“Can I Exercise and Diet if I am Breastfeeding?”

Varun Sharma
Kshitij Roy

 | 1 minute to read
Fitness Myths

The first thing in most of the women’s mind after a month of having their baby is to get back in shape. That extra weight she has gained during pregnancy has to go and in many cases its a contributing factor in baby blues and PPD. The point where most of them get stuck is

Should I start exercising or go on a diet if I am feeding? Will the milk Supply or quality get affected if I start working out? How much calorie restriction should we plan to lose fat but not affect lactation? and will my baby’s growth get affected by it? Let's answer these questions one by one but first understand the process in brief. How many Calories does it take for lactation? In terms of Maternal metabolism, pregnancy ends not with the birth of the baby but when the baby starts weaning. So if you are hurrying upon increasing your energy expenditure read ahead... Women who breastfeed require approximately 500 additional kcal/day to 650-kcal/day(2 different studies hence range mentioned) beyond what is recommended for non-pregnant women. Quantification of estimate is quite simple: Mean volume of breast milk produced/day = 780 ml average energy in 100 ml milk = 67kcal. 7.8 x 67 kcal If women do not consume the extra calories, then body stores are used to maintain lactation. Once we have established this we know that we are already on a calorie deficit of 500 cals. Yeah!!! Can I go on a calorie deficit diet? You don't need to go on big deficits as you are already expending a lot of calories. Just quantify your food so that total deficit is somewhere around 300 cals from current calorie intake at which you are maintaining and No Weight loss during lactation does not usually impact the quantity or quality of breast milk unless done on severe deficits and non-quantified nutrition. If I am not exercising do I need protein in my diet? Protein output in milk during 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding totals approximately 1,500 g (1.5 kg). So for if we take a 60-kg woman with 25% body fat, lean body mass and assume that she is consuming the RDA for protein for a non-pregnant, non-lactatingwoman, she would need to mobilize about 19% of her lean tissue to support 6 months of milk production. That's quite a lot! The recommended daily allowance for protein during lactation is an additional 25 g/day. So make sure your protein intake is on point. Can I start working out and will it affect milk production? There have been many cohort and randomized studies on this and almost all concluded the same. A group of sedentary, exclusively breast-feeding women were randomly assigned to an exercise (E) or control (C) group at 6–8 wk postpartum. E subjects performed aerobic exercise 45 min·d−1, 5 d·wk−1, for 12 wk. Resting metabolic rate (RMR), energy expenditure, body composition, and dietary intake were measured at 6–8, 12–14, and 18–20 wk postpartum. There were no significant differences between groups in milk volume or composition, infant weight gain or plasma prolactin concentrations. The authors concluded that breastfeeding women can safely begin an exercise program without jeopardizing lactation. So Yes, absolutely you can start working out. But depending on your workout history and experience it varies. If you are an absolute beginner it can be as simple as a long walk to start with and slowly adding home workouts and resistance band workouts. Will it affect Bone density during lactation? During lactation, women may lose up to 10% of bone mineral density (BMD). But resistance training can help you cope up with that too. To evaluate this 55 women were randomized to intervention group (weight-bearing aerobic exercise and resistance exercise) or control group (no exercise) for 16-week, with a 1-year postpartum follow-up. BMD was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and it results suggested that resistance exercise may slow bone loss during lactation, resulting in higher BMD levels at 1-year postpartum. Takeaway: 1. Start with smaller deficits in diet and don't do aggressive caloric restrictions. 2. Make sure you have optimum protein intake in your diet. 3. Start exercising slowly based on your workout experience and calorie intake. I have not covered micronutrients and their role and effects during lactation in this article. Will write in detail in the next one. Until then. Keep grinding!! References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104202/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235579/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17517152 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8289849 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21349230 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30696336 https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/128/2/386S/4724015

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