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By Scott Scanlon

Refresh Editor

Derek and Andrea Alessi have the blessing of their parents, two baby sitters and many others when it comes to support in helping to care for their three children, Luciana, 4½, Luca, 2, and Serafina, 11 months.

Andrea Alessi also has the benefit of a health and fitness expert husband who has given her plenty of insight and advice when it has come to bouncing back physically after the birth of a child.

“The key thing you need to work on is metabolism,” Derek Alessi said. “It’s about burning more calories 24 hours a day.”

That means that new moms need to focus part of their limited time on two things: exercise and good nutrition.

Here’s how:

Exercise

Think big – “You have to focus on the only part of the body that burns calories: The lean muscle tissue,” Derek Alessi said. “There are 639 muscles in the body. You have to use them. They’re all atrophied at this point. The bigger the muscle, the bigger the muscle group, the more calories you will burn at one time. Legs will burn more than abs. Back will burn more than chest. Triceps will burn more than biceps.”

Strength before cardio: About the 30-minute workout mark, most people stop cardio and start strength training. But that way, “you’re already at a point where your breaking muscle tissue down, then you’re trying to build muscle tissue. Tough to do,” Alessi said. “That’s like pouring all the gas out of your gas tank and then trying to drive to Florida.”

Start with strength training, which can include dumbbells, barbells and exercises using your body weight. “You can hold the baby if you want to and do lunges and squats, like you’re holding a weight,” Alessi said. Resistance exercise speeds up your metabolism, he added, “so if you do that, you don’t have to spend that much time exercising” compared to cardio training.

Exercise properly, three times a week, and “you’re body gets smaller,” Alessi said, “because fat takes up a lot of space, and muscle doesn’t take much at all. In fact, fat takes up four times more space than muscle.”

Nutrition

Eat often: New mom schedules are discombobulated. “They don’t know when they’re sleeping, they don’t know when they’re going to be awake,” Alessi said. “The baby has needs sometimes 24 hours a day.” Since new moms are up a lot anyway, they should eat modest meals about every three hours to keep their metabolism burning switch turned on.

Avoid sugar: “The things that will absolutely positively sap your energy are sugars and starches,” Alessi said. “Things like lactose – which is the sugar from milk – corn products, too much fructose, juice, soda pop, artificial sweeteners, breads, especially white grains and flours. The convenience things that are sometimes so easily available are the things that suck the energy out of your body and increase fat. It also isn’t very good for the baby when your breast-feeding.”

Find a balance: Eat lean proteins: Chicken, fish, turkey, beans and eggs. Eat “good” fats: one or two daily servings of seeds or nuts, as well as nut butters. Increase dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, “which means vegetables,” Alessi said.

Drink well: Good hydration helps speed your metabolism. Water is best. Alessi recommended against cow’s milk and urged consumption of almond or coconut milk, instead.

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