What to Eat (or not eat) Before Yoga Practice

[wp_ad_camp_1] Just imagine what would happen if you ate a super rich dairy based breakfast, bacon and eggs, or a cheeseburger and fries before coming to your yoga class. How about a large coffee and sugary muffin right before a vinyasa flow class? What do you think the effect would be on your mind through practice, not to mention your stomach as soon as you jump back to chutaranga or hang upside down in downward dog!

On the whole, yogis are known for not getting too close to any form of junk food, so it is safe to say that most experienced practitioners know which things to avoid from a health perspective nowadays. But what are the foods that make us feel exceptional? I mean those foods that really, really get us fired up and ready to go out into the world and have a fantabulous and incredible yoga practice? How much of these things should we eat, how often, when exactly, and most importantly why?

As yogis, we know that our bodies are our temples and we should treat them as such. It can be tough at times, but with the right information it is super easy for us to eat delicious and nutritious meals, most of the time, (after all we are all human, so everything in moderation), that make us feel kick-ass amazing each and every day. The more we learn the more we can start to fine-tune our meals and snacks to help our yoga practice to also become out of this world amazing too!

There are some guidelines out there that suggest that yoga should be performed on an empty stomach. However if you didn’t eat all day and do a strenuous yoga class in the evening, you are starting from a place of low blood sugar, and you may start feeling dizzy and lightheaded as your body is working hard and looking for fuel that is not there. You won’t have the energy you need to try that new arm balance or inversion that your teacher shows you, not to mentionthe potential crankiness that often results from an empty belly.

On the other hand eating a heavy meal right before class isn’t a good idea either, or you will be feeling it (read “tasting” it) each and every time you move through your vinyasa, twist, or bend, or come into downward dog!

 

Healthy food choices = healthy mind and body      

Rather than keeping the stomach empty, I prefer to think about eating before yoga in terms of portion control and common sense in terms of my food choices. Remembering of course, what works for me may not always work for you!

When it comes to nutrition and keeping it real (read “simple”) what we need are foods that keep the body light, and the mind focused. As well as foods that give us sustainable energy and balance.

 

Two simple things to remember:

Focus your energy on foods that have a low glycemic index, these foods will help fuel your performance for longer periods of time.

Then, on the other extreme, try to avoid eating simple sugars (fizzy drinks, sugary sweets, sports drinks, power bars) or any foods with a high glycemic index. They may leave you feeling exhausted and light-headed before you even really get going with your practice. I will add more to this later.

 

What about timing?

A good suggestion for a small meal is one that holds anything from 200-300 calories, and contains a protein and carbohydrate. This can be eaten up to 2 hours before your yoga class without terrible consequences.  If you are taking your lunch or light dinner in the liquid form then you can probably get away with drinking this a little closer to yoga time.  Light snacks such as a piece of fruit or nuts can be consumed an hour before class.

 

Foods that should be included in any fabulous yogis diet every single day

Whether you’re practicing intense power yoga or slowing it down with Hatha or Yin, a healthy diet is key to having both the energy and the focus to make it through your practice. It’s important that your diet is balanced and full of nutritious foods high in fiber, vitamins, healthy fats, and even natural sugars to keep you satisfied and grounded

I like to eat small portions, often throughout the day making selections from the fabulous list of yumminess and healthiness that I will tell you more about below shortly! I try to not eat too much before class, and the closer to class I eat, the less I try to eat.

My top food choices: 

1. Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit is incredibly refreshing, delicious, and constantly changing with the seasons. They’re good for your health and a great way to satisfy hunger during the day. Thanks to their natural sugar content, fresh fruit provides a boost of energy without the crash of refined sugars. I like to create a beautifully colourful platter of as many different kinds of fruit as I can for breakfast or in my smoothie, or for an afternoon snack sprinkled with a couple of different types of nuts and seeds for my ultimate protein boost J Let’s look at a few more specifically as foods to munch on shortly before your yoga class:

Avocados: Most yogis love avocados. They contain critical electrolytes like magnesium and potassium (60% more than a banana), which contributes to proper cell and muscle function. Avocados are nutrient-dense and don’t have a lot of volume, so you feel full for longer, light in triangle and strong for your handstand. Most of the fat in avocados helps to lower bad cholesterol and promote lean muscle growth. What's not to love?

Bananas: This sweet fruit is potassium-rich, which makes it a great pre-workout snack. Potassium interacts with sodium and keeps your body properly hydrated. The magnesium prevents cramps and bloating. It's the perfect snack for your Vinyasa class.

Berries: Oh how I adore berries, just their fabulously glowing and vivid colors catch my attention and make me want to fill huge bowls full of them and throw them into every single meal I plan to eat!

Their bright colors are a strong indicator that berries are high in disease-fighting antioxidants, and they’re a wonderful addition to your smoothie or juice. Since they’re also high in fiber, berries can help keep hunger at bay and keep everything moving. The natural sugar in berries will help you get through your practice without crashing like high-sugar snacks can do.

Apples: High in fiber, natural sugar and vitamin C. They hydrate, give a little sugar jolt, and they clean your teeth. They are also a great source of vitamin C, and contain fiber.

Melon: Melon is a water-rich fruit that is also low in acid that can help you stay hydrated and energized (sans heartburn) during your warrior poses.

2) Almonds

Grab a handful of these little superstars before class to boost your energy levels and keep hunger at bay. They contain potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E, helping you to stay hydrated and giving your muscles staying power to hold those challenging yoga poses just a little bit longer. Just make sure that you eat the plain and unsalted version for maximum health and nutrition.

What to Eat (or Not Eat) Before Yoga Practice - www.YogaTravelTree.com

3) Nut Butters

Nut butters are a wonderfully great way to satisfy hunger, boost your energy, and keep you powered up until it’s time for Savasana. They are super high in protein and contain the good fats to keep you healthy. The thing that I love most about nut butters is that there are so many ways to enjoy nut butters. I love to use them as a dip for apples or bananas, or raw peppers, celery, cucumber, or carrots. Or try them spread on yummy brown seeded bread with sliced strawberries on top – divine!!

4) Anything Green!

From kale to spinach to arugula and more, dark leafy greens are brimming with an amazing spectrum of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, E and K, iron, fiber and calcium, and so much more. I love to throw my leafy greens into absolutely anything and everything - try them in a salad, or a smoothie next time with your other fabulous fruit and veggies.

5) Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is great for keeping your blood sugar levels in check and increasing the blood flow to your brain. Eating a little bit before class will boost your concentration and the ability to focus. It also contains caffeine, which stimulates and enhances alertness, without getting the shakes that unnatural sugars can give you.

7) Smoothies

To create an incredible glass of deliciousness, simply blend all or a selection of the five fabulously top ingredients above (bananas, almonds/walnuts, avocado, nut butter, leafy greens, and chocolate) with regular or coconut water. I like to go natural with my combos but you can choose to add superfood or protein or green powders if like you. This will set you up for getting the most out of your practice without fail! Plus liquid meals can be consumed a little closer to a yoga practice.

Examples of less than ideal food choices before yoga:

  •  Orange Juice or any other high-acid juice
  • Sweets, candy bars, ice cream
  • Salad/vegetables with heavy or oily dressing
  • Soup
  • Anything spicy
  • Anything heavy
  • Pizza
  • Cheeseburgers – actually any kind of burgers
  • Anything pan-fried or sautéed
  • Coffee or tea

Everyone is unique

Listen to your body, find out what works for you and what doesn’t. What allows you to experience just the right amount of sustained energy and stamina without feeling full and weighed down? If you don’t eat, does it have terrible results? And if you do, does it work for you. Play with it a little and then go with what makes you feel the most awesome!

 

Images via: @wholegood