Our fitness experts Siobhan and Emer of Food Fitness Fertility are back again to tell us about the importance of body composition when you are trying to conceive.
Body Composition Explained
Your body composition tells us what your body is predominately made up of. The way most professionals measure your health using body composition is by checking the percentage of fat in your body and this gives a good indication of your fitness, diet choices and overall health.
Body fat plays a significant role in reproduction. Sex hormones are fat soluble and they are stored in the body’s fat layers. Women that have a low body fat percentage often produce a reduced amount of estrogen which can lead to an abnormal menstrual cycle (amenorrhea).
Women in general have a higher body fat percentage than men as fat is essential for ovulation, fertility, gestation and breastfeeding.
Low Body Fat and How it Affects Fertility
If you have a body fat percentage that is too low you are less likely to ovulate, have adequate levels of estrogen/progesterone or conceive easily. Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that women who are underweight have a difficult time starting a family. It is estimated that being underweight is the cause of 12 % of infertility cases.
High Body Fat and How it Affects Fertility
On the other side having too much body fat can result in hormonal problems usually due to an increase in male hormones (androgens) in your body. If you have facial hair, acne, male pattern balding, insulin resistance, and/or fat around the middle, it is possible your levels of androgens are too high. You are also more prone to suffering from PCOS which is one of the leading causes of female infertility.
Being overweight or underweight can affect your success rates with IVF also. Keeping an optimal weight during IVF, IUI and other fertility treatments raises your chances of responding effectively to treatment and sustaining a pregnancy to full term.
So which image did you think was optimal for getting pregnant? The optimal body-fat percentage for women trying to conceive is between 22-25%. Getting to these healthy fertility ranges may mean you need to eat more or less calories and as well as that either increase or decrease your exercise.
In our courses we provide food and exercise plans that are suitable for women trying to conceive and reach an optimal weight and body composition. The right amount and type of exercise can help you to lose weight, build muscle and tone up, decrease insulin resistance, improve sleep, regulate hormones and reach your body goals.
We recommend low to moderate-intensity exercise 2-3 times a week (we have a workout below for you to try out). On top of this you could also take part in a yoga class or go for nice walks throughout the week. Last week we spoke about the importance of increasing you NEAT and as promised we have another tip this week. Increasing your NEAT can help increase your metabolism which will be hugely beneficial to you if you need to lose some body fat.
Ask your local gym to measure your body fat percentage or use Biometric impedance analysis machine (in pharmacies or they are collaborated into many inexpensive weighing scales).
NEAT is non-exercise activity thermogenesis – the energy you use that isn’t exercise, sleeping or eating. Increasing your metabolism). We’ve added number 2 this week but in addition to the step count of 10,000 steps minimum a day.
- Get a Fit-Bit/ pedometer/ step counter or any similar device. Having a goal to reach of at least 10,000 steps a day and optimally 15,000 steps a day is a great motivator and way of tracking your daily activity levels.
- Go for a 15-minute walk at some point during your working day every day. Leave a jacket and a pair of runners under the desk so you have no excuses.
You can always read some more about NEAT on our website
We want to help your body move better, feel stronger, toned and build muscle.
This is great for beginners. No equipment required just a raised surface and a stopwatch or timer app. I’ve recorded the demos in my own home to show you that exercise can be performed anywhere at any time. You do not need access to any fancy equipment or be a member of an exclusive gym. All you need is some space and maybe sometimes a wall, a raised surface and a matt or carpet.
This is a 12 minute upper body workout with just two body weight exercises. Complete this workout and why not try last weeks’ workout again too. And if you are feeling energetic by the end of the week you could mix the four exercises to create your own workout.
Exercise 1: Pushups –push-ups are one of the most comprehensive upper body exercises ever! They work all the major upper body muscles including chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps as well as your core as a unit.
If you are a complete beginner you can start against a wall, then progress to a bench and with practice you will get to your knees (modified pushup) and beyond to a full pushup (demonstrated by my 4 year old!).
Remember to inhale on the descent with you elbows out. Your lower back should be in a neutral position throughout and you should not allow yourself to be led by your belly. Exhale as you push away from the ground and squeeze through your shoulder blades at the top.
Exercise 2: Tricep Dip –are the perfect partner with pushups, they predominately work the back part of your arm that can be stubborn to train with an added burn in the shoulders too, a great bodyweight exercise when done correctly can really help target the ‘bingo wings’.
Make sure to create a bend in the angle in the elbow, do not simply lower your chest towards your lap. Start with your legs at a right angle, place your hands directly behind your hips and lower your bum to the ground keeping your back close to the bench. Click here for a demo.
Format: 20 secs work / 10 secs rest x 6 rounds = 3 mins
Complete a round of each exercise and then repeat
Review the video tutorials before commencing workout
Wellness Tip – Goal Setting
The New Year is a fantastic time to set ourselves some goals. It can give us a purpose and set some structure in our daily activities. It’s important for us to meet goals and for us to feel a certain level of accomplishment in our lives. But remember your goals should always be within your reach. Set small, simple, realistic, attainable goals. There should be no grey area of what you are trying to achieve. It should be clear, concise, actionable and measureable.
For example a common goal for women in the New Year would be “to lose ½ a stone”. To me this is not a goal. You need to identify the actions that will get you there and make them your individual goals. I.e. eat 3 nutritious meals made from wholefoods, drink 3L of water a day; and go for a 45 min walk 3 times a week.
Commonly goals are set and never re-evaluated. A crucial step in goal setting is re-assessing the goals after a number of days, say a week, and if you have not made any headway towards achieving these goals then they were probably unrealistic. And we run the risk of feeling like a failure. So using our example if you did not manage to drink 3L of water a day, reduce it to 2L a day, once this has been achieved you can set yourself a higher goal.