We all know that nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy body and mind, but did you ever think about how your diet may be helping — or hurting — your yoga practice? While wearing the right clothing may help you look the part, what you put into your body can ultimately determine how you feel during your flow. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet not only provides the necessary energy and focus to your practice, but it also aids in post-workout recovery, allowing your body to rejuvenate so you can return to the mat sooner and stronger. However, just like any aspect of yoga, finding the diet that best benefits your body is highly personal and can differ from person to person, so feel free to explore what foods make you feel good. For an easy way to boost your energy and see improvements in your yoga practice, here are five go-to foods that you can easily incorporate into your everyday diet.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Rich in fiber, nutrients, antioxidants, and so much more, fresh fruits and veggies are a great option for a light snack before your workout. Vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, are full of vitamins, iron, calcium, and more that can help regulate digestion and alkalize the blood after a hard workout. On the other hand, due to its natural sugar content, fruit can give you the boost of energy you need right before hitting the mat — minus the crash later on. Plus, water-dense fruits such as watermelon or grapefruit can be the perfect post-workout snack, especially after a particularly sweaty flow, as they help rehydrate the body and replenish it with electrolytes. Not to mention, as fruits and vegetables change with the seasons, you can frequently switch up your pre- and post-workout snacks so you never get bored!
While true “teas” such as green tea, oolong tea, and black tea also offer health benefits including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, herbal teas are, in fact, not technically “teas.” Herbal teas, such as black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and turmeric tea, are often “made from dried fruits, flowers, spices or herbs,” according to Healthline. For centuries, herbal tea has been used for its medicinal properties and disease-fighting antioxidants — and these benefits can definitely carry over into your yoga practice. For instance, ginger tea fights against bloating and inflammation, turmeric tea boosts the immune system, and black pepper tea supports the absorption of nutrients in the body. Whether you’re slowing things down with restorative yoga or revving it up with a fast-flowing Vinyasa, sipping herbal teas before or after class can boost your immunity, metabolism and overall performance during your practice.
While this one may be a no-brainer, we can’t emphasize enough how important hydration is to your yoga practice. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins, improve digestion, regulate the body temperature, and provide better muscle and joint function. Furthermore, hydrating before a yoga class can help prepare you to push your body to its best ability while avoiding nausea, bloating, and fatigue during your flow. According to Harvard Medical School, “a general rule of thumb for healthy people is to drink two to three cups of water per hour, or more if you're sweating heavily.” Make sure to sip water before meals and frequently throughout the day, and drink about eight ounces of water at least 30 minutes before a vigorous yoga session.
For a low-fat, cholesterol-free source of protein, try snacking on legumes 5–7 hours before a demanding yoga class. Common types of legumes include chickpeas and a variety of beans, including kidney beans, black beans, and soybeans, and they’re known to decrease blood sugar levels, increase healthy gut bacteria, and produce anti-aging benefits. Lentils, a personal favorite, contain more folate than any other plant food and are packed with iron and protein to keep you satisfied and energized throughout your workout. Plus, legumes are a great meat substitute for vegans and vegetarians or anyone who’s looking for a plant-based meal. So, try adding some chickpeas or lentils into your next soup or curry recipe to see the benefits for yourself.
Not only are spices a great way to add aroma and flavor to your meals, but they also hold a variety of medicinal qualities that help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and burn away toxins in the body. Spices can be steeped in hot water to make tea, sprinkled on food, or even eaten in small quantities on their own. While all spices hold powerful health benefits, each one has its own unique qualities that can aid specific functions of the body. For example, ginger, known as the “universal medicine,” can decrease joint inflammation and boost digestion by stimulating the appetite. On the other hand, nutmeg, a warm, grounding spice, can help relax the body and improve sleep quality. Or, try cooking with cardamom, which can improve heart health and aid in the absorption of nutrients.
No matter your level or preferred yoga style, maintaining a balanced diet can benefit not only your physique but also your overall performance. What you put into your body ultimately affects your mood, your mindset, and your physical abilities. While there are so many other healthy foods that can boost your energy and focus, these five foods are a perfect starting point so you can be on your way to a more mindful, more enjoyable yoga practice.