TDEE and Macro Calculations for Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, then counting macros is an effective way to maintain appropriate weight gain.
It’s even more helpful when attempting to lose weight post-pregnancy – healthily and sustainably.
However, you must pay special attention before jumping in.
What should my macros be when pregnant?
Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, and increased calories are a necessity.
However, the “eating for two” mindset can sometimes lead to unhealthy and unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy.
Excessive weight gain can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, and obesity after pregnancy.1
When pregnant, you are eating to support a developing fetus.
What is appropriate weight gain during pregnancy?
According to the latest medical guidelines:
Should I measure calories while pregnant?
Pregnant women only need to eat an additional 200-300 calories per day.1
More if you are underweight and less if you are already overweight.
So here’s how that works when calculating your macros.
Example macro calculation for a pregnant woman
A 29-year-old woman weighs 150 pounds, is 5’4″ tall, and does light activity.
Using my calculator, we see that her maintenance calories and macros are:
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): 1914 calories.
The calculator recommends the following macro split:
- Carbs: 211 grams (44%)
- Protein: 124 grams (26%)
- Fat: 64 grams (30%)
To account for her pregnancy, she would add calories:
- 1st Trimester: 1914 calories (no extra calories required)
- 2nd Trimester: 2214 calories (300 extra calories)
- 3rd Trimester: 2314 calories (400 extra)
To calculate the macros for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, some math is required.
2nd Trimester additional 300 calories, split into macros.
- Carbs: 44% of 300 = (.44 x 300) / 4 = +33 grams
- Protein: 26% of 300 = (.26 x 300) /4 = +19.5 grams
- Fat: 30% of 300 = (.25 x 300) / 9 = +10 grams
Final adjusted macros for 2nd trimester:
- Carbs: 244 grams
- Protein: 143.5 grams
- Fat: 74 grams
Not sure of the best path to achieving your health and fitness goals?
How much protein is too much during pregnancy?
Different countries have different recommendations for protein intake during pregnancy.
The broad guidance is 10-35% of energy, with some countries suggesting 15–25% of energy.
The example above shows around 25.9% – however, our macro calculator has an option for more moderate protein amounts (which may be the best option)
How many carbs do I need while pregnant?
A low carbohydrate diet is not recommended during pregnancy – unless you are at risk of gestational diabetes.
The suggestions made by the calculator example above are appropriate.
If you fall into the obese category, you may want to lose fat while pregnant. This may help avoid the complications often associated with obesity and pregnancy.
I strongly advise you to check all of this over with your OBGYN before beginning.
They will understand your complete health profile and can give you the “all clear” before beginning this or any dietary regimen. They will monitor the weight gain of your baby and make sure you are on track for a healthy pregnancy.
What should my macros be when breastfeeding?
If you want to lose the weight gained during pregnancy, then counting macros is a great option.
It allows you to maintain a safe calorie deficit for fat loss while having the resources to produce a nutritious milk supply for the growing baby.
Step 1: Get your base calorie needs.
Experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers consume 400-500 extra calories during the breastfeeding period.2
Some sources say as little as 300 extra, but if a woman is also trying to lose weight, 300 might not be enough to produce highly nutritious milk.
Here’s an example using the macro calculator.
Let’s say a 29-year-old woman is 150 pounds and 5’4″ tall and does light activity. Set the calculator to a goal of lose weight. TDEE and macros are as follows:
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) for weight loss: 1531 calories
- Carbs: 144 grams (37.7%)
- Protein: 124 grams (32.3%)
- Fat: 51 grams (30%)
Step 2: Adjust calories for breastfeeding
Add an additional 400 calories to the TDEE.
Breastfeeding Adjusted Weight Loss TDEE: 1931 calories
Step 3: Adjust macros for breastfeeding
To adjust the macros, we ration them out at the percentages given:
- Carbs: 37.7% of 400 = (.377 x 400) / 4 = +37.7 grams
- Protein: 32.3% of 400 = (.323 x 400) /4 = +32.4 grams
- Fat: 30% of 400 = (.30 x 400) / 9 = +13 grams
Breastfeeding adjusted weight loss macros:
- Carbs: 181.7 grams
- Protein: 156.4 grams
- Fat: 64 grams
Some women with a lot of weight to lose may be OK with just adding 300 calories, while others may have to add in 500.
Always consult with your OBGYN or Pediatrician before beginning any diet while breastfeeding.
What food should I eat?
While macro tracking may give you the freedom to satisfy your ice cream cravings, I can’t stress enough the importance of following the 85:15 healthy eating guideline.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, 85% of your diet should be nutritious, whole foods.
15% can be the treats, snacks, and processed foods you may be craving.
- Lean proteins
- Healthy fats
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Whole grains
Need some help?
If you need help, I can calculate everything for you as part of my comprehensive macros coaching package.
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“Being a sleep deprived new mom with a 4 month old and working a full time job with back-to-back meetings, I did not think losing weight would be possible for me. Ted was very flexible and put together a plan for me that worked. My main concern was to not lose my milk production for my baby but also wanted to make sure I lost weight.
Not only did his nutrition plan work, but I lost 15 lbs total without being able to workout as much with my busy schedule!
I highly recommend working with Ted!” -Esther
- Rasmussen, K. M., Catalano, P. M., & Yaktine, A. L. (2009). New guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy: what obstetrician/gynecologists should know. Current opinion in obstetrics & gynecology, 21(6), 521. link
- Blumfield, M. L., & Collins, C. E. (2014). High-protein diets during pregnancy: healthful or harmful for offspring?. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 100(4), 993-995.