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Study indicates that pregnant women can burn up to 50 thousand calories
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A study published on May 16, in the journal Science, showed that there is a very large energy consumption when having a baby and, for this reason, it is normal that, during pregnancy, around 49,753 dietary calories are consumed.

This research was based on meta-analysis, where a team of researchers, including study co-author Marshall, professor of evolutionary biology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, used several scientific articles and existing data to analyze the total energy cost not only of humans, but also of other species.

Study result

Samuel Ginther, postdoctoral researcher in biological sciences at Monash University, explains that although many people understand or have actually experienced the high energy demands of pregnancy, the study explicitly quantifies these costs across a wide range of species, from insects to lizards and humans.


The additional energy that a pregnant woman has is for most of it to be used for the formation of the fetus. “Most of the energy that mammals invest in reproduction is 'dissipated' as metabolic heat, only 10% ends up in the baby itself.”, explains Marshall. “When both lactation and metabolic loads are accounted for, the baby itself represents less than 1/20th of the total reproductive investment.”

In the opinion of Professor Eve Feinberg, who works in the areas of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, the research is important and can make a huge difference in the perception of fatigue and the needs of pregnancy. She also states that any pregnant woman who works can confirm the high level of exhaustion and how pregnancy consumes everyday life.

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Strategies to reduce needs

The pregnant woman has extra calorie needs which, throughout pregnancy, are divided into different calorie proportions, needing less at the beginning and much more as the gestational weeks progress.

In the second trimester of pregnancy, it is necessary to consume an extra 350 calories per day, unlike the third trimester, which already requires more calories, around 450 more daily, according to nutritionist Natalie Mokari, from Charlotte, North Carolina. “Your body is firing on all cylinders. Your metabolism is working hard to build another human being.” she states. “That’s pretty monumental.”


In the case of women who breastfeed after the birth of the baby, an additional 450 to 500 calories will need to be added to the pre-pregnancy diet. This amount is like an additional substantial snack or mini meal throughout the day during the second trimester. In the third trimester and during breastfeeding, the additional calories are equivalent to a complete meal to supply the additional calories needed.

A pregnant woman taking an additional snack (Photo: reproduction/Disclosure/Dra Ana Escobar)

Suitable foods

Therefore, a richer and more balanced diet is recommended, in addition to the fact that pregnant women need to eat for three to four hours a day or add healthy snacks every two hours. This type of diet will result in a healthier pregnancy and ease pregnancy symptoms.

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“It doesn't necessarily have to be three standard meals with some snacks in between, because sometimes you can't handle that in pregnancy if you have nausea or something like that,” warns nutritionist Mokari.

Mokari also comments on the importance of food and its benefits in the three food divisions. Carbohydrates, for example, are essential for producing energy, while protein and healthy fats are essential for promoting good brain health for the baby that is forming.


Healthy fat options include salmon, olive oil, oil, avocado, peanut butter and almond butter. Additionally, milk and dairy products can offer this healthier fat along with other vitamins and eggs themselves, which are also a great source of protein.

Sleep quality

Sleep is one of the main factors responsible for a healthy routine and is also suggested in the study, as it says that, throughout pregnancy, the pregnant woman needs to rest. Resting, according to Professor Feinberg, does not mean that the pregnant woman is being weak, but rather that she is really tired.

The data shows the reality of female exhaustion during pregnancy and demonstrates the need for a more serious approach to this problem.

Featured Photo: a pregnant woman caressing her belly (Reproduction/Disclosure/Rádio Senado)

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Study indicates that pregnant women can burn up to 50 thousand calories

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