Article by Sumaiya Hamid
There seem to be a lot of opinions floating around as to whether one must or mustn’t eat something before practising yoga.
The popular opinion being; it’s best to perform yoga on an empty stomach as having food in the digestive system can disrupt one's overall practice. The reasoning behind this is that the digestive process requires energy and when food is in the digestive tract, the body requires a full flow of blood to these tissues to nourish the gastrointestinal cells that are processing the food material. Energy is essential for the absorption of nutrients and for the secretion of hormones, enzymes and other chemicals to facilitate digestion. So when we perform yoga on a full stomach the poses and transitions take energy away from the digestive system thus making the system limited in its capacity to digest.
In his book “Light on Yoga”, B.K.S Iyengar writes that if it is difficult for you to do yoga on an empty stomach you can have coffee, cocoa, or milk.
On doing some research on this topic and examining a lot of expert opinions, the statistical median lands on the belief that you should not eat anything heavy for an hour or two hours before you plan to do yoga.
To get the maximum benefits from yoga it is important to maintain a proper diet. It is also essential that you consume the right type and the right amount of food before and after yoga to reap the benefits.
The following are some foods that one may consume an hour or two before yoga.
Nuts: A handful of nuts such as almonds, raisins, walnuts etc. can charge you up and give you the energy you require during yoga.
Fruit(s): High fibre fruits such as an apple or banana are sure to fuel you up and still keep you feeling light.
Protein Bar: Noting is as convenient as grabbing a protein bar right before yoga class. However, it is essential to make sure that it has high fibre and low sugar.
Yoghurt: A small bowl of yoghurt can do wonders too; you can also add a few berries or a little honey to it for extra yumminess.
One should ideally wait for around 30 minutes before consuming a meal after a yoga session.
Drink Plenty of Water: A productive yoga session will leave you sweaty which means it's time to rehydrate by drinking lots of water to replenish your body.
Green Salad: A fresh salad is light enough to not make you feel too full. It also contains plenty of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to provide a balanced meal. You can also add sprouts, beans or egg whites to improve the protein count.
Healthy Post-Workout Carbs: These include quinoa, sweet potatoes, whole grain or brown rice pasta with veggies etc.
Protein Packed Foods: These include fish, cottage cheese, eggs, whey protein shake, dried nuts, greek yoghurt etc.
Just like any other workout routine, it is paramount to pair that up with a balanced and healthy diet. Sticking to a yoga routine without maintaining a nutritious and wholesome diet will not yield you the results you seek.
Junk Food + Fried foods: Burgers, Pizzas, French fries, chips, fried chicken, candy bars are an absolute no-no. Opt for baked/grilled chicken or steamed fish instead.
Sugary Drinks: Cold drinks and sodas are the absolute devils. Not only are they packed with calories; they don't make you feel full since your brain does not register them like solid food. Which means that you won't eat less food to compensate. Instead, you end up adding these calories on top of your normal intake.
White Bread: It is highly refined and often contains a lot of added sugar. Opt for whole wheat or whole grain bread instead.
Sweets: This is a complete no-brainer. Stay away from cookies, ice cream, pastries, cupcakes etc. Opt for unsweetened dark chocolate instead. (One piece a day)
Alcohol: Alcohol especially beer has extremely high calories with as much as 7 calories per gram. Instead, opt for a glass of red wine now and then.
Yoga is not just what you do on the mat but also how you take care of yourself off the mat! Pairing the yoga practice with a healthy diet will help you enhance the yoga lifestyle!