Skip to content
Join Life Time

A Guide to Eating and Exercising During Pregnancy

With Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

woman on a mat who is pregnant and sam's headshot

Season 8, Episode 9 | May 14, 2024

The nine months of pregnancy — and even the time leading up to conception — are critically important to the health of the developing fetus and the mom who is carrying them. While many things can feel out of your control during this time, two things you can manage are your nutrition and fitness.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, shares the influence that eating and exercise habits have on a pregnancy, how an individual’s needs change in these areas during this time, and which efforts to prioritize to support the health of both mom and baby.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT, is the national program manager for nutrition, metabolism, and weight loss at Life Time. She’s been with Life Time for 13 years in multiple roles and is currently on the team that leads nutrition programs and supplements for Life Time members, helping them optimize their metabolism and results from the inside-out.

In this episode, McKinney offers guidance around nutritional and fitness considerations during pregnancy — plus some considerations for preconception and postpartum as well. Below are just a few of the pieces of advice she speaks to:

  • While it’s common to think, I’m pregnant, I need to eat more calories, there is a misconception around how much more is actually needed. Your calorie needs will change throughout the pregnancy, but in the first trimester, for example, that increase could be as minimal as calories, depending on your individual needs (estimates are often closer to 300).
  • Beyond calories, McKinney encourages her clients to focus on getting the necessary nutrients needed for all developmental processes to happen. Some of those key nutrients include protein, B12, iodine, iron, DHA, choline, and folate.
  • Because you are literally building a human, and protein is made of amino acid building blocks, it’s important to focus on a higher-protein approach. McKinney advises her clients to aim for at least 100 grams of protein per day — and oftentimes they need even more. Fat is also critical for the development of the baby; that includes fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Even though carbohydrates are the food group that many women often turn to for more calories, the recommendation of 175 grams or more per day is not adequately substantiated in research. McKinney usually recommends somewhere in the range of 100 to 150 grams, depending on the individual.
  • Prioritizing blood-sugar control is critical. Because about one-third of the population is unaware they have pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes can sometimes be the manifestation of diabetes because of pre-existing blood-sugar issues.
  • McKinney urges being maniacally picky about your supplement quality during pregnancy. It’s not only important to supplement with the necessary nutrients, but to also make sure they’re from quality sources and in the right forms. For example, about 40 to 60 percent of the population has a genetic mutation called MTHFR, which means they don’t adequately covert folic acid to the active form of folate that’s needed for metabolic function. This is why a methylfolate version of folate versus folic acid is recommended.
  • Don’t fear exercise or be sedentary during pregnancy, McKinney emphasizes. In the first trimester, your workouts can usually be pretty similar to your preconception workouts. In the second trimester, as your belly begins to grow and weight increases, be careful about lying on your back for too long, as well as to avoid certain movements, such as twists and those that place your hips above your chest or belly. In your third trimester, your lung capacity is lower, so keep your effort during workouts in a range where you can still hold a conversation.
  • As you get closer to your due date, your tendons and ligaments become more flexible and stretchier to prepare your pelvis and birth canal for delivery. Be considerate of your movements to avoid injury.
  • Focus on strengthening your posterior chain, including your glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and back. Strengthening these areas can help counterbalance some of the weight shifts that occur as your belly grows and potentially alleviate some of the back and hip pain that many women experience in pregnancy.
  • Immediately postpartum, give yourself plenty of time to recover with any movement being gentle. Your body needs to heal, so give yourself grace. Even if your doctor clears you for exercise at the six-week mark, focus on consistency with gentle movement, building intensity over time as you feel yourself regain some strength.

More From Life Time

An assortment of Life Time supplement packages.

Nutritional Supplements

Optimize your nutrition and fill in nutrient gaps with daily essentials and specialty supplements.

Explore Nutritional Supplements


More Like This

The box and bottles for Life Time's Prenatal Multivitamin on a counter.

How Do I Pick a Prenatal Vitamin?

By Callie Fredrickson

Learn about the importance of this supplement before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as how to select a quality one that delivers optimal supportive nutrients.

Transcript: A Guide to Eating and Exercising During Pregnancy

Season 8, Episode 9  | May 14, 2024

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

Back To Top