Breastfeeding and Weightlifting

My Green Yummy Protein Shake

My Green Yummy Protein Shake

It's been almost 12 weeks since April's birth and for 9 of those weeks, I've been lifting, teaching boot camps, doing interval training and walking as much as I can. But, for anyone with kids knows, sometimes getting time for yourself, especially to exercise, can be challenging. Plus, in my world, I work a lot from home on the computer, so many times when baby is sleeping, I use that time to work.

So, overall, I get in about 3 to 4 days of a good workout per week, compared to my previous workout routine of 5 to 6 days per week. On the days I don't exercise intensely, I still get out and walk my dogs while pushing the baby stroller. At least it's something... 

During this time, I've had other women ask me about breastfeeding - Am I doing it? Is it exclusive? Am I losing any milk from exercising so much? Am I eating more calories than normal? etc. So, I'm going to answer those questions here:

1. Am I breastfeeding? Is it exclusive?

Yes, I am breastfeeding, and yes, that's all my daughter gets.

2. Do I have any problems producing milk because I exercise so hard? (I lift pretty darn heavy in the gym, and I do some intense interval training about 3 to 4 days per week).

No. If anything, I have too much milk. I have to wear bra pads during the day because I often leak ( ... and let me tell ya, fogetting those pads is a bit embarrasing) and when I pump, I can produce 10 oz in 10 mins! In the middle of the day, I at least get 4 oz. 

3. Am I eating more to keep my milk supply going?

No and yes.

For no, I'm not eating more than I ate while I was pregnant. When I was pregnant, I'd eat pretty much whenever I wanted, and kept it to pretty good choices (I did eat more "free" food though, I will admit that). I mostly ate more natural fat and carbohydrate foods (coconut oil, hemp butter, fruit, sprouted grain bread, corn, peas, rice, etc), while my protein was just a bit higher than usual. Now, I've cut back on both fat and carbohydrates, even though they're still in my diet (egg yolks, hemp seeds, less fruit, less starches).

Compared to before I was pregnant and nursing, I'm not eating more caloires. Sometimes my intake is about the same as pre-pregnancy, but you have to rememeber though I wasn't "dieting" in the traditional sense before I was pregnant. I just ate well all the time... I don't ever like to starve myself for any reason. My caloric intake for a healthy eating day is about 1500 to 1900 calories, depending on my activity for that day. 

The only thing different now is that breastfeeding does tend to make you pretty hungry sometimes, and, I don't deny that hunger - I just don't let it make me eat sugary foods or empty calories. If I'm hungry, I eat fresh berries or vegetables (I love raw carrots), whey protein, or hemp seeds straight from the package. I keep it real and healthy. :)

4. Should a woman eat more calories to maintain her milk supply?

Yes and No.

Unless you were a really restrictive eater prior to pregnancy, yes, you should eat more. Not just for the calories, but for the nutrients you want to pass to your baby through your breast milk. Choose highly nutritious foods for both you and baby.

However, if you are a reasonable woman and know what eating well is, you don't have to necessarily eat more than what a healthy diet contains.

Plus, you probably have some body fat to lose from your pregnancy, so why not get that off by keeping calories, carbohydrates and fat reasonable?

5. Can you diet and lose body fat/weight when you're breast feeding?

Yes, but you can't be too restrictive. Like I said before, you still need to choose the most nutritious foods possible - those foods will feed your baby, remember, and give you the energy you need to exercise hard when you have the time to.

In the last few weeks, I've actually been keeping a closer reign on my diet. My goal is to lose the extra inch or so I've gained around my waist. The rest of my clothes fit pretty much the same way they did before I was pregnant, but there are a few pairs of pants where the waist is a bit snug. So, to do that, I'm sticking to a 2 to 3 hour eating schedule, but focusing mostly on vegetables, berries, proteins (eggs, pork, turkey), some sprouted grain bread, and fats (olive oil, egg yolks, coconut oil, hemp seed butter and oil). I'm just not over-eating anything and stay away from flour products (breads, pasta, that I started to eat when I was pregnant).

I did try to do an all-protein, vegetables and some fat lower calorie diet just recently, but I just couldn't stick with it. I felt like crap and didn't want to move. I also got really irritable, and my husband didn't like that too much. I was aiming for about 1100 to 1300 calories, but it wasn't worth it. If I stick to 1500 to 1900 calories each day, I'm still losing fat, but leave myself with lots of energy to exercise and care for the baby. Interestingly, my milk supply was NOT affected when I cut back on calories.

In summary:

The most important part of your diet for breastfeeding while you're exercising is to eat a lot of highly nutritious foods.Focus on vegetables (spinach, kale, carrots, salads, green beans, etc), berries and fruits in season, unprocessed proteins (fish, turkey, pork, eggs), some grains (sprouted grain bread, brown rice), and plenty of healthy fat (nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, egg yolks, coconut oil and the fat in protein foods).

One of my recent loves is a yummy shake I make during the day which is rich in protein, healthy fat and loads of antioxidants and vitamins. Pictured above is what the finished product looks like.I have this at least once every other day for a meal and it makes me feel great.

Here's the recipe:

Green Yummy Spinach Protein Shake

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup Unsweetened Hemp Milk

1 scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Isolate

2 tsp Ground Flaxseeds

Big bunch of raw Spinach (gives it the green color)

1 Tbsp Hemp Oil

1/4 fresh-cut Pineapple

330 calories, 28 grams protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 18 g fat, 1 gram omega-3 fat, 15 mig cholesterol, 70 mg calcium. 2 mg iron


Posted Jun 27, 2010 by .

Comments for This Entry

GravatarLindsay Soto03:28PM on June 27, 2010


Would eating beef liver 1 time (or possibly 2) per week be a good way to bump up the overall dietary nutrient quotient provided you're getting it from a reputable source (preferably pastured cows). Organ meats, liver i particular, used to be though of as nature's multi-vitamin and mineral but have generally fallen out of favor in our modern world.

As for things like hemp seeds, hemp seed butter, and even hemp protein powders, Ihave the following question I want to pose to you. But first I want to comment and say that my one experience with a hemp powder was with one that was, to put it nicely, vile, and it made me wish I'd eaten dirt instead. Are hemp seeds and hemp seed butter tasty in your estimation or are they mostly just "tolerable" to some and possibly just as awful to someone like me who had a prior bad experience with a hemp powder? Als, are the powders from Manitoba Harvest better than most? I am so hesitant to go back to anything hemp-based, but given its bounty of nutrients, I am holding out hope for finding something that is either palatable or actually enjoyable to consume.

I used to eat a wide variety of nuts, but cut them out recently and noticed that my mystery case of atopic dermatitis began to resolve to some degree. As such, I have been looking for other options to keep fat intake higher. I still consume egg yolks, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc, but it would be nice to have other "replacements" for nuts, too. While I can tolerate tahini and pumpkin seeds, these weren't tasty substitutes for nuts, at least not in my book. Passable, for sure, but not all that satisfying, unfortunately.

GravatarLindsay Soto03:35PM on June 27, 2010

I apologize for posting again so quickly, Cassandra, but I had a few more questions that sprung to mind.

Many times I purchase Whole Foods canned coconut milk, and I also eat canned Alaskan sockeye salmon from Vital Choice 2 (sometimes 3 times) per week. In your opinion, would this amount of canned food be cause for concern? (both during times when breastfeeding as well as for a woman not currently breastfeeding? The only other canned food I consume is an occasional serving of beans or pumpkin.

I use a far-infrared sauna a few times a week, so I am not sure if this would help in terms of getting rid of anything I may or may not be picking up from the can linings.

And with respect to the coconut milk, I noticed they put in guar gum, presumably to thicken it. Would consuming that regularly be a problem?

GravatarMel05:16PM on June 27, 2010

Do you eat grains and whole wheat pasta?

GravatarIris02:55AM on June 28, 2010

Cassandra, I am applauding you for breastfeeding and taking good care of your own health and fitness! I did not breastfeed but some women take it as an excuse for eating bad stuff and gaining additional pounds! I have got a question as to the calorie range: I am a big fan of the book "New Rules of Lifting for Women" for which you created the nutrition recommendations. There they say that a diet containing only 1500 calories or less will inevitable lead to muscle loss or at least prevent muscle gain. Do you think that it might work differently in some women?
Thank you!

GravatarLauren P01:57PM on June 28, 2010

Thank you so much for writing about this subject, and so quickly!!!! I have the same question as Iris above. I just started stage 1 of New Rules for Lifting, and according to the book my calorie amount on heavy lifting days should be just over 2600. I'm worried that that amount is very large, I'm 177 pounds and 5'9. But could stand to lose about twenty pounds. What are your thoughts on the math for figuring out your calories in the book? Do you think its accurate for someone wanting to lose fat and add muscle and tone up and also breastfeed?


GravatarTracy06:04AM on June 30, 2010


Great blog post! I have a 4.5-month-old girl. I am breastfeeding, but I had to start supplementing with a little formula when I went back to work as I was not able to pump enough for her to eat during the day. I am amazed at how much you say you can pump!!! 10 oz in 10 minutes!!! At my very best pumping sessions I can get about 4 oz, but I usually get about 2 to 3 on average, which I read was typical. oh well. You are a very lucky overproducer!

Something for you to look forward too--once my milk supply regulated (about 3 months or so) I stopped leaking as much. I also think it should be mentioned that keeping well-hydrated is VERY important for nursing moms. I was afraid my supply was dwindling when I went back to work, but luckily I figured out that I was not drinking enough water. I found that I need to drink over 3 liters of water a day to keep up my milk supply and energy up. Otherwise, my pumping output is low and I feel sluggish.

Good luck!

GravatarLisa11:29AM on July 01, 2010

Hi Cassandra! I am so glad I found you!! I am pregnant with my 2nd baby (currently 5.5 weeks along and not feeling the morning sickness/tiredness, yet!) So far, I have been able to keep up my workouts - 2-3 days a week of weight training/HIIT combo and 2-3 days of Tabata intervals and bodyweight interval (I really like and the workouts she offers!)

For my first pregnancy, I was a "runner". I lifted, but not consistently and found I lost so much of my strength. (I did continue to lift but about 34 weeks, it was really sporadic due to feeling so uncomfortable!) I gained about 25 lbs and rarely gave in to "pregnancy cravings". I did experience heartburn after eating certain foods. I credit my 28 hours of labor and delivery (vaginal birth with an epidural due to back labor) with my weight training/cardio background.
Our daughter was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old!

Post-pregnancy, I focused on getting back to strength training/kettlebells and interval training. (I remember being so frustrated my abs wouldn't do what I wanted them to do! I also remember how difficult a pushup was when pre-pregnancy I could pump out 20!) I rarely ran. And the results were amazing! I also followed Precision Nutrition guidelines.

I am so excited for baby #2! After reading about your pregnancy exercise accomplishments, I feel so hopeful! I just listened to your Fit Cast interview and I wish every pregnant woman I know would listen to you! Especially the nutrition part of "eating for 2".

Anyway, just wanted to say hi and let you know how inspired I am by you and your pregnancy! Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge and your birth story. Baby april is precious! Being a mom is awesome. ANd it only gets better as they get older!! Best, Lisa

GravatarMatt the Whey Protein Guy02:10PM on October 07, 2010

Yeah as a nutritionist I'd say you really do need to get more protein in you and I know a big problem is losing the baby weight and one of the best proven ways to do that is through organic whey protein powder.

Additionally, I would recommend you checking out an article I just wrote on whey protein shakes. The benefits of this is mixing fresh fruits to gain even more vitamins and minerals while reducing any food cravings. Let me know what you think.

Gravatarcolumbia jackets06:22PM on September 04, 2011

One of two columbia fleece jackets that I bought for my 15 yr old daughter. Was kind of worried about the color being white but it wears well. Best of all she loves it.Cheaper than womens’ rain jackets, nothing fancy, but works just fine. Not like a rain jacket will ever be flattering anyway!

Gravatarpearl rings04:08AM on September 09, 2011

Only wanna admit that this is invaluable , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

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