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Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calories are the core to basic nutrition and health, and pregnancy is no exception. Calories give us the energy we need to be fully functioning human beings (though most days, I also need coffee). But what about during pregnancy? How do calories play a role in the growth and development of your baby? If you have heard some conflicting calorie information centered on pregnancy then this article is for you. Not pregnant? No worries, this article contains some general and (helpful!) information about our body’s main source of energy: the calorie.

Why are calories so important and where do they come from?

Everything we do, from walking to sleeping to supporting the development of a new baby requires energy. We derive energy from the foods and beverages we eat, which contain nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Energy from these nutrients is measured in calories. Foods and beverages contain different amounts of calories because they contain different amounts and profiles of these nutrients.

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How many calories are in certain foods and how much do I need?

Carbohydrates and proteins provide four calories in each gram, while fat provides nine calories per gram. Alcohol, though not considered a necessary nutrient and not recommended during pregnancy, also provides about seven calories per gram. Each person has unique calorie needs that depend on a number of factors, including height, weight, age, gender and activity level. When we consume too many calories, the excess calories are stored as body fat. This can contribute to weight gain and ultimately, a variety of health issues.

Do I need to eat more calories during pregnancy?

It is probably not a surprise that your calorie needs increase during pregnancy. But “eating for two” only requires an additional 340 calories during the second trimester and 500 calories in the third trimester. The first trimester does not require any extra calories. An important caveat is that if you are carrying more than one baby, your calorie needs are higher. Discuss what and how much to eat with your health care provider. Eating more calories will lead to weight gain, which will allow for your baby to grow and develop.

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How much weight gain can I expect during my pregnancy?

Weight gain goals are based on pre-pregnancy weight, height, age, and usual eating patterns. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique. Your healthcare provider can help you gain weight at a healthy rate throughout pregnancy.

A weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is normal for women with a body mass index, or BMI, of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (“normal weight”). Women who are below healthy weight when they conceive (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2) should aim to gain about 28 to 40 pounds.  Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 (“overweight”) should gain no more than 15 to 25 pounds. Women with a BMI over 30 kg/m2 (“obese”) should gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds. If you are in this category, a health care provider or registered dietitian can help you meet these recommendations in a healthy way. Aim to meet your calorie and nutrient needs, while maintaining regular physical activity. Weight loss during pregnancy is not advised. Also, if you are carrying more than one baby, weight gain recommendations increase, so work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure proper weight gain.

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Are there patterns to weight gain during pregnancy?

Patterns of weight gain during pregnancy are as important as total weight gain. Weight maintenance or slight weight losses are normal during the first trimester (or first 13 weeks) of pregnancy. But most women should expect to gain about four to five pounds during the first trimester. Listen to your body’s signals and stop eating when you feel full to help you avoid the misconception that you are “eating for two.”

Women with healthy pre-pregnancy weights should gain about one pound a week during the second and third trimesters. Women who are underweight before conception should gain a little more than one pound per week. Those who were initially overweight should gain at a slower rate (a little more than a half a pound per week).

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What foods should I chose to increase my calorie intake and weight during pregnancy?

Choose foods and beverages that are “nutrient-dense.” This means that they are good sources of the building blocks your body needs. Nutrient-dense foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eat variety of foods from all five food groups. These include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat and beans. This will ensure that you and your growing baby are getting the nutrients you both need. It is also important to note that these principles also apply if you are not pregnant but are looking to increase your calorie intake.

Good nutrition is at the center for overall health, with calories playing a core role in overall health outcomes. While your calorie needs increase during pregnancy, the general principles of good nutrition, such as variety, balance, and moderation still apply during these 9 months and will help support overall health of both you and your baby.

For more information, check out this resource

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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