There is no secret ingredient that will instantly improve your performance during a workout, but pairing certain healthy foods with your fitness regimen can help you make the most of your regular routine. If your daily sweat session involves yoga and you’re lunging into warrior pose or twisting into a triangle posture on a regular basis, then you’ll want make sure you’re eating foods that promote concentration and flexibility. (Do you sometimes wonder if your yoga practice is definitely worth it? You might want to take a look at Sex, Sleep, and Snacks: How Yoga Improves Your Favorite Things).
Much like practicing yoga, healthy eating is all about listening to your body; there’s no single plan that works for everyone. Yoga instructor and holistic health coach Irene Pappas says that “listening to your body and giving it the chance to ask for what it wants will change your practice and your life.” High-protein Greek yogurt, for example, may be the perfect pre-yoga snack for some while others may find that dairy-rich foods make it difficult to twist and fold into certain poses. They key is to eat wholesome, whole foods and to be aware of their effect on your body.
Not sure where to start? We decided to go straight to the source and talk to some incredible yogis about the foods they like to eat. Here are five things you should consider adding to your diet if you practice yoga.
Florida-based yoga instructor Shawn Rae Thomson recommends eating lots of fresh, organic fruit. Fruit is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and many fruits have anti-inflammatory properties that can help ward off certain diseases. The reason organic fruit is a good choice for anyone practicing yoga? It’s hydrating, a great source of energy (thanks to the natural sugars in the fruit), and loaded with fiber to keep you satisfied. Shawn recommends pairing the fruit with a bit of yogurt to keep the acidity in your belly balanced.
This fragrant, Indian porridge (typically made with basmati rice, yellow dal, and warming spices) is filling and easy to digest — which makes it a perfect meal for yogi whose workout involves lots of bending and twisting. Though he doesn’t follow a strict Ayurvedic diet, certified yoga instructor Jared Fu has experienced the benefits of kitchari firsthand. He says, “Kitchari is a food that is (generally) tridoshic; it helps to balance all three Ayurveda doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). It’s supposed to be good for cleansing the digestive tract, which is a lot of what Ayurveda focuses on, as well.”
One of the most delicious ways to get your dark, leafy greens? Acro yogi Robin Martin recommends green smoothies. “I know it seems so cliché,” she says, “but they really are my go-to — so many nutrients packed into something portable and easy, cooling and refreshing.” And we agree; there’s nothing better than a tall, hydrating glass of fiber-rich goodness. As an added bonus, blending fruits and vegetables into a smoothie makes their fiber easier to digest — which, in turn, makes it easier to bend and twist at the waist during yoga. (Not sure how to make spinach-filled smoothies taste good? You might want to check out this Strawberry Spinach Superfood Smoothie Recipe).
Protein plays an important role in any healthy, active lifestyle. Shawn Rae Thomson also recommends eating almonds — a great source of plant-based protein — because they’ll “give you stamina during the harder postures.” A handful of this nutrient-dense nut has almost as much protein as a hard-boiled egg, which means you only need a few to fuel your workout.
It’s no secret that avocados have a number of amazing health benefits. If you’re looking for one more reason to nosh on this creamy, green fruit, consider this: Research conducted by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center suggests that avocados improve cognitive function, which means better perception, increased attention span, and better control of your motor skills. It’s no wonder avocados make the list of yogi-endorsed foods! (If you’re bored with your normal avocado recipes, you may want to check out this awesome Strawberry Avocado Salad).
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