Something I get asked all the time by practitioners is how to eat for Ashtanga, and I think it’s so important. We work super hard in this practice, and fuelling our bodies with nutritious food is a necessity! So this week I’m sharing all about how to get proper nutrition for Ashtanga.
Proper nutrition, in my opinion, can:
- Improve your practice
- Reduce injury
- Increase your energy
- Improve digestion
- Increase mood
- and support healthy weight
While I generally think this topic is best addressed on an individual basis (because there is so much variation from person to person), there are some fundamental things we want to consider about nutrition for this practice.
Also, just a little disclaimer here, this is not intended in any way to act as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before making any major changes. This is simply to give you some general healthy guidelines to help support your practice.
Ok, now, there are some reasons I think that nutrition for Ashtanga is a smidge different than nutrition for like, Crossfit or some other type of workout program:
It actually isn’t a workout, it’s a spiritual practice (the physical benefits are like a side effect).
Most workout programs are designed with “periodization” in mind. Meaning, you strategically target specific muscle groups, on specific days, gradually increase weights, reps, etc to achieve the desired result.
Guys, we do the exact same thing (more or less) every day. There’s no leg day, back and chest, or bi’s and tri’s goin’ on over here.
Pattabhi Jois was like, *BOOM!* “Do all these things. Everyday. You practice! Rest? Ok, you get one day.” I hope you guys read that in your best Guruji impression. That’s kinda what I was going for there…
Anyways, what I’m trying to get at here, is that this practice is freakin’ HARD. And we do it every single day. It demands a lot from our body and doesn’t structure in specific time for recovery like regular workouts do. Which is totally fine, and can/is sustainable for so many people.
But what can help our bodies recover better, and function optimally (despite our lack of rest days), is nutrition. Nutrition is like the secret sauce when it comes to supporting your practice.
Now, I’m not going to get into the whole vegan/meat eating debate, we covered that in this article. Today I’m going to give you some simple tips to improve your practice using food! YAHOO!
Here’s 4 Tips to Improve your Practice with Food!
1. Make sure you’re getting enough protein
Protein, protein, protein. We NEED to be getting enough protein in our diet to improve muscle recovery/growth, ensure normal tissue development, and to support our immune system. Now the literature suggests that we aim for about 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight for active people.
So for me, a 60kg woman, getting about 90g of protein per day is ideal. That equates to about 30g/meal. Now, this is a very general recommendation, and depending on your personal goals that may be different, but this is a good starting place!
Some good sources of protein are:
- Black beans
2. Make sure you favor whole foods, complex carbohydrates
Ok, people have lots of opinions on carbs. Especially with the rise of the keto diet, everyone is avoiding them the same way they try to avoid eye contact with David if they haven’t shown up at the Shala for a few days straight.
But here’s the thing: Carbs aren’t inherently bad. No food is inherently bad for you. Different foods work well for different people. My advice is to try and find balance in your diet. If and when you eat carbs, always go for whole foods, high fiber carbs. These will be packed with more nutrition per gram, have more fiber to improve your poops (hell yea), and keep your blood sugar happy!
Some examples of these carbs are:
- Sweet potato
- White potato
3. Don’t fear the fat
So, for as many people that have hopped on the keto bandwagon, an equal number of people believe the BS (oops, did I write that out loud), that the AHA has been spewing about the dangers of coconut oil.
Guys, fat is your FRIEND! Fat is an amazing source of energy, is used in literally every cell in your body, and supports the nervous system. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed by now, but this practice really taxes your nervous system. So keeping it happy with lots of good-for-you fats is crucial!
Some examples of good fats are:
- Coconut oil
- Avocado and avocado oil
4. Eat lots of veggies!
I am a sucker for veggies. All colors, shapes, and sizes – I really don’t discriminate, and I encourage you to do the same! Veggies are rich in a variety of micronutrients that are what really kick your nutrition up a notch. They help to fuel every cell in your body, increase your energy levels, and support your immune system.
A few months ago I sat down with Dr. Tara Campbell, ND and we chatted all about micronutrients. If you want to read more about them, check out our article! Try having one cup or more of colorful veggies at each meal! But truthfully, I don’t think you can really overdo it on the veg.
Some of my favorite powerhouse veggies are:
- Green Beans
- Bok Choy
- Bell Peppers
Listen Ashtangis, here’s the thing: whether you like it or not, you’re kinda like an athlete.
You show up each day, you do this crazy practice, and you need to start fuelling your body like one. Try it out for a few weeks. Be mindful about what you put into your body throughout the day. Choose whole, real, mostly plant-based foods and watch how your body, mind and practice transform.
How do you feel about nutrition? Do you struggle to understand what to eat, or do you have it down? Let us know what your challenges are in the comments below so we can help.
Happy Eating Ashtangis!