Yoga and Supplements
Written by Jon Dyer.
Why as a Practicing Yogi I take Supplements.
This article is a little unorthodox, but then I'm an unorthodox yogi. Why am I unorthodox?
Because I invest as much time into lifting weights and building muscle as I do yoga. In my view weightlifting and yoga are a perfect combination ... despite the fact some yogis counsel against it (yes, I've read that weightlifting is bad for yoga ... nonsense) and the fact that most weight lifters do not do yoga. I admit that weightlifting restricts my flexibility. But that's all the more reason for me to do yoga. It helps me stay flexible despite muscle growth. Besides, yoga isn't only about flexibility. It's as much of mind-based practice as it is physical.
Enter supplements as a yogi
I don't take supplements to improve my yoga practice. I've done cleanses and take a multi-vitamin and fish oil pills for general health. But I do take a fair amount of supplements for my weightlifting ... even the much misunderstood creatine.
The supplements I take for weightlifting are as follows:
- Hormone-free protein powder
- Micronized creatine
- Branch Chain Amino Acids
All of these supplements aid with muscle development ... but they contribute to my overall health as well. They indirectly help with my yoga practice because I'm stronger and leaner. Leaner? Yup. Supplements deliver the necessary nutrients that promote lean muscle growth instead of bulk and mass.
My yoga practice taught me mindfulness about choosing better supplements
Before I started yoga, I only lifted weights. Once I started yoga, I started reading a lot about eating better as well as choosing healthier supplements. Many of the supplements for weight lifters contain some nasty stuff including artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and are made from milk that comes from cows that have been administered synthetic hormones such as rBST and rBGH.
Pre-yoga, I generally purchased the least expensive supplements. I didn't read labels except for the protein content. I paid no attention to the quality and sources of protein. Now I do. Yoga and yoga-centric nutrition literature taught me the importance of mindfulness in choosing foods and supplements.
Protein supplements are an excellent example of how what's seemingly healthy isn't. Many protein supplements are made with the cheapest protein sources so they can be priced competitively. They are then marketed heavily.
I've learned that not all protein sources are created equally. Probably the most common protein supplement is whey, which is derived from cow's milk (it's a cheese-making by-product). Whey has high-protein content. But it's quality is dictated largely by the cows from which it's made.
Surprisingly, in the USA, farmers can administer hormones to cows in order to speed up growth and increase milk yield. The trouble with this is it results in milk that is compositionally different from milk from cows not administered synthetic hormones. Therefore, whey protein made from this milk is not hormone free. The last thing I want to do is ingest synthetic hormones.
Supplements only Supplement
A final point I'd like to make is to keep in mind that supplements only supplement. They don't do the work for you. They aren't a magic pill. This is the case with herbal supplements, weight lifting supplements, etc. You must still follow the basics which is eat right, incorporate physical activity in your life (i.e. yoga) and maintain healthy emotional life (yoga helps again).
Therefore, only use supplements if you have a specific purpose for them. More importantly, carefully investigate the manufacturing process and every ingredient before ingesting any supplements. You may unintentionally cause yourself more harm than good.
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