I get asked quite often about popular postpartum topics such as pre-workout snacks, how many calories should be consumed after pregnancy, and when it’s safe to get back into running after having a baby. Since there is a lot of conflicting information out there, I pulled together answers to the 5 Most Frequently Asked Postpartum Questions and dropped all of it below in one easy-to-access place. So, here goes!
Do I need a pre-workout snack?
It really depends on when you work out. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you can exercise on an empty stomach, but if you need a little something to get you going, try eating half an apple or banana. Your body’s glycogen stores are full from the day before, so if you feel okay, you can go without food prior to your workout. Unless you’re planning on a high-intensity workout of at least 50 minutes in length, you should have enough glycogen stored in your body to fuel your workout. If you work out for more than 50 minutes, I recommend eating half an apple to help you get through the workout.
If you work out in the late-morning, afternoon, or evening, and are within a couple of hours of having eaten a meal, your muscles are full of energy and should have enough glycogen to power you through your workout.
*If you are breastfeeding, make sure you eat a snack of protein and carbohydrates (i.e. an apple with peanut butter, milk and a slice of bread, or yogurt and a few almonds) within an hour either pre- or post-workout. Also, be sure to stay well-hydrated before, during and after the workout.
How many calories do I need if I am breastfeeding?
Breast milk is made mostly of water, so it’s important that you’re drinking enough liquids throughout the day. Staying hydrated will not only help you maintain an adequate milk supply, but will also allow you to feel your best. The Institute of Medicine recommends that lactating women consume 3.8 liters of water per day. This equals about 16 cups. Sixteen cups may seem like a lot, but you can consume more than water alone to help you reach your daily hydration needs. Any non-caffeinated, non-sugary drink counts toward the 16 cups and foods (such as fruits and vegetables, which contain high concentrations of water) usually account for about 20% of water intake. In order to reach your hydration goals, you can create routines around liquid consumption; these will also encourage you to increase your fluid intake. For example, slicing fresh fruit into a large pitcher and filling it with water will give the water flavor without adding extra calories or sugar. Or, leaving a reusable water bottle by the door will remind you to take your fluids with you when you’re on the go. If your milk supply drops, many times it is due to dehydration, or not consuming enough water. So, be sure to strive for sixteen cups of water every day.
How can I get of the “shelf” that protrudes over my C-section scar?
The good news is you can and will get rid of the “shelf,” “muffin top,” or whatever ugly name we like to call it. There are two ways to go about getting that flat tummy back again – scar massage and daily core exercises.
First, you need to let your scar heal completely. Once your incision is fully healed, put your fingers down along the incision and move your incision/scar in every possible direction. Make sure to start gently and be aware that it may be uncomfortable and sore at first. It does not matter if your scar is four weeks old or 10 years old, you can still use gentle movement and massage to break up the scar tissue, which may cause adhesions to the abdominals, pelvic floor and surrounding muscles. Consistency is key and by taking the time to gently massage your scar every day, your “mummy tummy” will soon look and feel better. For more detailed information on how to massage sensitive scars/incisions, you can refer to the Ab Rehab Guide found in our Postnatal Slimdown Program.
Daily Core Exercises:
Exercising after a C-section should be done with caution. As long as your doctor is comfortable with them, you should be able to perform pelvic floor exercises soon after your surgery. You can begin with simple and safe core strengthening exercises such as Hold ‘Ems and Quick Squeezes, which can be found in the Ab Rehab Guide. These exercises take just a few minutes a day to perform and can be done anytime, anywhere. After your doctor releases you to exercise around the 6-8 week postpartum mark, you can start the Daily Core Exercises, which are also found in the Ab Rehab Guide – try it free here. These exercises should be done without pain. If you feel pain at any point in time, you should defer back to the Hold ‘Ems and Quick Squeezes until you can exercise pain-free. Of note, the Bridge and Clamshell exercises are very beneficial for C-section mamas, as they create stability as well as take the strain away from your incision area.
I am at the 3-4 month mark postpartum and stopped losing weight. What should I do to get the scale moving again?
This happens time and time again. Most of the time, we stop losing weight because we are overdoing it! This is why postpartum specific programs are so important; we gradually build up your strength and endurance. In order to avoid weight-loss plateaus, your workouts need to include three main components – strength, cardio and flexibility. Also, you should always warm up and cool down, especially during your postpartum recovery. Although we all wish that we could spot train or spot reduce our bodies (i.e. unfortunately, can’t crunch your way to a flat stomach), there is no such thing as spot reduction. You have to work the entire body to see any results. If you are a member of MIF and are using the Postnatal Slimdown 360 program, you’ve got your bases covered. Pairing toning, cardio and flexibility will help you get your pre-baby body back!
I want to start running again. What is the safest way to get back into it?
As a runner myself, I know how exciting it is to lace up those running shoes again after being pregnant for 9 months. But, it’s important to take it easy and to start off very slowly. You shouldn’t begin running again until you have clearance from your doctor and are two months postpartum, unless you have been very consistent with activating your transverse abdomius and pelvic floor. On the other hand, if you are a hard core runner, you can start running again 6 weeks post a vaginal delivery. Just be sure you get your doctor’s permission before you begin.
Below you will find a postpartum running schedule. If you have good core strength and stabilization, you can progress through the following recommendations more rapidly. Just listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, you may need to take things more slowly until you feel stronger. Otherwise, you should spend 2-3 weeks in each stage. Make sure you properly warm up by walking for a few minutes pre-workout and be sure to cool down with some additional walking and stretching. Remember, you never want to subtract to add — don’t put your pelvic floor at risk by upping the mileage too much and too soon.
Postpartum Back-to-Running Schedule:
• Timed I: Aim for 20 minutes of run 1 minute/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Timed II: Aim for 20 minutes of run 2 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Timed III: Aim for 20 minutes of run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Mileage I: Aim for 2-3 miles of run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute, repeat
- Mileage II: Aim for running 1 mile, walk 2-3 minutes, aim for running 1-2 more miles
- Mileage III: Aim for running 2 miles, walk 2-3 minutes, aim for running 1-2 more miles
Other considerations before you begin…
A strong pelvic floor will help you ease back into your running groove by minimizing pelvic pain, improving or preventing incontinence and allowing you to run with proper form, thus reducing injuries. To keep your pelvic floor strong, be sure to incorporate daily pelvic floor exercises into your routine. These exercises can be found in the Ab Rehab Guide.
As a rule of thumb, running alone isn’t the silver bullet to weight loss. It’s important to incorporate strength training and flexibility into any running routine. If you are 5 to 6 (or more) months postpartum, I recommend you try out our Ignite your Inner Athlete program (if you are a MIF member, it’s on your dashboard). You can also try one of our running mashup workouts (these are included with your MIF membership). Because running happens in only one plane of motion, it’s a must that you strengthen your core as well as all of the muscles that move in the lateral direction (i.e. gluteus medius). Toning will help you stay injury-free, make you a stronger runner and enable you to sprint from one weight loss goal to the next!