Nothing zaps your energy levels more than having a bun in the oven. But instead of crawling back under the duvet or reaching for calorie-laden pick-me-ups, the antidote to sluggishness could be hiding in your diet. Here’s how to combat pregnancy fatigue with nutrition. So long sleepiness; greetings get-up-and-go!
Like an early morning workout or ice-cold shower, eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense breakfast is one of the best ways to kick start your day during pregnancy. As the old adage goes, ‘breakfast like a king’. Ideally, it needs to pack around 20-25% of your daily food intake (read: 300-500 calories). Skipping brekkie can lead to lagging energy levels, poor concentration, brain fog and low blood sugar. For ultimate satisfaction and oomph to jumpstart your morning, be sure to include a rich protein source. Quick wins include scrambled eggs with avocado on wholegrain toast, a banana protein shake, or overnight oats with nut butter and berries.
Go low GI
Ignore the propaganda you’ve read in glossy magazines – not all carbs are baddies, promise. Your body actually needs the goodies for optimal energy production, which is especially key during pregnancy. Let’s bring it back to basics with a quick science lesson: your body breaks down carbohydrates (starchy veggies, legumes, fruit, cereals and bread) into glucose – a.k.a. your very own fuel supply. The Glycaemic Index (GI) denotes how readily different carbs spike your blood sugar levels. ‘High GI foods’ are quickly digested and spark a sharp increase in your blood sugar levels, while ‘low GI foods’ are broken down slowly and provide a more long-lasting supply of energy.
To keep your pregnant body energised, you want to eat more of the latter. Wholegrain rice and pasta, rolled oats, carrots, kidney beans, apples, oranges, dates and banana are heralded for their low GI credentials. Oh, and avoid those high GI culinary culprits, too – white bread, short-grain rice and noodles will only run your energy stores dry.
Cut back on sugar
When sluggishness strikes, it can be tempting to nose-dive into sweet treats – especially when pregnancy cravings are beckoning, too – but we encourage you to fight the urge! Sugar is a seriously sneaky energy saboteur; it boosts you, then sends you crashing all the way back down, exacerbating feelings of fatigue and triggering that notorious ‘sugar coma’ (following the point above, highly-refined, sugary foods often have high GI properties, which explains why they rapidly spike your blood sugar).
That being said, we’re fully aware of just how persuasive a sweet tooth can be. So, if you’re really hankering for a sugary ‘je ne sais quois’, try plain fruit, homemade banana bread, or two squares of quality dark chocolate. Added bonus: dark chocolate is chock-full of magnesium, which also works wonders for energy levels – more on that below…
Make B-vitamins your best buddies
The secret to that spring in your step during pregnancy? A B vitamin boost! This family of essential nutrients play a vitally important role in energy production. They help transport oxygen throughout your body; transform protein, fat and sugar into energy; and increase you red-blood-cell production to help your muscles function optimally. It’s worth mentioning the B’s are a family of nutrients – there are eight in total. Usually, they can be found in poultry, red meat, fish, dairy, complex carbs and veggies.
Pump up the iron
Iron is involved in the crucial transportation of oxygen throughout your body. Trouble is, when you don’t get enough of, you can’t produce enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. And without these fellas, your body won’t get all the oxygen it needs to thrive. The result? Yup, you guessed it: fatigue. Increasing your intake of iron-rich foods is a sure-fire way to overcome this issue.
Get your iron fix from animal sources, such as fish, shellfish, chicken, red meat and eggs; or plant-based foods, like spinach, chia seeds and beetroot. Eating a source of vitamin C will support the absorption of iron, too. Side note: did you know you need a whopping 27 mg of iron every day during pregnancy? To plug any nutritional gaps you may encounter, you make want to consider taking a prenatal vitamin to properly bolster your energy levels.
Like the B’s and iron, magnesium-rich foods are another magic bullet for grogginess and fatigue. Low levels of this nutrient are thought to interrupt the body’s ability to efficiently use energy. This mighty mineral works wonders at relaxing your body for rest, meaning a restorative sleep is on the cards, too (goodbye pregnancy insomnia). Nuts, leafy green veggies, whole grains and cacao are abundant in this compound. Yes, chocolate lovers rejoice: you can now eat a little dark chocolate in the name of magnesium, of which you should be aiming for 350mg per day during pregnancy.
Are you exhausted? Or are you actually thirsty? Aqua supports brain function and optimal boy regulation, so it isn’t surprising dehydration is so intimately connected to fatigue. When your energy levels sputter, have a glass of water and see if that does the trick. Always have bottle of water in car, on your desk, and on your bedside table – a visual reminder to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Aim to drink six to eight large tumblers of H20 every day. Not a fan of straight-up water? Add sliced cucumber, mint and lemon to your aqua to encourage you to guzzle more.
As a rule of thumb: never allow yourself to get too hungry throughout the day. Try eating every 3 – 4 hours to support your metabolism and reduce those in-between-meal-munchies that all too often lead to unhealthy food choices. Never leave the house without a nourishing snack to hand – that way, when the four o-clock slump strikes, you won’t be tempted to tuck into highly refined treats that will only spike your blood sugar levels and exacerbate fatigue. Choose protein-rich pick-me-ups that boast slow-release energy qualities. Think Greek yoghurt with berries, an apple with a handful of nuts, or a homemade breakfast muffin. Trust us, the energy dividends will pay off.