If you're doing Bikram yoga, you're probably already enjoying increased flexibility, stronger muscles and reduced anxiety. But you may be surprised to find that you're not losing weight. That's because as awesome as Bikram is for your mind and body, it's not necessarily a fast track to fat loss. True, you're burning more calories than you would lounging on the couch all day, but it's what you eat that has the most impact on your weight. Never fear -- with the right diet modifications, you can develop a lean, fit physique.
Weight loss is all about calories. There's no trick to it; the fewer calories you eat, the more fat you'll lose. Just 1 pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, so you need to eat that much less in comparison to what you burn. For example, if you use 2,000 calories a day, eat 1,500 calories daily to lose a pound in one week. Determine how many calories you burn by finding your basal metabolic rate and then factoring in Bikram yoga and other activities. Bikram can burn 350 to 600 calories per class, giving you a jump start on calorie management. Just don't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day to avoid malnutrition.
Bikram can be strenuous on your body, making proper nourishment extra important. Sure, you could eat nothing but donuts and stay within your target calorie range, but your body will know the difference. Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors such as purple, green, orange, white and yellow. Be sure to include whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and oatmeal, as well as lean proteins like reduced-fat cheese and kidney beans. These nutrient-dense foods will fill you up on fewer calories, making it easier to reduce your caloric intake.
Water is an excellent weight-loss aid, and as you sweat in the hot Bikram studio your body will beg for replenishment. Bring a water bottle to every session to stay hydrated. Also, drink two cups of water before each meal. A study at Virginia Tech in 2010 showed that dieters who downed a pint of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner ate fewer calories because they weren't dining on empty stomachs.
You may be tempted to lose the weight as fast as you can, but crash dieting is bad news, especially when combined with activity like Bikram. Any diet that makes you lose more than 2 pounds a week will sap your energy, and could even make you sick. Besides, you'll lose more muscle and water than fat. In addition, steer clear of fad diets that cut out entire food groups. These are unsustainable and lead to nutritional imbalance.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.