Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nutrition for pilates and yoga

Now that I am finished with my PhD I have time to go out and enjoy life more, and to that end I took my first pilates class on Saturday. Since I am getting older and want to continue running and cycling for many years, I thought it would be a good addition to my weekly workout routine. I looked up the benefits of pilates and found them to include: the ability to build strength and endurance by building lean muscles due to the emphasis placed on repetition; the ability to increase the strength and size of stabilizer muscles; the benefit of a mind-body workout; injury prevention by balancing the muscles in the body; and the development of strength in the core muscles. I enjoyed the workout and found it to be more challenging than I expected.

Being the dietitian that I am, my thoughts naturally turned to nutrition for pilates and similar practices such as yoga. What should you eat to fuel your pilates/yoga workout? I did some research and found that there are two common problems that generally distract people from finding their inner calm: gas and a not-quite-right feeling in your stomach that interferes with concentration. Bear in mind that pilates and yoga do not burn as many calories as aerobic activities so the fueling focus should be on ensuring that you have adequate energy for your workout without making your stomach too full or gassy.

In pilates there is a fair amount of emphasis on working the abdominal muscles, while in yoga certain positions place pressure on the abdomen at the same time you are to be relaxing. Also in yoga you are sometimes in an inverted position which can result in gas production. And everyone passes gas, both as burping and as flatulence. Each person produces about ¾ liter of different gases in their intestinal tracts daily. Flatulence results from fermentation or the chemical breakdown of substances in food by bacteria that live in your colon. Many factors affect this production so here are some practical solutions to curb excess gas production:
• Limit your lactose intake. Lactose is the milk sugar in dairy products and many people are unable to completely digest it.
• Avoid large amounts of the sugar alcohols sorbitol and mannitol. Read ingredient lists as these alcohols are used to sweeten sugar-free gums and candies and when ingested are fermented by colon bacteria.
• Eat small meals especially if your diet consists of high fiber foods like beans and broccoli. By consuming gas-forming foods in smaller amounts you will produce less gas throughout the day.
• Consider adding a probiotic to your daily regimen to help regulate your digestive system.

Now what about focus? If you want to achieve a clear, relaxed mind then you might want to avoid or limit the amount of caffeine you have before a class. Likewise with energy drinks – plain water should be your drink and enough to ensure you are adequately hydrated.

Eating for yoga and pilates requires a careful balance of the right foods at the right time. Eating too much before class and you will feel heavy, gassy, and have trouble concentrating. Eating too little may result in stomach grumbling and light headedness which will also distract you from your calm.

So what is the bottom line? Focus on small meals of high quality fresh foods and plenty of water for hydration. If your class is first thing in the morning try a piece of whole wheat toast with apple butter. If your class is in the evening have a snack in the middle of the afternoon that is high in complex carbohydrates, has a small amount of lean protein, and a small amount of good fat. Try apple slices with almond butter, a slice of whole wheat bread with a few slices of lean turkey meat, egg whites, or hummus, or try a string cheese and a few carrots. Smoothies make great pre- and post-workout snacks too and the options are limitless. Just include some protein (hemp, whey, soy, rice), some fruit, nut butters, oats, etc. Vary the types and amounts of ingredients based on the time of your workout and your individual digestive system.

Keep these tips in mind and next time you do pilates or yoga you should truly find your inner calm.

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