Have you ever found yourself at the nearest drive-thru restaurant on the way home from an intensive yoga session? If so, don’t be ashamed -- even the most avid yoga practitioners will sometimes fail to follow up their training with the healthy, nutritious foods their bodies and minds crave.
The ancient holistic science of Ayurveda teaches us that we should treat our bodies like a temple and that physical and emotional health is dependent on factors that vary from one individual to another. These factors are based on the principles of the three doshas -- Vata, Pitta, and Kapha -- which make up every human being and perform different physiological functions in the body.
With that in mind, it becomes quite obvious that your yoga nutrition plan should be as natural, well balanced, and in tune with your metabolisms’ specific needs as possible. Any dietary habit that goes against your dosha, or individual body type, will inevitably lead to physical and mental strain.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
If you've had a productive yoga workout, chances are you sweated quite a bit. If so, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to drink plenty of water after your workout.
Not only does water refuel and replenish your body with plenty of essential vitamins and nutrients, but it also hydrates your skin and muscles, keeping you looking and feeling great. You can also try drinking coconut water, or squeeze a fresh orange, lemon, or lime into regular water, which will add flavor as well as plenty of Vitamin C to your drink.
Looking for something to enhance your digestion and neutralize ama toxins? This Ama Pachana Spice Water recipe is just what you need.
- Three thin slices of fresh ginger
- ¼ tsp. fennel
- ¼ tsp. cumin
- 2 black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs of mint
Boil 8 cups of water, add the herbs and let it steep.
2. Eat Plenty of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Along with drinking lots of great-tasting water, it's a good idea to have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available after stretching and twisting your way through a yoga session.
Some of the best options include bananas, apples, blueberries, carrots, and celery, all of which will taste great and give your body plenty of potassium, antioxidants, and more. To make it as convenient as possible for you, grab some sandwich bags, pack a few of them with some of your favorites, and bring them with you in your gym bag, ensuring you'll always have a nutritious and delicious snack available.
Note that Ayurvedic teachings put a strong emphasis on cooked vegetables, which are easier to digest and contain the same plant enzymes and nutrients that are found in raw vegetables.
3. Favor Vegan Protein Sources
For anyone who's ever had a tough yoga workout, they know all too well just how sore their muscles can be the day after. To keep your soreness to a minimum, try eating plenty of foods that have high levels of protein.
While many people may opt to turn to boneless chicken or tuna for their protein fix, there are plenty of other choices if you want to stay vegetarian or environmentally-conscious. For example, just two tablespoons of peanut butter will give you eight grams of protein, so think about having some peanut butter on low-fat crackers or simply spreading some on pieces of apples or bananas.
Another great option is soy milk, which tastes fantastic and has six grams of protein per cup. And if you want your protein from dairy products, consider cottage cheese, or a few slices of cheddar cheese, all of which have anywhere from six to 15 grams of protein.
4. Yogurt Makes a Great Snack
Yogurt is an integral part of the Indian cuisine. In fact, Hindu mythology tells the story of Lord Krishna himself eating yogurt, and making it appear magically from a cup meant to feed thousands.
Whether you like your yogurt plain or with fruit, you're making a smart choice by eating it after your yoga workout. Not only are there plenty of flavors from which to choose, but yogurt can be a very versatile snack item. If you want to eat it by itself, it's a snack that will fill you up after your time on the yoga mat. And if you want Greek yogurt, one cup will have as much as 22 grams of protein. Or if you're in the mood for a smoothie that will soothe your tired muscles, take one cup of yogurt, put it in a blender with a frozen banana, add about two cups of soymilk, and blend it all together.
5. Have Oatmeal for Breakfast
If you like to do your yoga session first thing in the morning before breakfast, chances are you're going to be very hungry once you're finished. To make sure you eat something that's filling as well as nutritious, try a bowl of oatmeal that's topped off with some almond milk as well as berries and walnuts.
One of the healthiest options available, oatmeal will be a complete and balanced breakfast that will let you easily make it to lunchtime.
6. Try Green Salad
Just like Elaine always wanted a big salad on "Seinfeld," having a big green salad after a yoga session can often be the perfect choice after a mid-day or evening workout. Light enough to not make you feel too full, a salad will nevertheless have plenty of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to provide a balanced meal.
According to recent studies, the ten most nutrient dense green leafy vegetables include:
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet greens
- Leaf lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
To make the most of your big green salad, have plenty of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and then add various types of beans and a sliced avocado for an added burst of taste and freshness.
7. Trail Mix Goes a Long Way
Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, there's no doubt that trail mix is one of the most popular foods for those who love yoga. If you choose to make your own mix, try using foods such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried bananas or apples, and maybe some low-fat popcorn or pretzels, which will give your trail mix a little bit of everything to tempt your taste buds.
No matter what time of the day you have your yoga session, chances are you're sure to find some great things to eat and drink along the way.
Whether you're having a cool, refreshing glass of water with freshly-squeezed lemon or a big green salad after a midday workout, making sure you eat and drink the healthiest available foods will not only maximize your yoga benefits but also ensure you stay fit for many years to come.
Want to follow a diet that suits your lifestyle and helps your yoga? Learn to eat properly to complement your yoga session on a weekend Ayurveda retreat!