A Nutritionist’s Guide to Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is a favourite amongst many yogis (especially me!), not only does it have all the benefits of ‘traditional’ yoga, but it also heats you from the inside out, with some people believing the idea of hot yoga was to replicate the heat and humidity of India.

Hot yoga is great for many reasons, but it results in the body getting very warm which can result in a lot of sweat. Most articles promise that hot yoga will ‘sweat out toxins’ but from previous blogs, we know that our body is a complex, intelligent system with our organs such as liver and kidneys getting rid of toxins for us. So, although there are many benefits to hot yoga such as muscle flexibility being improved, increased blood flow to arms and legs due to the physical exercise aspect and it goes without saying – a stress reliever, making us feel calmer and in some cases ‘brand new’ after an amazing class, the hot aspect cannot work miracles (sorry!)

In most cases people perceive hot yoga as more demanding on the body and rightly so, you are in a 40 degree room after all! However, it can be a little intimidating to beginners or those that are not sure if they will stand the heat. Every yoga class should be taken at your own pace but this blog is here to give you a couple of top tips on how to prepare the body for your sweaty, energising hot yoga classes.

 

Hydration is key!

When you become dehydrated, water and electrolytes imbalances can occur which may lead to the exercise performance being affected. Therefore, hydration pre, during and post exercise is crucial whether it be ‘normal’ or hot yoga. There are variables between individuals when it comes to sweating rates and sweat electrolyte meaning customised fluid replacement programs can be recommended however, this blog will be general guidance.

The American College School of Medicine (ACSM) provide evidence-based position stands, providing guidance of the appropriate hydration for individuals performing physical activity. For example, pre-exercise the ACSM recommend consuming 5-10ml/kg body weight 2-4 hours prior to minimise dehydration during exercise.

Dehydration increases physiological strain and degrades aerobic exercise performance, which is accentuated in warm weather, baring in mind most hot yoga studios heat the room to over 40 degrees! Ensuring that you are hydrated pre-exercise and sip water throughout the class can help prevent severe dehydration and, in some cases, reduce fatigue. Don’t worry about sports drinks here, water is always the first fluid of choice.

 

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are an important fuel for the brain and central nervous system. Many studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates before exercising can increase carbohydrate burning in the muscles and can delay the feeling of fatigue with some studies even showing an increase in performance.

If you are a breakfast lover the NHS recommend starting your day with a wholesome breakfast, which is perfect if you have time to eat before your morning class. Oats are a great source of fibre and carbohydrates, they are so easy to throw in a smoothie or make porridge/overnight oats with teaming alongside foods such as honey, nuts or fruit (contributing to your 5 a day at the same time).

Replenishing your carbohydrate stores after class is vital, try and team with protein for a delicious post workout meal. For the evening yogis, meals such as lentil and chickpea curry or chicken and broccoli pasta are a great sources of carbohydrates and protein!

 

Protein:

Protein pre and post exercise is important however, the strongest research is for post exercise. Protein does provide a little fuel source for exercising the muscles but its main job is to compensate for increased muscle breakdown post exercise to help repair and grow the muscle. For those who have done hot yoga before, it definitely works those muscles!

High quality proteins are recommended post exercise, ideally, ones that are absorbed fast such as whey protein. Many studies have found that consuming the protein with carbohydrates after exercise enhances recovery and promotes muscle building (also replenishing the carbohydrate stores you have just used in your yoga class!) The amount of protein required depends on the individual and their overall movement, the ACSM recommends 0.75g /kg body weight for a more sedentary person compared to an athlete recommended 1.2 – 2g/kg body weight. Great sources of protein are lean meat, fish, eggs, soya, beans and lentils. The classic beans on toast could be a great post yoga snack if you prefer food to protein supplements after a class.

 

Remember!

A balanced diet will always be key here if you are a regular yogi, as always food should always be first! If you are unsure on anything from this blog please speak to a registered dietitian or nutritionist, especially when it comes to supplements. Hot yoga is a great form of exercise but if you already have a balanced diet, supplements should not be needed. Always stay hydrated and ensure the body is nourished before and after your class!

 

My favourite studio in Greater Manchester is HotYoganic, if you are in the area be sure to give them a try! There is a lovely variety of classes, including beginner classes!

 

 

 

References:

Sports Nutrition Anita Bean, NHS, ASCM, Burke et al 2011.

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