E-book on Exercise – Before, During and After Pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy has been a controversial topic. Doctors advice some women to not exercise due to medical conditions and complications. For other women, it is the free advice or family and friends that makes them stop working out as soon as they know they are pregnant. What does research and science tell us about prenatal and postnatal workout?

This e-book is meant to address this concern and answer some frequently asked questions.

  1. Who can exercise?
  2. What are the benefits of exercise on maternal health?
  3. What is the effect on the fetus?
  4. When is exercise contraindicated?
  5. What exercises and modifications should be done to have a healthy pregnancy?
  6. What exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?
  7. A sample workout and yoga plan for pregnancy
  8. When to resume exercise post pregnancy to safely lose the baby weight?
  9. A sample workout plan for postpartum moms

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Pregnancy and motherhood brings a lot of changes in a woman’s body. Checkout what they are and how to deal with those.

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How to workout through your cycle?

Whether or not we should workout is out of question with the current lifestyle we lead.

Workout is not a choice. Even if you belong to 10-15% of women who have PCOS or the rest who get regular periods (25-35 days), workout shall help in improving health.

Women are hormonally vibrant and so our hormones, energy, appetite are not the same even on any two days of our menstrual cycle.

If our energy, stamina and pain tolerance changes through the menstrual cycle, doesn’t it make sense to change our workout according to that?

Optimizing our activities according to cycle will help in getting better results and fat burn as we know what to focus on and when.

This article divides the menstrual cycle (28days) into 4 weeks. For those who don’t have regular periods, consider the time of bleeding as week 1, time around PMS as week 4 and the rest of the days as week 2 & 3. You could also use an ovulation kit or track basal body temperature or vaginal discharge to know when you ovulate. Soon after ovulation is week 3 .

Week 1 : During the period

Whether or not you should workout during your periods is a personal question. There is no objective ( yes/no) answer for that. It depends on one’s body, how they feel during their period and how long they have been working out for. Generally, if a woman has been training right ( with respect to time/duration/fuel/recovery and intensity) periods and working out during periods will not cause much discomfort. Nevertheless, light workout is recommended and starting something new, increasing intensity/duration or workouts with inversions are to be avoided at any cost.


Week 2 : Soaring high

Either in week 2 or towards end of week1 as the bleeding stops, the energy levels will soar. Evolutionarily this is the time when women are fertile, look more attractive, have high energy, stamina and pain tolerance .

This is the time to intensify workout, try new workouts, increase duration etc as our hormones and body will support us through this.

Working out at this time will help reduce PMS and other discomfort during periods.


Week 3 : Embrace the change

Soon after ovulation, the energy levels starts dropping. Continuing the workout with same intensity as week 2 is fine as long as your body is able to cope up with it. If the recovery and energy levels are reducing , closer to the end of week 3 reduce the intensity of workout.

Week 4 : PMS week?

This is the week when PMS kicks in for most women, as  energy levels hit rock bottom, anger, irritability reach new heights. The feel to cut off from any physical activity might be overwhelming. These symptoms will reduce within a few months of working out and eating right. If PMS and periods discomfort has not reduced in a few months of lifestyle change, it means that there is something still not right.

Checkout this article to know more about PMS and how to reduce it.

Focus on keeping your activity levels and work on your flexibility this time.

For a beginner even 5 rounds of suryanamaskar and few minutes of walking will improve energy, mood and reduce PMS . For those who have trained their body for more than 3 years, it is recommended to reduce the intensity of workout and listen to the body.

The basic idea of workout or any physical activity is not to exhaust you, but to energise you so that you can focus on things that are important to you.


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Fitness, Lifestyle

Sleep , Health and Fat loss – Are they related?

Nutrition and Exercise are the thoughts that instantly come to our mind when we think about losing fat, improving health or strengthening our body.  A critical factor or component that we tend to neglect is “Sleep”. Quality ‘zzzz’ or shut-eye is one of the most neglected and undervalued aspect of health.

If you have not got the desired results despite eating nutritious food and working out in a structured manner, the quality and quantity of your sleep should be analysed carefully. Clarity of thoughts, energy levels, performance in gym, digestion, immunity, depression, sex-drive and fat burn has a direct correlation to the proper/poor sleep you had in the previous nights.

Optimizing sleep pattern is crucial for health and weight loss. Studies suggest that, over a period of 6 years, people who sleep either less than 6 hours a night or those who do so for more than 9 hours have similar body composition outcomes and gain twice as much weight compared to those who sleep for 7-8 hours.

What happens when we sleep?

Restful sleep is when the sleep is deep, peaceful and without any body movement. During restful sleep our body repairs, rejuvenates and detoxifies itself so we wake up fresh having abundant energy for the next day. Our nerve cells are repaired ensuring faster communication inside our body happens, which means we can learn, memorize, and think faster and clearer.

Most of our hormones, including Thyroid stimulating hormone(TSH)Growth hormone (GH) and the sex hormones like testosterone , estrogen, Progesterone, LH etc are mostly secreted and released into the blood during sleep. Even though we slog in the gym for a chiselled/shredded look, the real chiseling happens when we sleep .

When we sleep after a workout, our muscles grow , restore and repair. Repaired muscles and optimal sex hormones are essential to sport that ripped look.

What happens when we sleep less?

Going for a weekend night out, pushing our work till the midnight, watching tv or a movie late night or any voluntary form of sleep reduction has become a mark of modern society.

Even if we sleep less for  just or a single night or several, it will cause damage. Some of the things that occur when we sleep less are

  • Decreased Thyroid function and Growth hormone
  • Increased hunger hormone and Decreased satiety hormone
  • Increased stress hormones – cortisol and Decreased insulin sensitivity

In short, Sleeping less is a perfect recipe for hormonal chaos leading to lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes, PCOS , High blood pressure, heart diseases, fertility problems, Hyper/hypo thyroid etc.

Are you hungry or sleep deprived?

When we are awake for longer time at night it is normal for us to feel hungry , as we need more energy to be awake than to sleep. Added to this our satiety hormone is reduced and hunger hormone is increased, which makes us raid our kitchen and eat energy dense processed junk food. Well, we don’t reach out for a fruit when we are hungry at 1am .

What affects our sleep?

Apart from the intended sleep curtailment, there are also other lifestyle factors that affect our sleep with or without our knowledge. Knowing those habits will help us change our lifestyle, which can improve our sleep quality.

Staying away from gadgets atleast 30 minutes before bed time is crucial for restful sleep,

  1. Exposure to artificial light around bed time

Artificial lights known as ‘blue light’ include light from lamps, devices like TV, Laptop, mobiles and other gadgets. The sleep hormone melatonin is produced only during darkness. Exposing ourselves to such gadgets and devices closer to bedtime will block the secretion of this hormone.

Sleep tip : Limit usage of devices(TV, phone, Ipad, Laptop) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Reduce the intensity of lighting closer to bedtime.

  1. Lack of physical activity

Exercise reduces our stress and tires us out. Physical activity closer to the start of the day or noon is shown to have a positive impact on sleep as we get tired by the end of the day and fall asleep faster. This also improves the quality of sleep. Working out in the wrong way will also affect sleep and our results.

Sleep tip : Exercise in the mornings or early evenings to set your metabolism  and sleep wake cycle right.

  1. Our last meal of the day

A large supper will rev up our metabolism and makes it harder for us to have a good night’s sleep. The sleep that we have after a heavy meal will be less repairing and restful as our body must digest the heavy meal which is still lying in our stomach.

Sleep tip: Eat a light/ moderately heavy meal 2-3 hours ahead of your bedtime.

  1. Mental stress and physical illness

Physical illness, depression and other stress related disorders are linked to elevated stress hormones  – which results in sleep disturbances and reduces the quality of sleep.

Sleep tip : Try meditating a few hours before the bed time and create a peaceful bed time routine to reduce the stress hormones and to improve the quality of sleep.

Our sleep need, to restore our health to optimal may vary depending on our illness, age, mental stress(exams), stage of parenthood(new mom) and more.

The magic number or the amount of sleep each of us need to function at our best might vary between 7-8 hours , but the fact that sleep loss will reduce our productivity and performance be it in gym, home or at our workplace is certain.


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This article was originally written for and published in the October 2017 issue of ‘Stayfit’ magazine.