add an extra +/- 300 cal (total 2500 cal)
- Third trimester – add an extra +/- 300 cal (total 2800 cal)
These extra calories should come from good food sources, like fresh fruit and vegetables, unprocessed whole grain cereals, lean meat, fish, eggs, low-fat or skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products. Ensure that you get plenty of vitamins A, B, C and E, protective bioflavonoids, dietary fibre, calcium, iron, protein and essential fatty acids (EFAs).
There is no need for sugar in your diet. Your carbohydrate requirements can be met by consuming wholesome natural food. Added or processed sugar doesn’t contain vitamins or minerals so should never replace nutritious food in your diet. A high intake of sugar promotes overeating because it stimulates taste. Excess calories consumed over time may result in obesity and increase many other health risks.
Craving sweet things is your body’s way of signalling your brain that you are not meeting your energy requirements. Seeking energy, our bodies were designed to recognise and love sweet tastes. This made sense when the only sweet things around were seasonal fruit, vegetables and perhaps some wild honey, which are all natural sources of sugar and provide the sustained energy, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. However, in today’s society, sugary foods are available everywhere, in the form of sweets, chocolate and drinks, fairly cheaply, making it all too easy to eat excessive sugar. You’re 100% right when you say you’re addicted – the more sugar you consume, the more you crave.
Eating plan suggestions: (eat every 2.5-3 hours)
- Supplements: (take with breakfast and before bed)
- EFAs – omega 3, 6 and 9
- Good multivitamin
(choose one) Eat ASAP after waking – no later than 1 hour
- 1/2-3/4 cup oats + whey protein, mixed or separate.
- Scrambled eggs (1 whole egg, 3 egg whites with optional skim milk). Slice of 100% rye toast/bread.
- Omelette (1 whole egg, 3 egg whites) filled with mushrooms, peppers, etc. Slice of rye toast/bread.
- Blended smoothie with five large ice blocks, fruit (e.g. berries, apple, orange) 200ml fat and sugar-free yoghurt, with protein powder added or separate.
- Sugar-free muesli with milk/fat and sugar-free yoghurt, with protein powder, added or separate.
- A bowl of fat and sugar-free yoghurt.
- Meal replacement shake.
- +/- 4 rice cakes/corn thins/Ryvitas etc. topped with smooth, low fat/fat-free cottage cheese and one of the following: Tuna/salmon/chicken/lean beef/sliced ostrich meat with a side salad.
- A toasted sandwich made with rye bread (thinly sliced) with one of the fillings listed above.
- Tuna/salmon/chicken/lean beef/ostrich meat with brown or basmati rice/baked or sweet potato.
- Leftover supper meat and vegetables with brown or basmati rice/baked or sweet potato.
- Tuna/salmon/chicken/lean beef salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, peppers etc)
- A bowl of fat and sugar-free yoghurt.
- Chicken/fish/lean beef/ostrich/turkey/lean beef mince with at least two different vegetables.
- Omelette (1 whole egg, 3 egg whites) with a choice of vegetable fillings (mushrooms, peppers, onion etc.)
- Tuna/salmon/chicken/lean beef salad
(Within 30-45min after workout)
- Whey protein shake.
- Depending on what time you train, you may want to add carbs to your post-workout shake, like oats (½ – ¾ cup of oats).
If you’re still hungry and it’s been approximately two hours after you had dinner, have a protein shake (whey/protein blend), with fat and sugar-free yoghurt or fat-free milk.
HOME-BASED EXERCISE PROGRAMME
Train no less than three days a week. Make the most of your session by minimising your rest time and putting 100% effort into every training session. Babies can be extremely demanding so you need to make every second count. Include your child where possible as it can really be a fun bonding experience for you and your kids, but remember, safety comes first. If you would like to train five days a week, go for it! Add in a Zumba class (I got the DVDs, which are great fun and it keeps my daughter entertained) or do interval training, for example, 20 minutes on the treadmill, walking for one, running for two and so on. Vary it as much as possible. Change up your cardio as much as possible and play with speeds and intensity. This keeps the body in constant shock as it doesn’t know what’s coming next!
Below are a few ways to train. It is completely up to you to choose what you enjoy doing and what works best. Try different techniques to find what you enjoy, but most importantly, have fun!
Day 1 – Bodyweight exercises
- Abs Crunches – 3 sets of 20 -30 reps (I play a game with my daughter, where she sits on my tummy as I crunch up as high as possible. She loves it and giggles every time!)
- Reverse Crunches – 3 sets of 20 reps
- Plank – 3 sets of 30 secs
- Push Ups – 3 sets to max
- Squat/Jump Squat – 3 sets of 20 (You can hold your child comfortably in front of you – as long as they enjoy it.)
- Skip – 3 sets of 1 minute
- Dips – 3 sets to max
- Lunges/Jump Lunges – 3 sets of 20
- Skip – 3 sets of 1 minute
- Tri Lunge – 3 sets of 8 either side
- Cycle – 3 sets of 1 minute
- Burpees – 3 sets of 20
Day 2 – Super circuits
Perform each exercise for one minute, then move directly to the next exercise until you reach the end. Rest for 2-5 minutes, until you’re ready to start at the beginning again. Do 3/4 sets of this. Decrease your rest each week.
- Squat and Kick
- Sit Ups
- Reverse Crunches
- Push Up
- Arm to opposite leg crunches
- Floor Dumbbell Press
- Treadmill – Run/Walk
- Shoulder Press
Day 3 – Full body weight training
Consider investing in some weights and a Swiss ball.
- Weighted Crunches on the floor/ball – 3 sets of 20-30
- Reverse crunches with ball squeezed under knees – 3 sets of 20-30
- Side Crunches – 3 sets of 20 either side
- Dumbbell Press – 3 sets of 16
- Skipping – 3 sets of 1 minute
- Lying Ball/Floor Tricep Extensions – 3 sets 0f 16
- Curl and Press (seated on ball or bench) – 3 sets 12-16
- Cycle/sprint: 3 sets 1 minute
- Lateral raise into front raise (on a ball or bench) – 3 sets of 12
- Squat into lunge either side – 3 sets of 10
- Skip/Cycle – 3 sets of 1 minute
- Bent over Dumbbell Row into Tricep Extension – 3 sets of 10