As with any physical activity, dialing in your nutrition will bring you even greater benefits from your yoga practice. The human body is incredibly intelligent, and we often just need to supply it with the correct raw materials so it can perform optimally.
Luckily, there’s no big secret to a balanced nutrition other than doing the right things consistently. Here are four incredibly easy ways in which you can focus on your nutrition, so get ready to feel great every day and get the most out of your yoga practice!
1. Embrace meal prepping and use spices to add variety
If you’ve ever dreamed about someone placing a healthy meal in front of you multiple times a day but can’t (yet) afford a personal chef, meal prepping might be a good compromise. Meal prepping is basically cooking a bunch of food at once and then portioning it out into grab-and-go meals. Some people make it into a near-art form and wholeheartedly indulge their OCD tendencies, but there’s also nothing wrong with keeping it super simple.
- Start by picking two or three recipes. Keep them as simple as possible.
- Cook in the evening or find some other time when you have a couple of hours to spare (a lot of people do this on Sunday). Here’s a sample schedule of how you could structure your cooking time.
- Prep everything that will go into the oven.
- While things are cooking in the oven, focus on the foods that need stovetop cooking.
- Once everything is cooked, set it aside to cool and then portion it out into glass or plastic containers for storage.
Another approach is cooking staples in big batches and then combining them with different spices or sauces (think barbeque sauce, sriracha, flavored mayos, this miracle sauce) to keep it interesting. Here’s an example:
- Roast a chicken.
- Put sweet potatoes, beets, cut-up vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or parsnips on a pan. Pour melted ghee or high-heat coconut oil on top of the vegetables, and sprinkle salt, pepper and any other spices you like (try turmeric, cayenne, cumin or curry). Roast these alongside the chicken.
- On the stove, cook legumes like beans and lentils or grains like quinoa and rice (if you tolerate these well), any ground meat and leafy greens like kale or chard.
When you’re done, simply divide up your protein, carbohydrates and veggies among your containers, and add additional seasonings or sauces for variety. Adjust quantities to scale for a couple of days, or if you don’t mind repetition, even the whole week.
2. Give your snack game a boost
While your stash of nutritious prepared meals will sustain you for most of the day, active people often need a snack or two to stay energized. This is especially true if you are planning on a longer practice or mixing in higher-intensity activity. Stick a recovery snack in your yoga bag and dig in after your yoga session!
Choose snacks that have fat and protein — these will stick with you longer — and add some carbohydrate to pre-workout snacks (eat this at least two hours before your activity). Some ideas to chew on:
- Plantain chips with a couple of tablespoons of nut butter
- Jerky and berries
- Hard-boiled eggs (sprinkle salt or a seasoning blend for added flavor)
- Mashed avocado on gluten-free crackers (or bacon!)
Speaking of snacks, eating something within 30 minutes of exercising helps your body recover and rebuild. Have a balanced snack (like one of the examples above), or bring a protein shake. Whey protein or whey protein isolate are ideal because of their amino acid profiles, but if you don’t tolerate these or prefer plant-based proteins, choose one that’s “complete” with all essential amino acids.
3. Supplement wisely
While a whole-food diet is the best way to get proper nutrition, certain supplements can make up for nutrients that are difficult to get from food in adequate quantities. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking new supplements, as some can contraindicate with certain medications or conditions.
- Magnesium is essential for healthy muscle and nerve function. There are many chelates available (e.g. citrate, sulfate, glycinate), so experiment to see what you like best. Besides oral supplements, Epsom salt baths do double duty of soothing muscles while providing magnesium transdermally. Wearing knee sleeves for arthritis can also help your muscles and joints recover from activity.
- Glutamine helps with muscle recovery and heals your gut lining. Add this to your shakes.
- Probiotics maintain healthy gut flora.
- Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium into your bones, among other functions. Take this with a meal that includes fat, as vitamin D is fat-soluble and thus is absorbed with fat.
4. Watch your sugar intake
Sugar and excess carbohydrate can lead to blood sugar fluctuations (and those infamous blood sugar crashes), and build insulin resistance over time. Sugar can hang out in packaged foods, so be sure to check labels, but also be conscious that any carbohydrate, including whole grains and fruit, stimulates an insulin response.
Consider trying a “sugar fast” (the 21-Day Sugar Detox, for example), to reset your system and see how your body responds when sugar isn’t available. If it’s a struggle, odds are you’re a person who actually doesn’t process sugar very well, and this is an opportunity to train your body.
Are you ready to try new mouthwatering recipes that are also healthy and help you stay fit? Combine the art of cooking with yoga practice on a yoga and cooking retreat!