The Perfect Pilates Diet
There are two sides to keeping your body fit and healthy – input and output. The input is the healthy food that you put into your mouth, and the output is the physical exertion that you engage in. Both are essential for wellbeing and both require you to plan well and make sacrifices.
Pilates is the perfect way to take care of the output. Well rounded and appropriate for all levels of fitness, Pilates offers you the ability to see amazing results while also supporting your mental wellbeing. The mind/body balance is a core piece of the Pilates experience. However unless you’re taking care of the input with the right diet, you’re not going to achieve the results that you want or find the harmony that you can potentially access with a well rounded healthy lifestyle.
But don’t worry! Eating well for Pilates isn’t difficult at all. In fact, great nutrition and Pilates go wonderfully together, enhancing one another and driving you forward to health.
Water is key to the perfect Pilates diet
One thing that is often missed in a dietary plan. Pilates is a whole body form of exercise, and so when it comes to changes in diet, the Pilates philosophy takes everything into account – including hydration. Dehydration is a chronic problem for the vast majority of people, and it has some rough consequences including low energy, brain fog, hunger cravings, muscle cramps, lower range of motion and more.
Staying well hydrated means drinking at least one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day. For most of us this means twice the classic idea of eight cups per day, or around sixteen cups per day. Keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to over hydrate, though it can happen in very rare cases. One of the easiest ways to get hydration right is to aim for a gallon per day. Yes, this might sound outlandish to lots of you reading this, but it truly isn’t that difficult at all once you cultivate the right habits.
How to hydrate for Pilates
Get a good water bottle that holds at least sixteen ounces and keep it with you. Then drink eight of those a day. Here’s a sample plan of when to drink sixteen ounces of water, so that by time you drink at each of these intervals you’ll be at your goal, and you will hardly have noticed.
When to drink
• first thing in the morning when you wake up
• with breakfast
• during your morning commute
• over the course of the morning
• with lunch
• during your afternoon commute
• just after you work out
• with dinner
You’ll notice that in this plan, the most water is downed in the morning. That’s by design, because your body becomes dehydrated overnight while you’re sleeping. You also want to get it all down well before bed so that you aren’t waking in the middle of the night with a full bladder! Again, Pilates is a whole life philosophy, so we want to make sure that we’re thinking about all angles of health and wellness. Good sleep and hydration are equally important.
Keep in mind that this is just a sample plan – it really doesn’t matter when you drink as long as you’re drinking! Pilates is all about balance and control. Getting well hydrated is the first step on a positive path to a perfectly balanced and controlled Pilates diet.
Eating right for Pilates
Just as the Pilates workout routine is focused on balance, flow and integration, so too should the perfect Pilates diet be focused on the same ideas. What you eat shouldn’t be hard on your body, causing undue stress or exertion. You want to eat for ease and support.
Calorie counting or extreme eating aren’t parts of a fulfilling diet, and so aren’t what a Pilates diet are about. Keep in mind that a Pilates diet is going to be an extension of the same principles that we love about Pilates, just applied to your food.
In that spirit, there are three key facets to the any food in the perfect Pilates diet – balanced, whole and clean.
Balanced eating is largely common sense eating, but it helps to set some hard and fast parameters. The main idea is to keep good fuel coming into your body at regular intervals, without overindulging and always keeping a wide variety of healthful foods in the diet.
Here are the key points:
• include a morning meal
• eat at regular intervals – around every three to four hours
• fast after 8pm to allow your body time to rest
• eat for fullness but not dullness
• aim for roughly an equal balance of calories from carbs, veggies, protein and fat
• eat lightly before a workout so that your body can focus on exercise instead to digestion.
There is a spectrum of healthy food, ranging from highly processed foods that don’t at all resemble their natural state to foods that are eaten raw and exactly as they exist in nature. For the perfect Pilates diet you want to veer to the side of the spectrum where foods most closely resemble their natural form – the whole foods side. There is an incredibly broad variety of whole foods, so you never have to feel limited. You can mix and match foods in thousands of combinations to fit your palate. Personalize your diet just as you personalize your Pilates routine.
Stick to the outer edge of the grocery store when you’re shopping, peeking into the aisles mainly for whole grains, nuts and legumes. Fruits and vegetables should be the the bulk of your diet, keeping in mind the balance of calories with equal parts protein, carbs, veggies and fats. Healthy fats include avocado, nuts and seeds.
Here are some examples of whole foods to maximize:
• nuts and seeds (unsalted)
• leafy greens
• free range eggs
• sustainable meats
• whole dairy
• whole grains
So much of Pilates is centered on aligning your body, bringing it into a state of peace. You can’t be at peace if you’re filling your diet with foods that aren’t clean and are full of artificial colors, additives, chemicals and carcinogens. Clean eating is a necessary part of the perfect Pilates diet.
Up until this point we’ve spoken to what kinds of foods to focus on, but here’s what to avoid in the perfect Pilates diet.
Eliminate these foods completely:
• refined grains
• artificial sweeteners
• artificial colors
• high fructose corn syrup
• refined sugars
• hydrogenated fats
Reduce these foods drastically:
• starchy veggies
• full fat dairy & meats
• canned foods
• caffeine, except green tea
• prepackaged foods
Eating well is key to Pilates
If a food can be categorized as being clean, whole and balanced, then it’s the right kind of food for Pilates. You can tailor what you’re eating to these factors, and from there it doesn’t matter at all what it is that you’re putting into your mouth. If you love pizza, then there are plenty of pizza style foods out there that fit. If chocolate is your thing, then you’ll be able to eat that as well. However just as you push yourself in your Pilates workouts, so too do you need to push yourself in your diet. Try new things, explore and stretch your palate. The possibilities are endlessly malleable.
Eating well is going to help you to reach your goals, to improve your health and to propel your forward. Fill your body with positive input in the form of whole, clean and balanced foods as well as plenty of water, and you’ll get the most out of your perfect Pilates diet and your Pilates workouts.
Lauren McClerkin is a PMA® Certified Pilates instructor and proud mom of five beautiful children. She created the 100’s to Happiness® Challenge with the goal of bringing the healing practice of Pilates to everyone. The app is available for download on all iOS and Android devices. Follow me on Twitter at @McClerkinLauren.