Protein and the Yogi: Are You Getting What Your Body Needs?

nuts and seeds for yogis
Photo Credit: charlottehbest

Protein is essential for the support of lean muscle mass, immune function, energy levels, weight control and is the basis for all enzyme activity for basic body maintenance and detoxification. As a supplement, protein is often associated with weightlifting and muscle growth, but an increasing number of dedicated yoga practitioners are using protein shakes and supplements as a regular part of their yogic diet. So how do you know if you’re getting enough protein?

  • Do you regularly wake up and feel like you could go right back to sleep?
  • Do you get fatigued halfway through your asana practice or other exercise such as spinning, running or lifting weights and feel like you’re burnt out before you should?
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  • Do you feel like you aren’t getting the physical results you were expecting  despite a good routine? Feel like you’re stuck in a rut, that no matter how much you work out you aren’t building strength and muscle?
  • Maybe you’ve also got dry hair that seems to fall out a lot when brushing and washing? Minor cuts or grazes that take longer than usual to heal or strange ridges in your fingernails?
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  • A chronic protein deficiency might also result in carb, caffeine and sugar cravings, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, disturbed sleep, depression and other symptoms.

High protein foods are very important to keep your muscles from being too sore after your yoga workout. They will also help you build strength and stamina if you prefer a faster, vinyasa style practice. Lean proteins like boneless skinless chicken breast or tuna, a handful of nuts, or a bowl of quinoa and lentils are great, post-yoga snack options.

Why has protein become a talking point in yoga circles? Well, because many of us are vegetarian or vegan and are conscious of what we eat. When we practice asana, we are asking our bodies to do something for us; in return we need to acknowledge what our body needs in order to be healthy and available to do yoga and the other activities we enjoy.

Without enough protein our brains can’t function at their best, memory becomes poor, thoughts might feel a little disorganized or you might have trouble finding the right words when you are talking. Your immune system and energy levels will also decline. In which case you end up feeling much worse than you should after all that great yoga you’ve been doing!

A simple blood test can confirm or rule out a protein deficiency; however, just a few days of eating more protein will quickly tell you if you’re on the right track with symptoms disappearing quickly. Do some research and find out how much protein you are getting. Most active, vinyasa-practicing yogis need around 100 grams of protein a day. This doesn’t equate with 100 grams of food, so you can’t just eat a 100 gram steak and think the job is done! It’s easy to find great sources with information on how much protein is in different foods you eat.

The benefits of yoga are established, but if you eat correctly after your workout, you will stretch those benefits even further. So, focus on your breathing in your yoga class and your food selection afterward!

Do you eat after right asana practice? What is your favorite source of protein?

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