Nutrition for Flexibility

September 9, 2013 Caroleeena FoodhealthnutritionRecipeUncategorized

If there was one thing I learned in gymnastics, it was that eating the proper fuel for our body can greatly increase our flexibility.

Romaine lettuce, avocado, banana, grapes, dried cranberries, apple, red pepper, tomato and Italian Seasoning with dressing

Before Stretching:
Thirty minutes to an hour before I stretch, I eat a big plate of leafy greens with vegetables or fruits, usually in the form of a salad, but sometimes in the form of stir fried kale or mustard greens with red pepper and sesame seeds. (I cook a big pot of greens on the weekend and eat it over the course of a week. It’s good reheated or served cold. I like this recipe: Sesame Kale and Pepper Stir Fry) Kale and spinach especially aid in flexibility. My gymnastics teacher told me this back in the day and over the years I have definitely found it to be true. I cannot tell you why. I can just tell you that I see a difference in my practice immediately after eating kale and/or spinach.

After Stretching: 

Shortly after finishing your stretches, eat 1-2 servings of protein. If you are a meat eater, this might be one or two eggs (I try to keep boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick burst of protein) or a grilled chicken breast or some tuna.

edamame

Boil water, add frozen soy beans, bring back to boil, boil for 5 minutes, salt and serve. Easy!

If you are a vegetarian, this might be a cup of quinoa (this is my favorite recipe for breakfast and for after stretching: Almost Instant Quinoa), some edamame, or a handful of almonds. When we’re stretching, we are elongating muscle in a way that creates tiny micro-tears in our muscle tissue. Eating protein immediately after stretching provides the nutrients to repair the damage and reduces muscle soreness later. It also allows the muscles to stay nice and elongated instead of shrinking back to where they were before you stretched.

Vitamins:
There is much research that demonstrates that certain vitamins help increase our flexibility. I’ve read that if you take Vitamin B and C in combination, that is supposed to help lubricate your joints, which helps in flexibility. Vitamin E is also recommended. From the LiveStrong website:

  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is found in blueberries, strawberries and citrus fruits. According to Dr. Nathan Wei, certified rheumatologist and author of the Arthritis Treatment and Relief website, vitamin C may help slow down wear and tear on the joints, helping them stay flexible. This vitamin may also help arthritis sufferers prevent joint strains. Dr. Wei recommends 120mg per day, the equivalent of two oranges, for maintaining joint flexibility.
  • Vitamin B Complex – Vitamin B Complex contains several important vitamins, including vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. According to Dr. James F. Balch, author of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” vitamin B complex offers several benefits for people with limited flexibility, particularly when joint and muscle stiffness is caused by arthritis. These vitamins work together to dilate arteries and veins, increasing blood flow to the muscles, ligaments and tendons. These vitamins reduce swelling in muscle tissue. They also stimulate the production of myetin, a coating that protects nerve endings and reduces joint pain. Dr. Balch recommends a daily B complex supplement that contains at least 50mg of B vitamins. People with gout, liver problems or hypertension should avoid B complex supplements because these vitamins may aggravate these conditions.
  • Vitamin E – According to Dr. Balch, vitamin E is another important vitamin for joint flexibility. This vitamin, found in eggs, wheat germ, liver and sweet potatoes, is thought to be a powerful antioxidant that prevents the joints from becoming damages by free radicals. Vitamin E is also thought to promote joint mobility by strengthening the ligaments and tendons. This vitamin may interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants, aspirin and high blood pressure medications, so check with your doctor before increasing your vitamin E intake.

Hydration:

Homemade Flavored Water Chilled in Mason Jars

Homemade Flavored Water
Chilled in Mason Jars

Obviously it is important to drink water, ideally 1-2 liters a day. It is also important to be aware of other things you’re drinking that may be dehydrating. Coffee for example. I love coffee but I recently almost passed out at a hoop jam after drinking coffee all day but no water. Coffee is dehydrating. If you drink a lot of coffee, drink a cup of water for every cup of coffee you drink. What I like to do (now) is, after I’ve finished my cup of coffee, I immediately fill my coffee cup with water and drink that until it is gone. Many people pursuing flexibility goals give up drinking coffee altogether maintaining that it makes us stiff and tense, overstimulates our nervous system, and dries out some of our juiciness. I hear that but I love coffee and I continue to drink it. I just drink it weaker and I follow it with equal parts water.

 

In closing, some athletic coaches discourage us from eating wheat, rice or dairy because it increases our mucous, which decreases our flexibility. Some suggest eating a raw food diet. I can attest that even one raw meal a day (that big salad) makes a huge difference in how I feel and how flexible I am. I have seen dramatic results in others as well. After watching this amazing TED Talk by Dr. Terry Wahls called Minding Your Mitochondria, one of my hoop students began to eat as Dr. Wahls recommends and dropped 100 pounds in one year. Her flexibility grew leaps and bounds also. Now, some of that could have been that large weight loss but, given the fact that this diet is so similar to what gymnastics coaches have been recommending for years, and, given what it did for Dr. Wahls (reversing many of the symptoms of her previously debilitating Multiple Sclerosis), I think there’s something else going on also.

I have included some of my favorite recipes in this post. I could as easily have called it “Healthy Food For Lazy People”. The stuff I suggest is simple and fast but delicious and nutritious. I hope it brings you pleasure even as it makes you more flexible, supple, and juicy!

 

3 Responses to “Nutrition for Flexibility”

  • Monija says:

    Hi

    I just want to know what will i replace red meat if I don’t eat it?

    Kind regards
    Monija

    • Caroleeena says:

      If you eat fish and eggs, salmon, tuna, and eggs are high protein, good fats, and quickly absorbed. Canned mackeral, sardines and oysters are also good and you can eat them on crackers on the go. I will often pair smoked salmon and avocado on either salads or on baked crackers. If you eat chicken, a chicken breast works great.

      For vegetarian options, you can substitute bean rich soups or chilis of all kinds. (Make a big pot over the weekend and divide it into “to go” containers if you work out at a gym or dance studio.) Edamame is a quick snack or side dish that you can put in a zip-lock bag and take anywhere. Chickpeas on your salads or in soups are wonderful — full of protein and crunchy — but I like them raw or marinated also. (I like to marinate them with olive oil and crushed garlic in the refrigerator for a while and eat them with my fingers as snacks.) Quinoa is a big go to for me. You make it like rice or pasta and you can use it in any rice or pasta dish. You can eat it hot or cold and I have my favorite cold recipe above that I use for breakfast. Hummus is super easy to find and full of protein. It’s also pretty easy to make and there are many different flavors to keep your palate interested. Chia seeds are wonderful. You can eat them buy themselves or put them on anything else — yogurt, salads, smoothies, anything. Quorn is a meat substitute you can find in many stores that is made by growing a type of fungi in vats and it is fashioned into tasty fake chicken and fake burger meat. It is a microprotein grown to combat food shortages but it tastes really good and it’s a whole protein. It is my “go to” substitute for chicken. Rice and Beans make a whole protein. You can use lentils, chick peas, red beans, black beans… They’re all good. A spoonful of peanut butter is a quick dose of protein also.

      There are other substitutes that are less well known — seitan, spirulina, hempseed, buckwheat, Ezekial bread. Soy beans and soy milk also contain a lot of protein. I am not a fan of soy milk though. It’s made from the shells and stems of soy beans, which is where all the pesticides are. You can make your own from the beans though. It’s pretty easy to make.

  • Jason hommel says:

    I discovered that drinking green smoothies before and during isometric stretching greatly improved my joint health and flexibility and strength. I believe part of the reason why it works is the detox effect. Greens act as chelators, they remove toxic heavy metal poisons that might get trapped in joints and create pain and stiffness. Because the strength gains in my joints came much faster that strength gains from weightlifting.


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