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Exercise, food and 'afternoon sickness' - My musings from Trimester One

Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint, and this being my third pregnancy I wanted to give you my honest overview of my experiences so far; How I fit exercise in during trimester one, how I dealt with sickness & impalpable tiredness, the mum guilt for my two girls, and how I ate to support my body through what I believe to be the hardest trimester of all three.

Being my third pregnancy, I have had the same opinion throughout all three - trimester one is often the hardest both mentally and physically. I felt a cocktail of both excitement and fear at the same time as those two lines appeared on the pregnancy test in November 2022. Along with the excitement, the uncertainty that messes with the mind left me with crippling anxiety to reach that 12 week mark quicker than ever. This, amongst other things, sent my mind wild - How will my girls react to a new baby? What if it goes wrongs? What if I cant work? What if my clients dont think I am able for my job? What if I cant share the love equally between all three kids?

I decided for the first time in 3 pregnancies to tell someone outside my family unit, it wasn't all anxiety and fear, I began to get very excited about the prospect of our growing family but holding back that secret was too much for me. So at this point I decided to tell a couple of my closest friends, something I hadn't done before the 12 week mark on my previous pregnancies. I did it because, should this not be a viable pregnancy, I wanted a support network outside of my family who would be there for me if I needed them. This was the best decision I made, telling someone so I had someone if I needed them to speak to about my worries and equally my excitement.

About 6 weeks into this pregnancy the nausea began...I had never had this before with the girls. For me it wasn't morning sickness and I know for many thats when it is at its worse, but instead I suffered from 'afternoon sickness' which I later found out is extremely common! Don't be fooled by the title 'morning sickness' or think something is awry if you only get it in the afternoons or evenings - apparently this is very common - so it should be really renamed 'pregnancy sickness'. Between the hours of 2-5pm each day I would have either an almighty migraine or nausea that meant being semi horizontal whilst I worked was the only way!

To get me through this, I spoke with my healthcare professional about anti nausea medication which helped a lot, but I also assessed my diet and what I was eating and when throughout the day. As I had pinpointed my worst times, I knew I needed to fuel my body well in the mornings and have an early lunch ready for the onslaught at 2pm.

For breakfast I aimed for a healthy balance of carbs, fats & proteins - including a protein shake (see my favourite recipe below) with granola or a bowl of plain porridge (carbs) with 1tbsp peanut butter (fats) and some berries. This set me up for a morning of training my 1:1 clients or bootcamps:

Protein Shake - watch the video here

1 cup frozen raspberries

1 banana

1 scoop of chocolate protein shake

1 ice cube

Splash of milk

Splash of water

30g Granola

For my lunches I tried to stay away from fatty foods despite all I wanted to eat was cheese toasties. I would swap it for recipes like salmon & cream cheese pasta (recipe below) or bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon (yes salmon was all I wanted) with a side of veggies like cucumber & tomatoes. My palate was simple yet demanding, so cheese was often in my diet but in smaller quantities that what my cravings desired!

My 'Go To' Lunchtime Pasta

1 salmon fillet cooked or chicken breast

75g wholewheat pasta

40g light cream cheese

1/2 cup Frozen peas

2tbsp pasta water

Sprinkling of grated cheese on top

In the afternoons when sickness set in, I wouldn't touch a morsel of food but when I did want to eat, chocolate digestives or rice cakes with hummus were an excellent go to for me as well as homemade energy bars (see recipe below). Plain and simple - sweet or savoury - whatever I desired. It goes without saying, my water intake remained at 2.5-3L per day (pre pregnancy I was like this too) so dont forget to reach for the fluids!

Oat & Banana Energy Bars

3 mashed ripe banana

2 cups plain oats

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 tbsp maple syrup/honey

Handful of dried fruits

Bake for 15 mins at 180 degrees

Makes roughly 12 squares

In the evenings all I wanted was meat - from burgers to chilli con carne to spaghetti bolognese - again, we worked on having nutritiously dense meals that still satisfied my cravings. Lean burgers with sweet potato fries, lettuce and tomato for example.

Being my third pregnancy, I did start to 'show' a lot quicker than I expected, so by 10 weeks I was in that stage pregnancy where I looked like I'd just over eaten for too many weeks it was now catching up with me! Pregnancy is hard, on both your mental and physical capabilities and not feeling yourself in your own body is very common and to be expected. For someone who takes great care in eating well and moving their body, it is sometimes hard to overcome the guilt of letting those slip. I have one of those bodies that when I put on weight it goes around my stomach and upper thighs and I felt like, even though I am growing a baby, that I was back to my unhealthy looking 25 year old self that fits badly into jeans. I tried to eat as well as I could through the first trimester, but I honoured the cravings as best I could. It can be a difficult time for many as we tend to reach for the higher energy foods over nutritious ones, so striking a balance over time helped me immensely, especially when I felt guilty for binging on certain foods. I remind myself I was eating them in moderation and for fuel and survival in trimester one!

The insatiable tiredness got me bad this time, with two toddlers (3.5 and 2.5 years) at the weekends I really struggled to keep up with them and combining it with the sickness it felt like a never ending hangover despite the fact those days are long gone. So I would invent games which involved me sitting on the sofa and them bringing toys up to me and reading and doing colouring - something I know I will be doing in trimester 3 as well! I felt immense guilt that I wasn't my usual bouncy and fun self, but again, reminded myself that I'm growing a small human which is taking all my body's amazing energy to grow, so I must honour those levels of energy and the bursts I get. 'Mum Guilt' was sky rocketing in this trimester as we didn't tell the girls until I was 15 weeks, once we felt comfortable with our timings and reassured by the midwives. So I conserved energy as best I could for the weekends and did what I could with them. I was lucky enough to call on friends and family to help on days I was too sick or tired, so if someone offers to help - dont say no, say thank you. The tiredness and (hopefully) nausea do pass, but it's ok to reach out and ask loved ones for a helping hand. You are not invincible, you are human.

"Honour your energy levels, move when you feel like, not because you feel you have too"

Moving onto exercise because that is what I do. When we first found out I was pregnant, I felt totally myself, so was able to go about my usual routine of 4-5 workouts per week - splitting lower, upper and full body workouts plus the two bootcamps. When the nausea and tiredness sank in, I began to tapper back hugely on my exercise - something I preach to all my clients - honour your energy levels, move when you feel like, not because you feel you HAVE too due to a routine you used to have before pregnancy. You can try something short and sweet like this workout on days you have that burst of energy.

Or something a little more challenging with light dumbbells like this is you're up to it:

My strength workouts went from 4-5 a week down to 1-2 per week. I still got my daily steps in each morning on the creche run, but my strength workouts decreased and for good reason - I didn't have the energy, or the power! Conserving energy for my clients and my family was my priority, so on days I had a bit more, I would focus on full body workouts with lighter weights as opposed to my usual split. This meant I was hitting all the major muscle groups and keeping my muscles stimulated each workout, as I didn't know when I would get the next one in, if at all, that week!

Trimester one is the start of the most exciting journey - whether it's your first or your fourth, no two pregnancies are the same and a life changing event is about to happen. You want to share it with the world but social pressures say you cant until 'X date'. I did share it with others, and a secret shared felt like a secret halved - I felt I had support and help from my closest friends which is what I needed to get through it mentally.

I know I’ll disagree when I’m in trimester three and say it is the hardest physically, but mentally trimester one takes the biscuit for me every time. Not that you need to explain anything to anyone - but it comes with all the extra anxiety of reaching that first milestone in pregnancy, that you can’t tell anyone WHY you want burgers and smarties at the same time, why you keep yawning your head off or your need and desire to move your body has just gone out the window. You can’t explain to your children why you cant play, or to your friends why some days you have energy and others you don’t, you can’t explain why you are getting sick all the time from any small pathogen than crosses your path - Trimester one can really be difficult both physically and mentally, so remember to be gentle on yourself, move when you want to and honour your energy levels and food cravings - trimester two lies in wait for you when you'll begin to feel yourself again!

It's important to remember that pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint, and my goodness trimester one can feel like it's a year long. This is why I have designed the Online Workout Channel with over 60 workouts between 10 and 30 minutes long - to help you work around fluctuating energy levels, build strength, support your body and the growing baby. It helps you build a strong, resilient body and also assist with the postnatal recovery and prepare you physically for labour and birth. You can read more about the channel here and start your 7 day free trial today!

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