Dina Al Sabah – Staying Healthy & Fit While Pregnant

Dina Al Sabah let the world know the news yesterday… She’s expecting! Dina posted a photo on Facebook and shared the news with everyone. She’s been kind enough to document her journey and share it here. Dina was one of the pioneers in the IFBB Women’s division. As an amateur, she competed in women’s bodybuilding, fitness and figure. After successfully petitioning for her pro card (since she wasn’t able to through her country at the time) she had a solid run as a Pro Figure competitor. She made the transition into the Bikini division and found herself in the top spots once again. Dina graced the cover of Oxygen, IRONMAN and other magazines along the way. If you think she’s just another attractive competitor/model, think again. She has a degree in Electrical Engineering and has probably forgotten more about computers than most people ever know. Dina decided to hang up her competition suit after a successful career.


Dina Al Sabah’s Pregnancy – The First 20 Weeks
Prior to pregnancy, I had very clear thoughts about how mine would be. Of course, I would stay on the same diet and only add the necessary calories; I would workout up till the very end, and I would not have to switch to maternity clothing until I was at least half way through. Needless to say, all those lofty thoughts went out the window pretty much the minute I saw that positive sign on a home pregnancy test. Clearly every pregnancy journey is unique and is dependent on each individual’s circumstances. In my case, in order to optimize my body for pregnancy I had to be mindful of not exercising too much or eating too little. As a former competitor, I would always be anxious if I could not see my abs in the morning; however, having low body fat was not going to be conducive to getting pregnant. The months prior to getting pregnant I ate more and did less cardio allowing my body to settle in at about 132 lbs.

The first few months of pregnancy were miserable. I had low grade nausea throughout the day that peaked at night. Most foods I used to enjoy like chicken and steak ended up making me gag. I couldn’t even stand to watch my husband eat meat. My go to foods were noodle and vegetable soup, eggs, crackers…and more crackers. The nausea was always worse if I let myself get hungry, so I put myself on a 3 hr. eating schedule. Most of the reading I did stated that protein would help keep the nausea at bay, but the only things that I could tolerate were starches. Other than feeling crabby, I was also not allowed to work out until I was about 12 weeks along. My OB was extra cautious due to my “advanced maternal age” and preferred that when I started back up in the gym that I keep my heart rate under 135 and that I avoid overheating. He recommended swimming as the best form of cardio while pregnant.

I invested in a Mio Alpha watch to keep track of my heart rate as the Polar chest strap was just not working for me. At my first gym session, I noticed that my heart rate was much higher than it was usually. Just walking on the treadmill was giving me a heart rate in the 120’s, so I literally had to stroll very leisurely. Upon further investigation, I found out that this increase is very normal, and it is, in fact, one of the first signs that some women pick up on when they are pregnant. At about 13 weeks, I resumed my weight training activities. I cut back on all my weights by 50% and started off with a lower body/upper body split. Once I felt better, I returned to my regular workouts albeit at a much lower intensity. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to have a healthy baby, enjoy my pregnancy and not overdo it in the gym. I applaud women who are pregnant and box jumping, crossfitting, running etc.; I am assuming they are doing it with the blessing of their OB. I, on the other hand, feel that I can go back to those activities once I give birth.

Weeks 9-13
I started taking weekly “belly” shots to see how things were changing. To the average person, I most likely look a little bloated, but I do notice a difference. I also notice that I am starting to have some water retention and that my jeans are very snug especially towards the end of the day. Nausea still rears its ugly head every so often, but I have only thrown up twice. At 13 weeks, after my NT scan and first trimester screening, I felt well enough to start some activity. I have been very anxious since the beginning as I have had the unfortunate experiences of miscarriage and thoughts of doom and gloom are always lurking.

Weeks 14-17
Thankfully the nausea has abated, but I still cannot stomach eating much protein. My coach, Layne Norton, suggested using pasteurized egg whites in smoothies which I actually enjoy. I moved to a 5 day split (back/chest, legs part 1, bi/tri, shoulders, legs part 2) and about 15-20 minutes of steady state cardio at week 16. My usual cardio is incline treadmill, elliptical and sometimes the stepmill. My goal has been to keep my heart rate in the 120s. When I lift, my heart rate does go into the high 130s, but I make sure to give myself enough rest for it to go back down. If I lived in a walking city I would choose to walk everywhere, but Los Angeles makes that a little difficult so indoor cardio will have to do.

Week 18
This week I got some lower back pain which can be one of the unfortunate symptoms of pregnancy, so I have taken it easy and skipped the gym. I have implemented a nightly stretching and rolling routine. I do a series of neck stretches and some sun salutations. I also use a Rumble Roller and Beasties on my back, shoulders and neck. I look forward to my bi-weekly pre-natal massages.

I haven’t had any cravings; however, my aversions are still there. I am able to eat ground meat, but anything else does not sound appealing at all. I usually start off the day with a Muscle Egg shake. I throw in either a half banana or berries depending on my mood, and about 1/4c of Fage 2%. I have also been addicted to Fitness Bread; something about its chewiness just makes me salivate. I usually have a slice with breakfast, and sometimes as a snack. The great news is that I am still not interested in sweets!

Week 19
My back feels better, so I’m back in the gym yay!

For my workouts I did:

Back (10 -12 reps, 3 sets): seated row, high pull, dumbbell row plus 15 minutes on treadmill

Shoulders (10 -12 reps, 3 sets): lateral raises with hold at top, upright rows, front raises plus 15 minutes on stepmill

Arms and mini legs (10 -12 reps, 3 sets): preacher curls, flat curls, rope pull downs, pushups, standing lunges, glute bridges using the stability ball, Bosu body weight squats plus 20 minutes on elliptical.

I really wanted to get to the gym one more day, but my husband was feeling a bit under the weather, so I stayed home since he would feel bad that I snuck in an extra workout without him… yes men are silly!

I am forcing myself to drink lots and lots of water. I found a wonderful water pitcher with an infuser so I am making all sorts of flavored water. My current favorite is cucumber mint. Last week I experimented with lavender and lemon which was very tasty.

Week 20
Happy New Year Everyone!

We are off to Germany tomorrow for a few days. I have already been instructed by my OB to walk every hour, drink plenty of water and wear some over the counter compression stockings. Last night I tried out the very sexy compression stockings. While they were surprisingly comfy, the stockings are hideous. Thankfully I am flying in a cabin with a flat bed seat so at the very least I can get some sleep, but my goal is to drink enough water so that I HAVE to get up every hour, that way there is no slacking off. I had a decent leg workout today but kept it super light as I do not want to be sore tomorrow!

Leg extensions, box squats, cable kick backs, straight leg deads, plié squats.

I will check in with you next week when I return.

If you have questions related to Dina’s pregnancy and what her journey has been like post them in the comments below or email her.

Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.