Eating a big meal before yoga class is pretty much one of the biggest no-nos when it comes to the practice. It’s easy to see why. Yoga is a practice full of twists and balances and inversions and sometimes it is practiced in rooms heated to 95 degrees and higher. None of these things is especially fun after eating a double cheeseburger, large fries, and a beer. And trust me, I speak from experience.
That said, yoga is still a workout. And while showing up to class on a full stomach isn’t recommended (in fact, most studios ask that you not eat two hours before class), you still shouldn’t show up on an empty stomach expecting to perform your best, either.
So what can you eat?
I fast between the hours of 8 pm and 12 pm the next day. This means that if I miss my 5 am yoga class, I am usually famished by the 12:15 class I take as an alternative. So what do I do? I grab a crisp apple and a handful of nuts. The protein in the nuts (usually cashews) really helps keep me from getting nauseous, but it’s still small enough to keep things comfortable. Try a banana and peanut butter or a handful of trail mix with raisins and nuts for the same effect.
If you are the kind of person who knows food is a mistake before class (and you will know pretty quickly), why not try a smoothie? You can mix in so many things — kale, berries, yogurt, a banana, some protein powder. Bonus? It won’t make you feel full, but will give you energy for all the chaturangas your little heart desires.
When in doubt try a snack bar. My favorites are Larabars because they have so few ingredients and are made with only fruit and nuts generally, but these are easy to find at any gym or health food store and can tide you over through a 75 minute vinyasa flow before your next big meal.
No matter what you eat or don’t eat, you should never go to a yoga class without drinking plenty of water. Some teachers discourage drinking water during class (they say it quenches the inner fire you need to practice) and I tend to follow that rule of thumb. But I never enter class without downing at least 8 ounces. And neither should you.
Sasha Brown-Worsham has written for dozens of publications and is completing her training to become a certified yoga teacher.
She lives outside NYC with her husband, three kids, and numerous pets.
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