+1Fitness: 6 Steps to Help Boost Fertility

Fertility is a topic that comes up at some point in every woman’s life. As females we not only have to deal with the same stresses as men - getting into college, getting a good job, having a good career, being a good person and so on, but we also have to deal with the added stresses placed on us by the media, family members and any other f**kers with an opinion about this delightful notion that we have ‘a ticking biological clock’ or a ‘fertility window’.

For many women the area of fertility can become one of intense stress and pressure - and considering it should be the most beautiful & natural part of a woman’s life, the way in which society has evolved over the last few decades has unfortunately turned it into a stressful topic for many.

So, as to remove as much stress as possible for you when it does come to the time that you feel ready to start trying, here is a quick blog post outlining steps we can take to help the process.

Unlike the uncontrollable factors such as genetics and age there are many factors, such as eating certain foods and avoiding others, that we can control ourselves without medical intervention to help boost our ovulatory function and our chances of getting pregnant!

One of the big factors that we see playing a HUGE role in reducing ovulation is insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance is when insulin becomes less able to lower the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Usually, insulin helps sugar move out of the blood and into the body's cells. In the cells, the body can use sugar to make energy. If this does not happen correctly, too much sugar stays in the blood. This is called hyperglycemia. The body realises there is still sugar floating around the body and produces even MORE insulin - and it is this EXCESS INSULIN that causes major metabolic disturbances.

If the blood glucose level is above normal for a long time, this can lead to major health problems such as diabetes, obesity & infertility. [1]

There are lots of different ways to help reduce (or in my own case - reverse) insulin resistance. Let’s look first at the NUTRITIONAL STEPS we can take:

1. Switch ‘simple carbs’ to ‘complex carbs’.

Simple carbs (carbs with little to no fibre such as processed foods, sweets, pastries, cereals, soft drinks & juices) are carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed by the body to produce energy. If we consume a diet high in simple carbs we are more likely to have consistently elevated blood sugar levels and put ourselves at risk of developing insulin resistance, sending our reproductive hormones into mayhem!

By switching to more complex carbs (carbs containing fibre such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc) you will not only provide the body with much more valuable nutrients (essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and fatty acids) than processed foods will provide - but you will also slow rate in which blood sugar rises & insulin produces - thus preventing insulin resistance.

Cutting down the amount of carbohydrates you eat (particularly if you're currently eating a highly carb based diet) and replacing it with good fats & protein (coming up next) will help to decrease insulin resistance.

2. Switch from ‘Bad Fats’ to ‘Good Fats’

The consumption of fat in our diet is both highly necessary and beneficial - but it is important that we make ourselves aware about the different types of fat!

Today, in western society the amount of processed foods available to us means that the average citizen is overeating ‘Bad Fats’ and under eating ‘Good Fats’

We have also been let to believe that fat makes us FAT (which is not true - calories make us fat) And while there is 9 calories per gram of fat (so it is important not to overeat any type of fat) good fat is a necessity for optimal bodily functionings - especially for healthy fertility!

Bad Fats (known as saturated or trans fats found in foods such as baked goods, cookies, crackers, packaged snack foods etc) are linked to an increase insulin resistance.

Good Fats (such as unrefined animal fat, fat from fish such as salmon & plant sources such as avocado, olive and nuts - which contain a higher proportion of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats and/or higher levels of omega 3s) promote fertility! Not to mention other helpful benefits such as reducing PMS symptoms, increasing energy levels, better moods & mental health - the list is endless ladies!

Bottom line - ditch the processed foods and start introducing foods such as salmon, avocado, almonds, olives, and nuts into your diet! :)

3. Eat Enough Protein

Eating adequate amounts of protein (1.8g - 2.2g / kg body weight) plays an important role in reproductive health and a LARGE percentage of today’s population do not enough protein.

By eating enough protein in your diet you:

  • Reduce the amount of carbohydrates you need to eat to feel full (thus helping improve insulin sensitivity)

  • Helps you control weight and helps promote weight loss. (excessive weight can cause insulin resistance and/or cause it to become worse - so if you are overweight it is important you take steps to reduce body weight) - increasing protein intake can be a great way to help weight management.

That being said research suggests that diets TOO high in protein can have the opposite effect so it is important to find how much your daily requirement is so that you can make sure you are both getting it and not overdoing it!

Use the following formulas to calculate how much protein you should be eating: [2]

1.8g - 2.2g / kg body weight (0.8g - 1g / lb body weight)

For example: If you weigh 70kg - you should consume between 126g - 154g of protein per day.

Try not exceed 2.8g/kg or 1.3g/lb per day.

For example: If you weigh 70kg consume no more than 196g of protein per day.

4. Cut Down the Caffeine

Limit caffeine intake to 200mg of caffeine daily! (eg. One coffee per day) ‘Willcox et al [3] conducted a prospective study of 104 women attempting pregnancy. Caffeine consumption was recorded at regular intervals as well as daily information regarding menstrual bleeding and intercourse until pregnancy occurred. Women who consumed less than one cup of coffee were twice as likely to become pregnant, per cycle, as moderate coffee drinkers and the risk of not becoming pregnant increases with higher consumption.’

Don’t forget that caffeine is not just in coffee - it is also in tea, green teas, sugary/fizzy drinks and chocolate! So keep all of these foods to a minimum where possible!

5. Try Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

If you are underweight (a body mass index of less than 18.5) or overweight (a BMI of 25 or more) fertility can be affected and your chances of getting pregnant naturally can be reduced!

BMI is not always the best way to assess how weight will affect reproductive function. Because this measurement is based on height and weight it doesn't distinguish between fat and muscle — and fit women have a lot of lean muscle mass. According to William Schoolcraft [4], MD, founder and medical director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver and author of If at First You Don't Conceive, ovulation is impaired if body fat is less than 12 percent or more than 30 to 35 percent.

(f you are unsure of your Body Fat % - pop into us for a FREE body fat analysis test)

By using the nutritional steps I have listed above you should be able to maintain a healthy fertility weight.

Tracking your calories using an apps such as ‘MyFitnessPal’ are a great way of keeping an eye on the amount and type of calories you are consuming on a daily basis. Alternatively if you are relatively inexperienced with nutrition enlisting in the help from professionals to guide you through the process can be extremely beneficial. (“Pssst..I've heard of this great gym in Kilcoole…. ” hehe)

6. Exercise!

For sedentary women the subtle physiological changes that come from increasing exercise can highly benefit their odds of conceiving. Exercise improves metabolism and circulation, both of which contribute to better egg production. Regular activity also optimizes your reproductive system by stimulating the endocrine glands, which secrete hormones that help eggs grow. Plus, getting your sweat on is a known stress reliever — a good thing, because stress significantly decreased the probability of conception.

If you are already an avid exerciser and are still having trouble conceiving be careful you are not overdoing it! According to Jamie Grifo [5], MD, PhD, director of the NYU Fertility Center in New York City, More than an hour of vigorous exercise a day can lead to a decrease in the production of the hormones that stimulate ovary function, causing ovaries to become underactive and stop producing eggs and estrogen, in some women. The risk increases with exercise duration and intensity. What's more, Dr. Schoolcraft says, repeated intense exercise sessions cause the body to break down the proteins in muscles, producing ammonia, a pregnancy-inhibiting chemical. So for example if you are playing a high-level sport or marathon training 6 days a week, training up to two times a day, while trying to get pregnant it would be worth cutting back on your training frequency and intensity - For the majority of women however this will not be a concern - daily exercise is HIGHLY beneficial for those TTC (trying to conceive).

So if you are not currently undergoing some form of exercise every day then START, and if you are exercising obsessively or competitively consider cutting it back slightly.

When in doubt with anything, seek the help good personal trainers/nutrition coaches - they are qualified to help you with all of the necessary nutritional and exercises requirements for helping you reach peak fertility - which takes one more stress off your hands! The less stress we have in our lives when trying to conceive the better. Us girls have enough to worry about as it is!

If you currently taking this journey or are thinking ahead for the future and you have any further questions on this topic (or others like it) then do not hesitate to drop me an email at nikafitonline@gmail.com and I would be happy to help!

Katy x

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References:

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Eric Helms, ‘Reflecting on Five Years of Studing Protein’.

[3] Wilcox, A., Weinberg, C. et al. (1988). “Caffeinated beverages and decreased fertility.” Lancet 2(8626-8627): 1453-1456.

[4] William Schoolcraft, MD, founder and medical director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver

[5] Jamie Grifo, MD, PhD, director of the NYU Fertility Center in New York City.

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