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I’ve often heard yoga teachers talk about yoga being all about learning to get your mind and body in balance—about finding inner peace and stability. If you follow that logic, it seems that eating mindfully and healthfully should actually be a huge component of yoga, yet it seems to me like it barely gets a nod.
Even though I do have a regular yoga practice, I often find myself grabbing takeout, eating quickly on-the-go, or chowing down at my desk while multitasking and sending emails. And while I look forward to my practice, I don’t think enough about what I’m actually putting into my body before and after my practice.
“The beautiful thing about yoga practice is it helps us to connect to our bodies,” says Kara Lydon, registered dietitian, yoga teacher, and author of Nourish Your Namaste: How Nutrition and Yoga Can Support Digestion, Immunity, Energy and Relaxation. “Practice listening to your body before and after yoga class to determine when and what to eat. Your body holds all of the wisdom to help you eat intuitively, you just have to create the space to listen.”
To help me kick start a new plan to eat more mindfully before and after I practice, I asked Lydon—as well as other expert registered dietitians who are also yogis—when and what to eat. Here’s what we should all know about how to eat for an ideal yoga practice.
What to eat before yoga class
Before you practice, you want to aim for snacks that are easy to digest and that will help you stay loose while you practice. Of course, what works for your body is specific and personal, which is why we asked multiple experts to give you all the information you need to make a good choices. Here are their recommendations:
1. Simple carbs.
“Think simple carbohydrates with small amounts of protein, fat, or fiber for staying power and energy,” says Lydon. “Some of my favorite pre-yoga snacks are banana or apple with peanut butter, avocado toast, or hummus with carrots or crackers.”
2. Energizing snacks.
“It could be fruit and nut butter, a smoothie, toast with avocado, or anything that feels energizing to you,” says Lauren Fowler, a registered dietitian Nutritionist and yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay area.
3. Easy-to-digest foods.
“Before yoga, choose foods that digest easily and give you balanced energy, such as a combination of whole grain carbohydrates, protein, and fat for staying power,” says Kat Brown, a registered dietitian and yoga instructor.
4. Eat two hours before you practice.
“I recommend having a full meal two hours before a yoga class,” says Alisha Temples, a licensed dietitian and yoga teacher in Virginia. “If eating within two hours of a class, choose a light snack.”
5. Avoid spicy, fatty, and acidic foods.
These can upset your stomach, says Temples. You’ll also want to avoid foods that digest slowly, says Brown, as they could make you uncomfortable while you practice.
6. Give yourself time to digest before you practice.
As a general rule of thumb, allow yourself one to one-and-a-half hours to digest after a light snack and two to three hours to digest after a light meal before your yoga class, says Lydon. “But the most important thing here is to experiment and listen to your body to determine the timing that works best for you.”
What to eat after yoga class
Having a balanced, satisfying meal or snack with some carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will help re-fuel your mind and body. Here, our experts make some suggestions for how to refuel after you’ve gotten your flow on:
Choose carbs plus protein. After yoga, especially if it’s a vigorous flow, you’ll want to refuel with a meal or snack that has a 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which can help repair muscle tissues and restore energy levels, says Lydon. Some of her favorite post-yoga snacks include a Greek yogurt parfait with fruit, nuts, and granola; a quinoa bowl with veggies, tofu, or legumes; or a smoothie with frozen wild blueberries, banana, mint, Greek yogurt, and kefir or silken tofu.
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia Magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. She’s been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World and more. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.