Keeping Up Energy Levels During Pregnancy

I was really tired during my first pregnancy. Or at least, I thought I was.

I was working full-time after all, heaving my bum and bump through the heat of the Dubai summer months as my due date approached. I was tired, but looking back now I certainly had nice periods or rest and “me-time”.

Fast forward almost three years and I’m heavily pregnant again…and completely knackered again. I’m not working full-time this time. No, I’m in full charge of a 2.5 year old tot. A tot, as awesome as he is, who is absolutely exhausting on every level.

My 9-hour office days sitting at a desk and moaning about my poor back have been replaced by 12 hours days entertaining him, cleaning him, feeding him, mediating meltdowns with him, entertaining him more, feeding him more, getting him to sleep, etc, etc, etc.

To put it bluntly, my days no longer revolve around me. They revolve around him.

And as lovely as our days can be, I am a heap of rags by the end of them. Yep, I kind of look back on my first pregnancy in slight awe at how much time I had to relax, read a book, bounce around on my birthing ball, and just generally sleep. Bliss!

Being an expat with no family around, no nanny to call upon, and currently no nursery to drop my son at for a few hours, I’m not going to lie, there have been points during this pregnancy where I have though “I really can’t do this, I’m just so tired”.

It was around 27 weeks of pregnancy following a week of horrifically low energy – you know, the low energy that makes you feel like your legs are made of lead – that I consulted nutrition coach and fitness trainer, Fiona Donald, from Urban Energy Fitness.

Meeting for a chat one early afternoon, she immediately asked about my daily routine, and the type of food I was getting in my body – especially in the morning. That particular morning, I had been rushing to get a reluctant Zachy ready and had speedily eaten a piece of toast with peanut butter. I had also shoved a banana in my bag to share with him later.

Now, I’ve always known that breakfast is an important meal, but following on from my weeks of extreme pregnancy nausea, it’s just a meal I sometimes find hard to stomach. As Fiona explained, however, breakfast is incredibly important for powering the body – especially when you’re powering for two. She told me to try and include protein in my breakfast, especially whole eggs since choline (found in egg yolks) is a brilliant source of slow-burning energy, and is also an essential nutrient for healthy fetal brain development.

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Next up was lunch. Again I explained that I am not particularly creative with lunch and that it usually constitutes a sandwich and a piece of fruit for Zachy and I. I also explained that as I get bigger – with less energy – I’ve been finding it harder and harder to go to the shops with my tot. Mainly because he acts like an insane chipmunk who has escaped its caged confines in a pet store! I’m not going to lie, I just cannot cope with solo shopping trips!!

Fiona explained that the best approach is to be prepared. Plan out meals. Cooks quick snacks in advance that I can grab and serve – such as chicken strips, meatball and veggie balls. Make nutritious dips, such as homemade hummus (actually so easy), guacamole, and pesto. Add a dash of colour with cucumber sticks, mini tomatoes and fruit. Try and make it fun!

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It really got me thinking about my meal planning (aka non-existent). I researched some nice food apps and ended up downloading the Jamie Oliver Ultimate app on my phone. Some recipes are WAY too complex for me, but the majority take around 20 minutes (and are always natural and healthy). I also researched some of the of the best food delivery services in Dubai, and now do the majority of our weekly grocery shops online (I went with Ripe FYI – it’s very good in terms of its local organic produce which hasn’t flown thousands of miles to be here, in addition to its price point). For meat, I send my husband to buy local meat from Geant on his lunch break. No more excuses for having no food in the house!

Next was snack-time. How can I snack on healthy foods when sometimes all I crave is sweet? Fiona had a chat to me about “Power Balls” and how excellent they can be in providing a healthy pick-me-up when my energy levels are waning. She gave me a great recipe to make some at home made up of almonds, walnuts, dates, goji berries and other delicious (and insanely healthy) ingredients. I made some with Zachy and they’re absolutely delicious!! (Check out the recipe below)

Overall, Fiona really drilled home to me the importance of powering my body, and ensuring that the extra calories that I need to consume during pregnancy are healthy (aka NOT cake!) For people who are active and exercise frequently, this should be around 500 extra calories per day. For people who are a little less active, it should be around 300. These extra calories should be loaded with protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. As Fiona told me, “Think of yourself as a nutrient funnel – your baby will take and take.” This is also excellent for baby’s future life outside of the womb, with a healthy pregnancy diet helping to curve cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes later in life.

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Since making these changes and getting more organised, I have to say that I’ve really noticed an increase in my enjoyment of food during this pregnancy – along with my energy levels!

Knowing how to better power my body has in itself been empowering as it has allowed me to take more control. On days when I am waning, I go over what I had eaten the day before and what I can eat that day to help overcome it. Eggs, avocados, bananas, lean meat is a huge part of my diet right now. Iron-rich foods (my husband has been more than delighted to cook steak!) and foods with lots of colour have been wonderful. It’s also been great to get Zachy involved when I prepare meals (oh, he loves nothing more than to “crack” an egg…aka crush it like the hand of god over the kitchen counter…)

I’m 38 weeks now. I am knackered…but it’s more from heaving my bump out of bed 7+ times a night for the bathroom. I know I’m in for more tiredness as the newborn days approach, but I feel confident that I am equipped in the knowledge of how to power myself to keep going (and keep up that liquid-gold milk supply when it comes in too!)

More Tips From Fiona:

“My mantra is to not to over-complicate things. As a general guide, try to follow this…”

  • Every meal should have about 1 palm of lean protein.
  • Every meal should have at least 1 fist of colorful vegetables.
  • Every meal should have at least 1 cupped handful of slow-digesting, high-fiber carbs (e.g. beans and lentils, colorful fruits, sweet or regular potatoes, and whole grains such as quinoa, oats, brown or wild rice, etc).
  • Every meal should have 1-2 thumbs of healthy fat.
  • Make sure to eat your meals slowly, and only eat until you are satisfied – not stuffed. Eating slowly will help you to be aware if you’ve had enough to eat.
  • Protein is always an important part of a healthy diet, but during pregnancy overall protein intake should be increased by around 25 grams during the second and third trimesters. This is best obtained via whole foods, though you can substitute with natural, unsweetened protein supplements if necessary. This protein becomes part of your baby’s structural development (bones, muscles and tendons).

And finally…

Date Power Balls Recipe!

  • 155g almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 100g walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons cacao powder
  • 360g dates
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seeds
  • 60g goji berries
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds

Blitz all ingredients together in a food processor.

Take teaspoons of mixture and roll into balls. Alternatively, press mixture in a baking paper lined tin approx. 20cm x 20cm. Place in fridge to set, and then cut into squares.

Store in fridge and also freezes well.

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Abbey x

P.s. Be sure to check out Urban Energy Fitness and its range of Mummy & Me classes – perfect for expectant and new mothers! This is Zachy and I doing Yoga in the Park!

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