Effect of Exercise on Breast milk

So with all this running I’ve been doing it got me wondering if I am negatively affecting my milk supply and if my baby was still receiving adequate nourishment (I think I was just looking for reasons NOT to train for this half marathon). This led me to do some research! Yes, I know… of course I’m a nerd like that but I didn’t become an evidence-based practitioner for nothing…this is how we roll! So let me share with you bits and pieces of what I learned.

women after long run

In summary, breastfeeding is not negatively affected by exercise whether it be prolonged cardiovascular exercise or moderate to high intensity training. There is some evidence that lactic acid levels increase if you feed your baby immediately after a high intensity workout (Carey & Quinn, 2001), which could cause a change in the taste of the milk but has no negative effects on the baby and most of the time they don’t notice. Even then, you would have to REALLY exert yourself to see this kind of change in milk composition.

In terms of milk supply, as long as adequate fluid and calorie intake is achieved exercise has no negative effect on milk supply (Dewy et al., 1994). This is what I was most worried about because after my long run last week I tried to pump afterwards and got very little! Which was stressful obviously! Of course I panicked, and then my husband reminded me that I just fed her before I left so it had only been a little over an hour and a half. Duh, that makes sense. Also, my own personal hypothesis is this… your body probably puts milk production on hold while exercising because it is using the energy for your muscles, BUT most likely makes up for it later in the day.

When the composition of breast milk was studied it was also found that there was no change in immune factors (such as SigA, lactoferrin, and lysozyme), major minerals (calcium, phosphorus, etc) and major nutrients (fat, protein, lactose) (Fly, Uhlin, Wallace, 1998).

I also found this to be super interesting ….

“ recreational athletes who performed an average of 88 minutes per day of aerobic exercise during the 6 months of breastfeeding had less body fat and produced a slightly greater quality and quantity of milk than postpartum non-exercising women” (Lovelady et al., 1990)

So pretty much because I am exercising I am producing higher quality and quantity of milk as well as reaping all the other benefits of postpartum exercise such as; decreased incidence of depression, decreased stress, improved mood and behaviour and increased weight loss. Guess this half- marathon training is paying off for everyone, including my baby & husband!

Now I have to add, after my quick literature review I did find there is definitely  room for further research on the subject, a lot of the studies were from the 90’s and came from the same few researchers, but it’s just not a very highly studied topic so have to take what I could get!

So there is it, you can put your mind at rest…. breastfeeding and exercise are actually a good combo! Few things to remember…be sure to keep your fluid intake up, especially if it is a hot day out! It’s crucial to replace everything that you sweat out to avoid dehydration. I aim for 16 cups of water a day, and I usually have a coconut water or electrolyte beverage if it’s a day where I particularly sweat a lot. Also, losing 0.5-1lb a week while breastfeeding is perfectly healthy but you don’t want to lose too much weight too fast so be sure to replace some of the calories burned by exercise by having an extra snack afterwards.

In fitness & good health,

Natasha

Sources

Carey GB, Quinn TJ 2001, Exercise and lactation: are they compatible? Can J Appl Phys 26(1): 55–74.

Dewy K, Lovelady C, Nommsen–Rivers L, McCrory M, Lonnerdal B 1994, A randomised study of the effects of aerobic exercise by lactating women on breast-milk volume and composition. New Engl J Med 330: 449–453.

Fly AD, Uhlin KL, Wallace JP 1998, Major mineral concentrations in human milk do not change after maximal exercise testing. Am J Clin Nutr 68(2):345–9.

Lovelady C, Lonnerdal B, Dewey K. Lactation performance of exercising women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;52:103–9.

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March Madness Challenge

Fitness dog tongue out
Who is in?!

So I’ve decided that I am taking on my own challenge for the month of March. Although I have been working out religiously since I was 4 weeks postpartum it’s now time to step it up a notch. Here are my reasons why I feel I am ready for a more serious workout regime…

– I have been doing my core and pelvic floor exercises daily and feel that I am strong enough to stabilize while doing more complex movements and lifting heavier weights.

– I am no longer out of breath doing simple exercises! I’m not sure about everyone else but that first month back I was seriously winded everytime I did any sort of cardio.

– I am within 5 pounds of my target weight, this means that I can now focus on building muscle rather than losing weight. I think I have mentioned before that I like to track my progress by how I look rather than what I weigh since it’s not a very indicator of health, but I still like to be in the 135-145 range, which is good for my height (5’9″)

– My baby is 4 months old now! That means that she sleeps better at night, and we can go out more during the day. I know this isn’t the case for everyone but we are getting on a better schedule is key to developing a good workout routine.

– I have less and less relaxin in my system, meaning that my ligaments and joints are more stable which puts me at a lower risk of injury. Read my post here for more information on relaxin!

– This is pretty vain but we only have a few months until summer and I want to be back feeling great in my bathing suit!

So what does this mean? My goal is to lose inches, particularly in my hips and waist. I would like to gain muscle and decrease fat, WITHOUT harsh dieting, but rather healthy eating.  I have to be very careful because dieting severely affects my milk supply. I want to continue working out but try to incorporate some sort of physical activity every single day, including rest days. This doesn’t mean go hard at the gym everyday, as everyone’s body needs sufficient rest, but just overall be more active in terms of walking places or doing things around the home. I also am going to introduce some variety into my workouts, Crossfit is awesome BUT because of the intense  strain on your muscles it’s always best to balance this out with yoga, pilates, barre class, yoga, and at home body weight exercises and stretching.

I will be  tracking my progress with pictures and measurements. If you are postpartum or simply want to improve your fitness please think about joining me on this month long challenge! Just contact me now! I will help you by providing workout routines, meal plans, and tips and check-ins to help you stick with it! If you can do this for the month of March, thats 31 days towards a healthier lifestyle and a healthier you.

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The Benefit of Group Classes

 

Check out my little babe watching us today! I am so glad that I can bring her with me to workout, makes it SOOO much better! crossfit baby How many times do you go into a gym thinking, I just CAN’T do this today. Today was one of those days, I was still a little sore from my workout on Saturday so as I walked into the Crossfit gym and saw the WOD (workout of the day) on the board and I nearly walked out. Now let me tell you, even before pregnancy I was never much of a runner, actually, I hate running. I don’t mind doing power intervals but just normal outdoor running is not my favorite. And today I went to the ‘intense’ class where my Swolemate (haha, that word makes me laugh) and I were the only women in a class of very fit men. Anyways, so today the WOD was

1 mile run
50 wall balls (14 lbs)
800 m run
50 KB swings (30 lbs)
400 m run
50 Double unders
200 m run
50 squats

FOR TIME – 30 minute cap.

Now, as I started my run everyone else immediately took off and left me to run by myself (which I was totally okay with!), and I started off my usual way, thinking “ahhh…I should just walk it…I just had a baby…I haven’t run in over a year…etc, etc, etc”, then something clicked. I thought to myself….”you can do this, its only a mile…you’ve done this before, just one foot in front of the other”. As I kept repeating this mantra to myself I found that I was already halfway around the block, I focused on my breathing and in an almost trance like state made it back to the gym..1 mile down! I ran that mile in 9:12 and then went on to complete the workout in 25:56, which I thought was pretty darn impressive. Because I am still getting back into it, I modified it to suit my current level in terms of scaling down the weight, but overall I feel like I KILLED this workout. Today was the first day where i felt much more like myself, I am no longer the postpartum mama who can’t even lift a 35 pound bar, but rather the fit, athletic mom who can (almost) keep up with the boys!!

This is the reason that I love going to Crossfit. Many people ask me why I pay to attend classes when I am a trainer myself, I have equipment and places to workout, why would I bother to pay someone else to train me? Everyone, regardless of how much you know or how good a trainer you are, needs some external support and motivation to succeed. If I had gone out for a run by myself I would of NEVER pushed to run that much! But it is human nature that when you are around other people you want to do your best, look your best, and overall just be a better person. Well I shouldn’t say everyone is like that, haha, but you know what I mean. Attending group sessions or having someone else train me allows me to push myself just a little outside my comfort zone, it is in this small little space that you get remarkable results. Lastly, this develops a huge sense of accountability. If I say that I am going to workout I will be there, regardless of what else is going on in my life, because I don’t want to let someone else down. I know that my workout partner or coach would be disappointed if I didn’t make it, and therefore I probably workout 25% more than I would of if no one cared if I showed up or not. Think about this next time you contemplate spending money on your fitness and well being, it’s worth every penny!!

Cheers,
Natasha

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Should I workout while sick?

Exercise and the Common Cold

So I don’t know about everyone else, but I have found that since giving birth to my daughter I have had way more colds than usual! It must be the combination of less sleep and increased stress taking a toll on my immune system. The good thing is since I am nursing I pass those immunities onto our little one, so I’m the only one that has to suffer through these awful sicknesses! This is the second cold I have gotten, nothing crazy but still enough to make me feel crappy. It probably doesn’t help that we are going through a 4-month sleep regression so I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a while. I find it kind of crazy because before all this I had a bulletproof immune system. Thanks to working in healthcare I haven’t even had a sniffle in 3 years, even made it through a whole pregnancy without getting sick! Today I felt like being a smarty pants and doing some research, so just a heads up…this post is packed full of it! I know this can be boring for some but I am a closet nerd and this does slightly excite me.

The big question is

Should I still exercise with a cold?!

Out of courtesy to others at the gym I probably would find somewhere else to workout for a few days, nobody likes the guy beside them sniffling up a storm, but contrary to popular belief, exercise (in moderation) is actually good for you and won’t make your sickness worse, and hey, it may even make it better! There has been lots of research on how exercise prevents sickness, but not very much on its effect on the body once you’re already sick. The general consensus seems to be that if you have a cold (runny nose, headache) and not the flu (vomiting, fever) it is safe to participate in moderate exercise (walk, light jog, etc.), although heavy exercise isn’t recommended (and I feel like that would be pretty tough anyways). By the way I look at it any sort of activity is better than sitting around the house feeling sorry for yourself! You can read more about that study here. A recent review of the literature shows that the relationship between exercise and preventing colds works on a J shaped curve (see below), this means that moderate exercise is the best for preventing illness and decreasing the stress response in your body, but high intensity exercise can actually have a negative effect (so maybe all that Crossfit lately has been working against me a little).  If you would like to read more about this click here. Ultimately, working out 4-5 days a week at a moderate intensity level will help you to be the healthiest you can be!
J shaped immunity exercise and colds
As I sit here and contemplate if I should go to Crossfit tomorrow I came across a study by Rakel et. al (2013) that looked at the association between moderate exercise and mindfulness meditation and their effect on acute respiratory infection (common cold). They measured this based on how much money was spent on medications, doctor visits and missed days of work during the duration of the cold and flu season. They found that those who participated in mindfulness meditation vs those in the control group had the greatest cost benefit, and those who exercised also had a cost benefit, although lesser. This suggests that those participants missed less days of work and spent less money on medications and doctors visits, which implies fewer or less severe illnesses. Now this study is preliminary so there’s still work to be done on the subject but I think those results seem pretty promising! It is pretty much saying that even just thinking about being well can make you healthier? I’ll take it!
If you aren’t familiar with mindfulness meditation it is incredibility hard to describe, everyone who studies this sees it a little different based on their own background and beliefs. I did a big research paper in school on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), so this is why this study popped out at me as interesting. Basically mindfulness is a state of mind and a way of being. If you consciously make yourself more aware of how you feel and use this concept to guide your meditations it can ultimately lead to stress reduction, which can lead to less chance of getting sick! To explain this concept here is something I would say to a client to guide them through a mindfulness session for pain reduction. (I’m totally just making this up on the fly so bear with me here..)
I will ask you to close your eyes, breathe deeply, inhale and exhale, listen to your heartbeat, feel the blood pulsing through your veins, feel the slight tickle of hair on the back of your neck and warm sun on your face. Now focus on that nagging pain in your lower back. Visualize that pain dissipating, dissolving away, your muscles getting softer, your shoulders getting heavier, your breaths getting deeper, feeling more and more relaxed with each exhale, feel the pain leaving your body with each breath… Get the idea??

Here is an article regarding the healing power of mindfulness…
Here you can learn more about mindfulness meditation…

Okay, after totally veering off topic I think I came to my conclusion. Right now I am going to lie in bed and think about feeling better (mindfulness meditation)! Tomorrow will be day 5 of this annoying cold, so I will go on a nice walk (moderate exercise) as I have been doing all weekend and hopefully be back to normal by Tuesday! Power of positive thinking right? The most important thing while your sick…KEEP UP THOSE FLUIDS. Since I am nursing I am doing my best to drink tons of water to avoid dehydration, which drastically affects my milk supply (I learned from experience). Here’s hoping that I don’t get sick again this winter! One last thing, don’t forget that most cold medications aren’t recommended if your breastfeeding, so unfortunately like me you just have to tough it out. Bah.

As always, please consult your doctor before partaking in any physical activity. Each person is different and my recommendations are solely my own opinion and not medical advice.

References

Nieman DC. Exercise, upper respiratory tract infection, and the immune system. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994 Feb;26(2):128-39. Review.

Rakel, D., Mundt, M., Ewers, T., Fortney, L., Zgierska, A., Gassman, M., & Barrett, B. (2013). Value associated with mindfulness meditation and moderate exercise intervention in acute respiratory infection: The MEPARI Study. Family Practice, 30(4), 390–397. doi:10.1093/fampra/cmt008

Weidner TG1, Cranston T, Schurr T, Kaminsky LA. “The effect of exercise training on the severity and duration of a viral upper respiratory illness” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Nov;30(11):1578-83.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/health/nutrition/25best.html?_r=0

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Pregnancy Core Strength Exercises

As promised here are some core exercises that I started while I was pregnant and am still continuing today!

Transverse Abdominis (TA) Activation

  • Sitting against the wall, best to sit on a ball for beginners
  • Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling pull your belly button to your spine keeping everything tight. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
  • Repeat this 5-10 times increasing the amount of time spent in a static hold.
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – I think of a string attached from the inside of my bellybutton to the wall, I imagine this string shortening, pulling on my bellybutton and getting my stomach as flat as possible WITHOUT moving my ribs. This will ensure that you are working the right muscles!
  • Maintain good posture, shoulders back, head up.
  • FOR MORE OF A CHALLENGE – do this without a ball under you, in a sitting position supported by your legs.

Core strength wall sit

Kegels

  • Start by doing these in sitting, then try lying on the ground, side lying, or standing as I find the different positions activate different areas.
  • Feel as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine, pulling that pelvic floor up as high as possible, hold for 10 seconds then relax.
  • It is just as important to be able to completely relax these muscles (feeling almost as if you are going to go to the bathroom) as it is to tense them. Muscles only function properly if there is a good balance between tension and relaxation, therefore muscles that are too tight don’t work very well!
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – Think of a string going through the midline of your body out the top of your head. As this string shortens it pulls up on your pelvic floor. Try to activate this area without using any other muscles like your buttock or thighs!

kegel exercises

These exercises and daily walking and squats are the key to an easy and successful labor and delivery! Make time for exercise now before baby and you will reap the benefits later.

 

After Pregnancy… Exercises to rebuild that core and heal your diastasis!

 

TA Activation, Lying Down
  • Lying on the ground have your legs bent at a 90 degree angle
  • Take a deep breathe, as you exhale pull your stomach flat into the ground. Feel like your bellybutton is sinking.
  • I like to keep my hands on my stomach to make sure im working the right muscles, you should feel yourself ‘get skinnier’ without sticking your ribs out, or arching your back.
  • Back and shoulders should be flat on the ground with a slight neutral curve in your lumbar spine.

This is your starting position for the following exercises.

core strength activation

 

Heel Slides
  • From your starting position rest both heels on the ground. Slowly slide one heel out being careful not to not move anything other than your leg.
  • Do 5 on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.

core strength exercises

Leg lifts – Knees bent

  • From your starting position, take a deep breath, then as you exhale lower one leg down to the ground, touch your foot to the ground without resting and return to starting position. Try to not let your abdominals relax or arch your back.
  • If you cannot maintain a strong core position while doing this, start with going halfway to the ground.
  • Alternate legs, do 10 repetitions, rest, repeat 3 sets.

core strength exercises

Only when the above feels too easy, move on to the next exercise

Leg Lifts – Legs straight

  • From starting position straighten you legs. Keep your core tight and don’t let your back arch while doing this.
  • Take a deep breath in, as you exhale  lower one leg to the ground, bring back to starting position, repeat on other side.
  • Alternate legs, 10 repetitions,rest, complete 3 sets.

core strength exercises leg lifts

Hope you get the chance to try some of these ! The great thing is that they can be done in your bedroom with no equipment so they are easy to sneak in during nap time!

On another note, it’s really challenging to find pictures to demonstrate these exercises without infringing on some copyrights so I just took these myself after the gym really quick while the baby was still sleeping in her carseat!! So no judgement please! I am still getting my own body back and I have a long way to go,  but I am definitely feeling pretty great about where I am with my core strength right now. I was hoping to make a video but quite honestly between the baby crying and the dog barking I think it would take about 100 takes.

Take home points – key things to remember to do these correctly…

  • Never lift your head off the ground, keep a neutral neck, chin slightly tucked
  • Keep your core tight, as soon as your hips, lower back or anything else lifts off the ground or shifts in the wrong direction you are no longer working the right muscles.
  • BREATHE, it is important to breathe through these exercises as holding your breath doesn’t help much, and as much as that’s common sense its surprisingly hard to do sometimes!

See this picture for the WRONG way to do these exercises. By lifting your head up off the ground you are putting a lot of outward stress on your abdominals which can actually make your tummy look worse!

bad core exercises after baby

If you have any questions about any of these exercises please comment below or send me an email at natasha@fitmamasb.com and I will be happy to help!

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