When I was pregnant with our son (baby #1), I was psyched that I had only gained 17lbs; I figured the less I gained, the less I had to lose postpartum, so I was very careful about what and how much I ate during pregnancy. I was also very modest in my workouts, since that was what all the "experts" recommended. A week after giving birth I weighed 4 lbs less than my pre-baby starting weight, and I was so excited! But the problem was, I now looked VERY different. What gives? I wondered. Well, what I had not accounted for - and what we tend to not address when discussing pregnancy weight gain - was a loss of muscle mass, and a resulting shift in body composition. Although I didn't take any measurements before or after, I would wager that I gained about 2% body fat and lost approximately 6lbs of muscle over the course of my pregnancy.
Let's math that out:
Starting: 131 lbs at 18% body fat = 107.4 lbs lean mass
1 week Postpartum: 127 lbs at 20% body fat = 101.6 lbs lean mass
|Pre-baby #1, 131 lbs|
|1 week postpartum baby #1, 127 lbs|
Now maybe that's not a big deal to the average person - in today's society we're so caught up with the scale numbers that body composition has little relevance. Just look at shows like The Biggest Loser! But as a competitive natural figure athlete who had worked very hard for every ounce of that muscle, those 6 lbs were precious! And it would take me months, if not years, to regain it.
When babies #2 and #3 rolled around I decided to do things differently; I ate responsibly, but I did not monitor calories so closely, and I lifted as heavy as I felt comfortable with on any given day (which was usually pretty heavy even by my non-pregnant standards). With this last pregnancy I ended up gaining 22 lbs and 7% body fat. I weigh more today at 10 weeks postpartum than I did four years ago at 1 week PP, even despite a lower starting weight. Yet, I look BETTER! So what gives? Muscle mass, that's what.
Let's math it out again:
Starting: 119 lbs at 10% body fat = 107.1 lbs lean mass
10 weeks Postpartum: 129 lbs at 16.5% body fat = 107.8 lbs lean mass
|Pre-baby #3, 119 lbs|
|10 weeks postpartum baby #3, 129 lbs|
|10 weeks pp baby #2, approx 124 lbs|
I lost not one ounce of muscle. Heck, I may have even gained a little!
As for the remaining weight (10 lbs of fat): In the past it has taken very strict eating and training to get as lean as I was - something that I've had no interest in doing these past 11 weeks. My body is reflecting that looseness, and that's a good thing! I'm glad I'm not inexplicably shedding pounds, because then I would be losing muscle. And in the world of athletics, especially bodybuilding, muscle is king.
Pregnancy weight gain should never be reduced to simple, one-dimensional scale numbers - there is so much more going on inside than is reflected outside. For an athlete especially, it's important to keep your scope broad and consider how pregnancy is affecting your overall fitness, rather than look at the process through the deceptively narrow lens of weight gain.
Stay strong, Mamas!
|1 week postpartum with all 3 kids: 127 lbs, 127 lbs, 129 lbs|