1st Trimester: What to expect- Exercise, Nutrition and more

health and fitness Jan 16, 2021

Simply put the first trimester is hard. You feel like death and look like you have been eating at a buffet everyday!  It is the first step to 10 months of a different life so let's talk a little about what to expect for your body, exercise, nutrition, and supplements in the first trimester.

General Changes

I personally gain more weight than the recommended amount in the first trimester.  They say 3-5 pounds is normal, but I always smash those numbers!  If you are doing your best, try to be patient. In the second trimester chances are you will feel a bit better and can start moving more and make better food choices with nausea not being in the way. 
I am doing my best and I know that my body will do what it needs to prepare for a baby. Those recommendations are stupid anyway!  Your uterus is normally 5-7 cm but after having kids increases in size to 8-12 cm to start, and after twins, the doctor said it is even bigger!  My belly started showing around week 9, unlike my first pregnancy. In your first pregnancy you will show slower and each after you will show faster and faster!

The Bloat is REAL

I am ALWAYS  bloated the first trimester on top of a fast popping belly. Your body is working hard to make a baby so digesting food falls on the back burner of tasks needing to be done!  The hard and discouraging part is you are not really showing yet, but you look like your gaining weight.  Don’t worry, the bloat goes away and your belly will grow!  Unfortunately, be ready for some mean number two’s with constipation – you might want a stool softener. This is something else that falls on the back burner in the beginning!

Hormones & Cellulite

Estrogen & other baby-making hormones obviously increase during this time as well.  The problem is these hormones are also linked to hindering your fat metabolism.  The hips and thighs are areas more under the control of hormones in women as they are reserved for pregnancy and lactation.
Estrogen and a few other female hormones are known to increase cellulite … yep…I’m not kidding, so don’t get discouraged!  This happens to all of us. I saw an increase in cellulite instantly within the first trimester!  With every pregnancy it increases and after pregnancy it decreases.


As far as exercise goes, there is not a ton you MUST modify the first trimester.  However, the first trimester is NOT the time to start up a workout regime, but if you were active and working out before pregnant, you can basically keep doing it. 

That said, you do need to monitor your heart rate. Ask your doctor for heart rate numbers. My doctor said 150 and take breaks, but ask your own for his/her guidance on your suggested heart rate number.

Now though I don’t have to modify based on rules, I modify because I am exhausted!  I am freakishly tired but I don’t give up on working out I do what I can.  People often think, “I can’t do exactly what I did before so I will stop.”  DON’T STOP just do your best!  In my second trimester my energy is coming back, my weights go up and my stamina increases again.

For Example:
-My sprints turn into speed-walking uphill

-My weights for squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, etc. all decrease.  I simply am just too tired to lift as much

-My pull-up reps went down after week 7.  I was doing 4 sets of 6,5,5,4 strict pull-ups by week 8, I couldn’t even do 3 in a row!  At this point I am still not trying to start them back up with the extra energy in trimester two because they irritate Diastasis Recti as well.

-I stop doing HIIT workouts because I simply do not have the energy for them

Ab Exercises

I already do mainly DR safe exercises.  Almost all ab exercises can be done while pregnant because you are not putting pressure on the center of your core.  HOWEVER, I still do some non-DR moves to improve DR status like planks, push-ups, and pull-ups.  I cut these moves out as soon as I feel I am not engaging my core correctly. 

My first pregnancy I didn’t know to cut them so I didn’t and got Diastasis Recti.  My second pregnancy I healed it but cut them out again around week 15.  This pregnancy I cut them out around week 9.  All due to my stomach poking sooner and losing control of it.

I still do oblique work like side bends and side planks (Both DR safe) but cut the rest out for typical abs. People are funny they think you need rectus abdominal (6 pack) work while pregnant. Why would you try to work a muscle that's being stretched out to the MAX and not in position the way it should be???  What you DO need is Transverse abdominal breathing and pelvic floor work. That will help your core shrink back faster than any plank or crunch EVER WILL.

What I Do

I focus on low impact cardio: stair stepper, uphill speed-walking, kickboxing (those are my 3 favorites) biking, swimming, etc. I work hard to do 30-40 min 3-5 days a week. If you hit 20 that's a win too! Take breaks as needed but I do my best to still work hard while watching my heart rate.                                                         
I also don’t give up on strength training. I know for my lower body the amount of weight I can do decreases as I mentioned, but I do my best to stay with a routine. 2-3 days a week I will lift my legs first and then do a little less cardio or no cardio at all. The activity you do first during a workout reaps more benefits and I don’t want my legs to be tired from cardio I want them fresh. SO LEG DAY ALWAYS BEFORE CARDIO. I do 5-8 lifts for my legs superset into 3-4 sets.

On days I do upper body I normally pair cardio after or before because I don’t feel like doing the stair-stepper first will hurt my ability to do a bicep curl  I superset for two muscles in everything upper body during upper bodywork. For example, I will do Back and Shoulders and superset 2 moves that focus on these 2 body parts.  You can also do push and pull days.  See below for an example of a superset for a back and shoulder day.

Set 1 
Back exercise 1
Shoulder Exercise 1
Repeat 3-4 times

Set 2
Back exercise 2
Shoulder Exercise 2
Repeat 3-4 times

Set 3
Back exercise 3
Shoulder Exercise 3
Repeat 3-4 times


I don’t track macros my first trimester.  I intuitively eat. If you want to track macros in the first trimester you totally can, but you don’t need any more calories to help the baby grow. Where tracking gets hard is I know that carbs help me from getting nauseous, so I do increase them a bit but am aware of lowering my fat intake to compensate since you don’t need extra calories the first trimester. 

So if you want to track and know you need carbs to help with nausea then increase your carbs and decrease your fat so your calories stay similar and DON’T try to cut.  If you are on cutting macros (a deficient of what you need) you will not survive. You are making a baby and you need maintenance macros not cutting! 

I don’t force myself into a box with macros during this trimester because I am used to them and feel I can do intuitive eating with macros awareness VERY much in mind and do ok without going crazy.  You don’t need a meal plan.  I can tell you exactly what I eat but everyone is different and this is not the time to copy what someone else does. 

This is the time to LISTEN to your body.  What does it need?  Choose as many whole foods as possible but just do your best.   Here is a list of foods broken down by macros to help you with choices

Food Chart: Grocery List


I still drink protein shakes.  I am picky about my shakes and use all-natural, GMO-free, ultra-filtered cold press protein.  When it is made this way it’s the best quality protein and a label will say it!  I use MRM Nutrition (40 % off with code delishfit). When I am not pregnant I SWEAR by a BCAA and when I go off it I feel like I lose definition really quickly actually. 

They help you protect your muscle from being used as energy from a workout which makes the body use fat instead! While pregnant I stop taking a BCAA. I have found ZERO studies saying it is good or bad. I have looked everywhere. I asked 3 doctors and there is no info.  BCAA’s naturally occur in our bodies, so they aren’t fake, but a supplement helps it elevate A LOT.

There are other natural things that in normal levels are fine but in high levels could be toxic for a fetus. I simply don’t take it because if there is no research I don’t want to risk it. That is my personal choice.  It could be totally fine but I NEVER want to look back and wonder.  You can decide for yourself.  There is no set rule on that. I just err on the side of caution.

 JUST TREAD WATER…Keep your eyes above the waves

At the end of the day you are making a baby… be nice to yourself.  It is really hard.  REALLY REALLY HARD.  Some days I feel like I don’t even recognize myself because I am so tired and sick and just a mess but I just keep trying.  Let go of the thought of being perfect because that's why people give up altogether. They say well I am gonna get fat anyway so why not skip my workout and eat this cookie…I AM PREGNANT I DESERVE IT. 
My response to that is yes you are and yeah you do deserve a reward, but make it be your confidence in yourself.  In your ability to try to be different.  Yes, you're going to gain weight but the level of difficulty involved and your ability to lose it in many cases can be helped (I understand some exceptions based on medical needs while pregnant) if you keep trying. 
You are not dying… you are pregnant so just don’t give up on yourself!  Keep your eyes above the waves even if you think the first trimester is gonna swallow you whole… it won’t I promise!  And yes you can have a cookie sometimes just don’t get crazy!  LOVE YOU GUYS! 

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