Pregnancy, Paleo(ish), and Intermittent Fasting

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Lori and Baby

A few posts back I mentioned that my wife and I are expecting. Lori’s pregnancy is at 39 weeks now, which means our hospital bags are packed, the gas tank is full, and I’ve got the driving route to the hospital so memorized that it’s all I dream about.

In this post I write about Lori’s journey as it relates to her diet, her “modified” intermittent fasting, and her usual exercise routine.

Pregnancy in Later Life

I’m in my early 40s and Lori’s 38. At this stage in life, fertility is generally a concern. And if the woman manages to become pregnant, doctors group her pregnancy into the high-risk pregnancy category.

All this, of course, is based on statistics. But we also knew the stats are based on factors that can be controlled, especially in pregnancy where nutrition and lifestyle have a significant influence.

So even before we attempted to make a baby, Lori implemented a diet I’ve promoted for years — mostly whole, real food. This simply means she generally eats food that’s closest to its natural physical state.

In particular, she minimized (but not eliminated) refined food. This means she ate very little grain-based food, such as bread, pasta, etc, even if labeled “whole grains.” Here she followed the Paleo principles of avoiding phytotoxins such as lectin and anti-nutrients like phytates, found in un-sprouted, un-soaked grains, legumes and nightshade vegetables.

We are not, and have never been, militant about the Paleo diet. We still enjoy non-Paleo items, just in reasonable amounts.ย The primary key has been for Lori to consume nutritious food and to avoid excessive weight gain.

Nothing has changed from what The Lean Saloon has been promoting.

Intermittent fasting

I haven’t seen studies proving short-term fasting (~12 to 18 hours) is dangerous to the mother and fetus, and there are countless case reports throughout history of women fasting for religious reasons and yet experiencing successful full-term births to babies that grow into healthy, normal adults.

I’ve searched through the literature on short-term fasting and pregnancy, concluding ultimately there’s no concern for us, and that the best plan was for Lori to listen to her body.

And perhaps the greatest benefit she gained from her prior experience with intermittent fasting was learning to let go of an arbitrary eating schedule and the stress and obsession that typically come with one. She eats mostly whole, real food and she eats whenever she feels hungry.

Exercise

She exercises twice a week, each time doing a combination of strength training and some metabolic conditioning. On other days she just moves around a lot. She and I walk often to our favorite coffee house, Philz, to sit in their outdoor patio, enjoying the sun and a good cup of coffee (yes, Lori drank quality coffee throughout her pregnancy).

Her exercise in summary: she lifts some weight, she elevates her heart rate for short spurts, she walks a lot, she moves around. She is definitely not obsessive with working out.

What has been Lori’s experience?

  • At her age, Lori was quite fertile — got pregnant super easy. (Because we ate the same diet, I probably remained happily fertile, too.)
  • Her glucose tolerance tests were consistently perfect — zero sign of gestational diabetes
  • Her urine tests (at every doctor’s appointment) showed normal proteins, etc.
  • Blood tests, heart rate, blood pressure, etc., always well within normal limits
  • Fetal growth and stats were consistently normal
  • Fetal heart rate was consistently within normal range
  • All ultrasound sessions could not make the doctor any happier
  • Lori has not experienced the common negative symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, cravings
  • She has not exhibited the negative physical changes commonly observed in pregnancy, such as swelling, varicose veins, mood swings, etc

Life as Normal

Perhaps the most liberating part of the experience was that Lori experienced physical “normalcy.” (I would not be so presumptuous as to write this post without Lori’s personal account.)

For Lori there has been no strange cravings. Her maternal weight gain has been well within normal. She experienced absolutely no fatigue. She moves like she’s not even pregnant. I often suspect that she’s hiding a medicine ball under her shirt.

As of this writing, Lori is 3 centimeters dilated, yet today we walked a couple of miles at Stanford Shopping Center, enjoying the sun, the beautiful weather, and even shared a small cup of Hagen Daz ice cream.

A wonderful afternoon.

Perhaps we ought to knock on wood, as there’s still the big moment to come. As such, our hospital bags are packed. I think Lori’s had enough of the baby’s roundhouse kicks to her bladder.

Conclusion

I’m not claiming that a Paleo(ish) diet and intuitive intermittent fasting made Lori’s pregnancy smooth sailing, but her pregnancy is a reflection of how a healthy body can support the rigor of pregnancy.

And we all already know what to do to create a healthy body.

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24 Responses to Pregnancy, Paleo(ish), and Intermittent Fasting

  1. Chris says:

    Beautiful photo. Good luck with the birth!

  2. lolo says:

    Efficient, strong, high quality parents are really hard to find. Almost a miracle this days. So yea, that’s one lucky child right there. btw, don’t forget to keep that saturated fat up! Good job!

  3. Mimi says:

    Yeah, your baby’s lucky to have parents so attuned to their wellness. Best of luck with EVERYTHING! Um…you might want to sleep now. A lot. When my mom had my sister I barely slept at all the first week and I wasn’t in your position as pater familias.

  4. Phil says:

    First, I just want to say congratulations! My wife and I had our second child last week. Ever since I found your blog, I fasted longer and ate less real food. The results were amzing! I have only dropped around 3 lbs. (3 weeks), but my body fat dropped ( my abs are now pooping (I meant popping, the new baby has me saying some crazy things lately! You will find out). Thanks for this blog and keep up the good work. \\

    Again good luck and congratulations!

  5. Sigi says:

    What, no pickles-dipped-in-chocolate-mousse cravings? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Warmest wishes for an easy delivery (not to mention a safe delivery of Lori to the hospital!), much joy in this new phase of your lives, and continued wellness all around.

  6. jaysond says:

    well its definitely NOT a coincidence!

  7. Iris says:

    I remember having read that of women gains sufficinet “lean mass” (placental weight and blood volume) fetal heigh/weight/health are positively influenced while fat gain doesn`t correlate at all with pregnancy outcome. It would be interesting if nutritional factors (food choices) could help in developing those factors rather than fat…

  8. Jason says:

    There’s an interesting article about shaping your baby’s food preference before birth you may find interesting since you mentioned your wife’s diet. Gues there may be a preference for Hagen Daz ice cream as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-shaped-before-birth

  9. jaysond says:

    today i was reading up on some old blogs. i guess i just need to say i love whole and natural food, i love the IF lifestyle and i love being able to eat dark chocolate everyday! just love it!

  10. Nic says:

    If you have time, read this post about Paleo baby. Very good.

    http://hawaiianlibertarian.blogspot.com/2011/05/paleo-baby.html

  11. Leo says:

    Johnny
    When you say that it’s okay to eat non-paleo items just in reasonable amount, can you quantify it aproximately? Like for example eating no more than 20g of sugar a day or no more than 100g of refined carbs a day or no more than two desserts a day or not more than one refined food per day.

    Yesterday I had bacon and eggs then cottage cheese and yogurt (don’t care if they aren’t paleo, I consider them healthy foods) and a big salad with avocado. My refined foods indulgences have been two croissant with apricot jam and half a glass of ice-cream. How do I know if that was in moderation or too much “junk” food?

  12. sondrarose says:

    Johnny thanks for the upbeat & informative post! Wishing you & Lori a wonderful birth!

    Here’s my guest blog post on Primal Pregnancy that was posted last week:
    http://www.primaltoad.com/primal-pregnancy/

  13. One of my readers posted today about your site so I came over to visit. Good Luck on the baby. And I like your ideas. You might find todays blog at my site interesting. Dr. Jack Kruse

    http://jackkruse.com/intermittent-fasting-and-leptin/

  14. Mike says:

    Johnny,

    Just came across your blog via Jack Kruse’s site comments—excellent posts, and congrats on the pregnancy. My wife is 32 weeks, and both of us are also Paleo. Anyhoo, nice to see another site along the lines of Martin’s Leangains. Keep up the good work.

  15. Sue says:

    How did everything go with the birth etc. Look forward to an update.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Sue,

      In Lori’s own words:

      “It was easy.”

      There was no complication.

      The baby was born at 8.1 lbs, and all the typical baby tests they did at the hospital showed perfect results. The baby is now as healthy as she could be. She’s gorgeous with a head full of beautiful hair with awesome high-lites!

      She had a latch problem initially and wasn’t getting adequate milk, but that seemed to have been the result of poor breastfeeding technique. A lactation consultant resolved that in one session. Baby is growing 1 to 2 ounces every day at this point — she’s up to over 10 pounds already!

      Of course, I’ve been busily adjusting to fatherhood, which is kicking my ass in a way that a killer crossfit workout does… except this is 24/7.

      Thanks everyone for your patience as I figure out which way is north. I’ll be back to posting, hopefully soon rather than later. I’ve learned some new perspectives on IF that I’ve never considered before. Let’s just say that, throughout the adjustment period, the sleep deficit, the random stress pattern, and the endless baby stuff, IF has been a silent aide in the background!

      Best,
      Johnny

  16. jaysond says:

    johnny, congrats. i knew the baby was here when you wernt posting for a while. again congrats. i have had one question lingering a bit. what are your thoughts on matcha green tea breaking a fast? i know that tea, moderate coffee and water have almost no calories but when i do the research on matcha green tea, one TBS has about 30 calories and a small amount of protein. i take a TBS everyday of good quality matcha and i take it straight, no added anything. i usually wait until noon when i break my fast but do you think i have too? i start my fast at 7pm because i go to bed at 7pm (wake up at 3am) so if i had my TBS of matcha at 530am instead of coffee do you think it would damage the fast?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi jaysond,
      Good to hear from you, friend.
      I often break a fast with matcha tea as well.
      I have no issue with a few calories from tea, coffee or even a *small* handful of nuts.
      As I’ve written in the past, these minimal amount of calories are just a blip in the fasting effect.

      The brand of matcha I’ve grown to love is:

      http://www.breakawaymatcha.com/categories/Matcha/

      Check out his blog, too.

      Best,
      Johnny

  17. Jordan says:

    Hello Johnny,

    First, I hope everything is going fine for you, your wife and now the baby. It’s good to hear those recent good news.
    If you don’t mind, I would like to have your thoughts and advices. So, I began law school this year and as you can imagine university and studies in general are quite stressful and exhausting.
    I don’t sleep that much (have to wake up early!) so the day and fast is longer, I have to concentrate, sitting on a chair, listening to the professor (etc.) for most part of the day.
    This context (plus the cooler weather that plays an important part I think) tends to trigger cravings and my fast (so my diet) isn’t going as well as it was during my summer vacation. I’ve recently been at the weight I estimate is ideal for me but the last few days I’ve indulge those cravings (like when I come back from school or in the afternoon, as opposed to when I was in summer when I generally eat one meal, dinner, that generally included non-paleo foods and I still managed to stay lean).
    I fear that if I don’t get back at my healthy and non-stressful diet/intermittent fasting schedule I’ll gain more and more weight. I’ve been there last year (perfect weight at summer then gaining weight throughout stressful studies) and that’s really not fun. I want to enjoy my ideal weight year round without having to wait to gain too much weight to fight for losing it approaching summer.
    You seem to be in a similar situation currently with the baby and all so I’m sure you have some advices/tricks that have been helpful for you. I really hope that it will be possible to be successful at school without having to let down my diet and the silouhette I enjoy. The opposite situation will just add more stress…

    Thanks in advance and I wish you the best for the future!

  18. Mela says:

    Hi Johnny!
    Ive been following Lean Saloon for a while!
    I have had two babies in the span of 3 years- perhaps an innocently crazy but not physically impossible feat. I have always remained enlightened and entertained at the depth and intensity of your information and research, so much so that I find myself having a question for you and your beautiful wife Lori. I am 7 months postpartum and currently (thank goodness) breastfeeding. By how big you both are on healthful, whole food eating, i’m pretty certain breastfeeding will probably be the choice method of feeding for baby. Have yoy and Lori created a plan for how to proceed with a moderately Paleo diet given the complexities of bteastfeeding? Ive been wanting to trade my currdnt diet for something more healthful (i’m very well read about bf’ing lol but not so much on where breastfeeding is concerned. Thanks in advance! Btw- tell Lori to pump often (even if it appears not much is coming out & highly recommend two books- Mother food by Hilary Jacobson and yhe Ultimate breastfeeding book of answers by Dr. Jack Newman. P.S. keep the baby in-room as some nurses will be tempted (and likely) to feed baby formula (even against your instructions & wishes).

  19. Mela says:

    lol btw sorry about the spelling errors lol my android wouldnt re-format the page so I couldnt see half of what I was typing! lol and I shouldve read the comments first! CONGRATULATIONS! And tell Lori to keep up the good work! lol still recommend the books though!

  20. tomas says:

    Congratulations are due no doubt, but i also highly reccomend reading the article on hawaiianlibertarian about Paleo Baby, good luck with your baby !

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