Yoga is an excellent way to combat stress, keep bones and muscles strong and restore balance and inner peace even on the most hectic of days – but if not accompanied by an adequate diet, its effects can in some cases fall short of the target. For instance, a yogi diet low in protein will not prove conducive to building muscle, while an insufficient intake of minerals and vitamins with heavy exercise routines in the mix can sometimes lead to chronic fatigue and increased sensitivity to infections and colds. So, which foods can get you the most out of every yoga session in terms of stamina, health and muscle strength? Take a quick look at the dietary choices listed below if you want to maximize yoga results.
Nuts and seeds
High in protein and amino acids, nuts and seeds offer quality muscle fuel and keep blood sugar in check. Seeds and nuts contain complex carbs, not simple sugars, so a snack full of walnuts, almonds and quinoa will provide lasting vigor instead of a quick but short-lived energy fix typical of sweet and fatty food. Rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and iron, nuts will also help minimize muscle recovery time after heavy yoga sessions, while antioxidants found in most seeds will efficiently prevent the premature aging of tissues, allowing you to get a sexy figure with no stretch marks or flabby skin.
Another excellent source of protein, fish should be consumed by yogis at least 2-3 times a week for optimal muscle growth and recovery. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines contain high amounts of leptin and omega-3 fatty acid so they function as a metabolism booster which keeps weight in check and supports the immune system, preventing increased sensitivity to viruses and infections that often go hand in hand with intense training.
Available from fresh fruits or dietary supplements, Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of amino acids, collagen and hormones, and it is critical for preserving stamina stability and seamless functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C also prevents cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure, ensuring regular blood flow into the heart and other vessels, which is highly important for yogis. The RDA for Vitamin C totals 500-1,000 milligrams, and you should use supplements to make up for the missing vits in case you cannot cram enough citrus fruits and fresh veggies into your plate.
Legumes, grains and beans
A go-to for fiber, proteins and complex carbs, beans, grains and legumes will keep hunger at bay longer than any sugar-laden snack or protein bar. Adequate intake of fiber guarantees smooth digestion, and well-balanced ingestion of proteins and carbs helps the body repair tissue damage, build muscle and recover from tough yoga sessions. Proteins and carbs also play a major role in healthy sleep cycles, ensuring you get a decent shuteye necessary for your body to rest and be ready for a food recharge after the workout.
Proper hydration during and after workouts is important, but drinking water during a yoga session can in fact hamper progress and contribute to yogic under-performance. According to some yoga teachers, water cools down the body and hinders the flow of prana, so avoid hydration in the course of a yoga class whenever possible. Nevertheless, water consumed before and after yoga practice helps the body cleanse itself from toxins and wasteful substances, so do not cut your daily intake down – just time it properly.
For best yoga class performance, follow the rule of three:
- make sure you eat at least two portions of fish a week;
- enrich your plate with fresh fruit and veggies (or use them as smoothies), and
- mindfully time your water intake.
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life.