Whether you’re new to yoga or just looking for a new type of practice to enjoy, there are some things you should consider before heading to your mat for your regular practice. Yoga’s not just a fabulous way to improve your mind and body, it’s also one of the most recommended activities for enhancing your digestion. Digestion is an important part of our health and affects how we feel on so many levels, so it’s important to eat to support our digestion, especially before we head off to exercise. Yoga involves lots of turns and twists, so you’ll need to be sure that your pre-workout eats don’t leave you bloated, light-headed, or in a food-coma. You also shouldn’t head off to yoga class without eating, since that disrupts your blood sugar levels and can lower your metabolism, which leads to muscle loss.
Tips on Choosing the Best Pre-Yoga Eats:
You want to focus on foods that are: easy to digest, light on the stomach, not too heavy in protein or fat, and don’t contain simple carbohydrates (like sugar and cereal). Think foods that contain soluble fiber (which is slow to digest), small amounts of healthy fats and protein, and foods that are friendly to your blood sugar. Pairing a little light protein with some easy-to-digest carbs is another good tip to support blood sugar levels and prevent lean muscle mass even further.
So what exactly are you supposed to eat before you get your downward dog on? There’s a good bit of conflicting advice out there on what the best pre-workout eats are, however, for yoga, there are five vegan choices that most anyone can agree on. These options are, of course, not set in stone, but are some great general suggestions you can try out to see how they work for you.
1. A Banana and a Small Serving of Vegan Yogurt
A banana contains soluble fiber, which digests slowly and won’t spike your blood sugar. Bananas are also friendly to the stomach, and their natural sugars will help sustain you through your workout practice. In the body, bananas act like a starch due to their binding nature, which means they won’t disrupt your blood sugar levels like sugary, pre-workout drinks will. Bananas also contain potassium, Vitamin B6 for energy, and even natural sugars that act as pre-biotics to feed good bacteria. Pairing a banana with some low sugar or low sugar or sugar-free vegan yogurt (that contains live cultures to feed good bacteria even further) will help sustain you even longer and support your digestion.
2. Sprouted Grain Bread with a Tablespoon of Raw Almond Butter
If you’re not into fruit, then sprouted grain toast may be another good option to try for some healthy carbohydrates. Your body needs a little bit of carbs before a workout; otherwise you run the risk of losing your “juice” which leaves you low in energy and less likely to have as great of a workout. Sprouted grain bread is a healthier option than refined bread on the shelf since the bread is flour-free, contains a small amount of protein, and has live, natural enzymes to support your digestion. Raw almond butter goes great on sprouted grain bread, since it will lower the glycemic effect of the bread and will add a little bit of protein and more fiber. Keep the almond butter to one tablespoon and choose raw almond butter since it’s lighter on your stomach than roasted almond butters with added oil and salt.
3. A Dried Fruit and Nut Bar
Dried fruit and nut bars that contain no added sugars are a great pre-workout option. The dried fruit will provide you with energy and the raw nuts in the bar will help the sugars in the fruit digest more slowly. Choose a bar that contains no more than 200-300 calories so it’s not too heavy on your stomach. Also, try to stick to those that just contain dried fruit and nuts versus those with added syrups or nectars. You can also make your own energy bars or bites right at home instead of eating store bought bars.
4. A Small Green Smoothie
A small green smoothie is another great-pre workout idea. Try to keep the ingredients in your smoothie to mostly greens to support your blood sugar and maybe add a couple slivers of avocado, a tablespoon or two of chia or hemp, or some frozen acai puree for just a little healthy fat. The healthy fats will help you absorb the nutrients in the smoothie better and support your blood sugar levels. You can add a little plant-based protein as another option, along with some low-glycemic fruits like berries, a half a banana, or a half a green apple.
5. Oatmeal or Quinoa With Berries
Oatmeal is a fantastic grain to eat before yoga, but try to have it at least an hour before so it has time to digest properly. Oatmeal contains soluble fibers, which digest very slowly into the bloodstream and it’s extremely high in magnesium to support your energy levels and prevent muscle cramps. Oatmeal is also rich in B vitamins and one of the most delicious grains to enjoy. If you’re not into oatmeal or eating a grain-free diet, the almighty quinoa seed is another great option to choose since it’s high in protein like oats. Pair your oatmeal or quinoa with some berries or pomegranate arils to include some fresh produce into your meal, and maybe add a little bit of ground flax for extra fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Keep your serving to around 1/3 cup so it doesn’t sit too heavily on your stomach.
For more tips on how to support your yoga practice, check out The Yoga Diet: Foods that Heal and Energize Your Life.
What do you eat before your yoga class?
Image Source: Eli Christman/Flickr