7 Natural Pregnancy Energy Boosters
Nothing wipes you out like a good dose of pregnancy. Growing a baby is tiring work! In fact, feeling tired is often one of the first signs of pregnancy, and that fatigue can linger as your pregnancy progresses.
One of the reasons you feel so beat is the rise of the hormone progesterone, which is needed to maintain early pregnancy but can also have a sedating effect on women, explains Temeka Zore, MD, an LA-based ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Southern California. It’s also just physically demanding to grow another human, so it’s important to fuel your body with the right food and plenty of rest, she adds.
Another underlying reason pregnant women often feel tired? Changes to blood volume, blood pressure and blood sugar. “Minimizing dramatic spikes and falls in your blood sugar is best maintained by foods that can provide energy and maintain your blood sugar at more constant levels,” Zore explains. “Foods such as proteins and complex carbohydrates are excellent sources of energy that provide essential nutrients for your body and can maintain your blood sugar levels.” So while caffeine and sugar may be your normal go-tos for a quick energy boost, they’ll likely result in a “energy high” (due to blood sugar spiking) followed by a crash, leaving you feeling just as tired as you felt before.
Luckily, there are some all-star options for boosting your pregnancy energy levels naturally. Read on to learn about seven foods that’ll help you win the fight against pregnancy fatigue.
Okay, this one isn’t a food, but if you’re wondering how to get energy while pregnant, making sure to hydrate is one of the best ways. Water is the main component of blood and helps carry key nutrients to your cells, and fatigue is one of the first signs your body is low on fluids. Very few women actually drink six to eight glasses of water per day, and when you’re pregnant you’re supposed to have even more, since your body is busy making baby’s amniotic fluid. (The water you drink helps constantly replenish the fluid supply.) Dehydration can also up your risk of urinary tract infections and preterm labor.
Sick of plain water? Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietician and author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide, suggests drinking coconut water, or adding mint, lemon, lime or cucumber slices to your H2O for a subtle kick of flavor. However you like your water, the key is carrying an 8-ounce bottle with you all day and sipping from it often.
Snacking throughout the day can help keep your energy up—and nuts are a convenient (and healthy) option to carry with you. They offer protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer, plus healthy fats (including brain-boosting omega-3s) and magnesium (which you should be getting 350 milligrams of a day). Trying not to go too crazy with calories? Shell-on pistachios take longer to eat, giving your body more time to register that it’s full.
Yet another reason not to skip breakfast! Oats are loaded with iron and zinc, two elements known for kicking fatigue to the curb. Plus, “oatmeal is rich in B vitamins, which are great for energy,” says llyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a certified dietician based in Greenwich, Connecticut. Not only do B vitamins support healthy cell function and help metabolize macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats, but they can also be great for people with anemia, as they help with blood regeneration. Oatmeal is also rich in soluble fiber—a slow-burning carbohydrate that’s great for sustained energy—and beta-glucan, a type of fiber that may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Largeman-Roth explains.
Most pregnant women are mildly anemic, especially during the final stages of pregnancy when the body is prepping for birth and producing a ton of extra blood. And—you guessed it—anemia makes you tired. Your lifesaver? Mangoes. “The natural fruit sugars in mangoes lift energy levels,” Largeman-Roth says. “Plus, fresh mango is an excellent source of folate, which can help prevent birth defects.” Mango also has vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the energy-boosting effects of iron-rich foods, like lean red meat and beans.
Spinach is an excellent example of an iron-rich food. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout your body, and a lack of iron can leave you feeling exhausted. One cup of boiled spinach offers 6.4 milligrams of iron. Keep a bag of it on hand for salads and sautés, and even sneak it into your Sunday lasagna. Note that while spinach is high in iron for a veggie, you need a whopping total of 27 milligrams of iron each day during pregnancy—so keep taking your prenatal vitamin too.
Here’s another food to help you reach your iron quota—one medium sweet potato offers 0.8 milligrams. Plus, the vitamin C and copper help your body absorb the iron. Bonus: Your body uses a sweet potato’s beta-carotene to make vitamin A, which helps baby’s eye, bone and skin development.
The phrase “an apple a day” was invented for a reason. Apples contain plenty of boron, another mineral that can help naturally boost energy, Schapiro says. Plus, they boast natural sugars like glucose and fructose, both simple carbs that can help offer a quick energy boost without blood sugar spikes. They’re also full of fiber (a little over 4 grams!), which can be effective when trying to regulate and control blood sugar. Yet another benefit to eating apples during pregnancy? According to a study that analyzed data from more than 1,200 pregnant women and their children after birth, apples may also be protective against the development of childhood asthma and allergies. Largeman-Roth recommends pairing an apple with two tablespoons of peanut or almond butter for a filling snack that has a balance of carbs, protein and healthy fat.
On the whole, foods rich in iron, protein and fiber are great ways to fuel the body and boost energy while pregnant. Along with the foods mentioned above, Zore suggests sneaking in eggs, salmon, beans, lentils, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean poultry, milk and cheese to help maintain your energy during pregnancy.
But remember, along with the types of food you’re eating, it’s also important for pregnant women to pay attention to how often they’re eating. Eating smaller meals more frequently to maintain a healthy diet in pregnancy is beneficial for a couple reasons, Zore explains. First, nausea and vomiting may prevent some women from eating larger meals. Second, in the third trimester, your expanding uterus will compress your stomach and digestive system, including your bowels, making it harder to consume larger meals, she says. Smaller, frequent meals are not only easier on your stomach, but they can also help reduce heartburn, nausea and other digestive issues while still maintaining your energy and blood sugar levels.
If you’re eating well and still feel super-sluggish, it could be due to an underlying problem. Take to your OB, who may want to test for anemia or check your thyroid.
Temeka Zore, MD, is an ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist practicing in Los Angeles at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Southern California. She received her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a nutrition expert and New York Times bestselling author of books Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide and Eating In Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family. She earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and went on to complete her dietetic internship at Columbia University.
Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, is a certified nutritionist who runs a private practice in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is a graduate of New York University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Master’s program.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
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