Study Shows Pregnant Women are the Ultimate Endurance Athletes

A new study spells out what women have suspected for generations: pregnancy is the toughest endurance event your body can do.[1]

Cue the not-so-surprised gasps from mothers across the globe…

Pregnancy puts the same demands on your body as extreme multi-month endurance races do. The research team measured the oxygen and nutrient expenditure during a range of activities that use different muscle groups and organ systems, including ultra-running, swimming, cycling, trekking, and pregnancy. They found that these activities followed the same sustained expenditure curve, which graphs athlete’s and mothers’ energy usage while performing in their respective athletic events.

The study authors left out a key detail (not by oversight — it wasn’t the focus of the study). Pregnancy culminates with birth, which amounts to a few hours to several days of high-intensity interval training with the potential for tissue damage here and there. Imagine doing the Race Across America, a 3000-mile bike race spanning 12 states, then ending with a full day of Crossfit (no breaks!) that may or may not result in stitches.

Then there’s the recovery period. Once the athletic event comes to an end, someone wakes you up from your sleep every two hours and skims off the top of your energy and nutrient stores that would otherwise be put toward recovery.

You guys, women are fierce.

Think about it. When you’re pregnant, you’re a bodybuilder. While you’re going about your life, your body is busy stitching together a pair of lungs, linking all of the parts of baby’s digestive system, assembling a full skeleton, and so much more.

How to meet your body’s energy demands during pregnancy

You can talk to your OB/GYN about what to eat and how much to eat during pregnancy. Here are some ways to meet your body’s increased requirements while you’re growing a human.

Eat high-quality fats

Gram for gram, fat provides your body with more than twice the energy that carbohydrates provide. Not only that, but your brain and your baby’s brain is made up of over 60% fat.

Here’s how to choose the right fat.

Load up on deeply colored vegetables

Brightly colored vegetables are rich in nutrients for you and your baby. They also contain polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds that nourish and protect your cells and your baby’s developing cells and tissues.

Here’s a recipe for quick pickled vegetables. Make a big batch this weekend and you’ll have them on hand whenever you need some extra veg on your plate. Also: they’re pickles.

Breathe

During pregnancy, your oxygen demand goes up right along with your energy demand. A few deep breaths several times per day can give your cells the quick burst of oxygen they need. Here is an easy, stress-relieving box breathing exercise that you can practice today, and then it’s there for you whenever you need it.

Hug your mom and the mother of your children today. They’re the strongest people you know.

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