What to Eat Before Yoga & After Yoga


Bowl of granola and fruits, the perfect meal to eat after yoga

For anyone who practices yoga, thinking about what to eat before yoga and then what to eat after yoga can be a very important question. You don’t want to eat too much so as you don’t feel bloated, but you also want to eat enough so you have enough energy for the practice.

The best thing to eat before yoga is a light and nutritious meal, at least 2-3 hours before you practice. Some things to eat before yoga that may give you a good amount of energy for your practice are apricots, nuts, oats, avocado or a banana.

What will gradually become important, is to find a diet that nourishes our body and one that is also able to support our yoga practice.

A diet like this will then be able to help increase energy levels, improve digestion, and maybe even improve our practice.

Yoga-tip: What we eat really does affect our yoga practice. And so if you would like to try out healthy and nutritious recipes to support your yoga practice, check out the best yoga cookbooks on Amazon now.

What to Eat Before Yoga

As a general rule of thumb, aim to practice yoga on an empty stomach. So wait at least 3 or 4 hours after a meal before you practice yoga. Try not to eat too much, otherwise, you will feel bloated and you won’t enjoy your yoga practice.

If you practice in the morning, then ideally try to practice on an empty stomach.

We want to practice on an empty stomach because otherwise the energy the body needs for digestion should not be taken away from our yoga practice.

What happens if we don’t give our body enough time to digest, is that any form of bending and twisting will most likely feel very uncomfortable.

This is something most of us learn the hard way when we first start practicing yoga!

If you have your yoga class coming up and you feel a little hungry, then you could try to nibble on something small and light.

Depending on your metabolism, there are things to eat before practice that may give you a good amount of energy.

This is important because being well-fuelled ensures energy for better quality practice.

Below are some options to try before your next practice.

What to eat before yoga Benefits
Apricots or dates These will be able to provide the body with some initial energy for the practice.
Handful of nuts Nuts contain antioxidants, fats, and fiber, as well as a mix of protein and fat that are able to give you energy for the practice.
OatsOats have fiber, magnesium, iron, carbohydrates, protein, calcium and are able to prolong the body’s ability to burn muscle efficiently.
Chia seedsChia seeds help enhance the body’s ability to burn fat.
Avocado Avocados are packed with potassium and magnesium and will help give you energy, without straining your digestive system.
BananaBananas have potassium and magnesium. They will help you feel hydrated and energized.
Potential things to eat before yoga

Meals to Eat Before Yoga

These are healthy and nutritious meals to prepare and eat before yoga. These contain a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that will help support your yoga practice. Examples include a banana smoothie, avocado on toast, and even some greek yogurt with fruit.

These are some of my favorite go-to recipes for before my yoga practice, especially when I know I have at least 3 hours before my practice.

1. Banana smoothie

Glass filled with a banana smoothie

Smoothies are very easy to prepare. They are also filling and very hydrating. Here is a Banana smoothie recipe you can enjoy both before and after your next yoga practice.

It includes a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, all the things your body needs after a demanding practice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana (aim for lightly spotted bananas as they are easier to digest)
  • 1 tsp turmeric (anti-inflammatory)
  • 1 inch ginger (anti-inflammatory)
  • 3 dates (source of antioxidants)
  • 1-1/2 cup coconut milk (or any other nut milk)
  • 1 handful nuts (they contain good fat and protein)
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1tbsp chia seeds (great balance of protein and fat)
  • 15gr hemp protein (or any other whole food protein powder)

Add all ingredients to the blender and enjoy! Depending on how you like your smoothies, you can add more nut milk if needed.

2. Avocado and Toast

Avocado on toast

This is one of my favorite things to have, especially when I have a bit of time to sit down and enjoy it. All you need for this is avocado which you can either slice into thin pieces and place on top of the toast, or you can mash it up with your fork.

Then place this on top of two slices of toasted bread. If you are trying to decide on the type of bread to use, try to aim for Whole Grain bread. An article from the Huffington Post ranked the healthiest bread, from best to worst, and found Whole Grain to be the healthiest option (along with Whole Wheat).

Of the many reasons offered they mentioned that “The fiber in whole-grain bread is prebiotic that feeds our healthy gut bacteria.”

3. Greek Yogurt

Greek yoghurt with fruit on top

For vegetarians and not for vegans, this is also a snack to eat before yoga. I usually eat this when I’m in a bit of a hurry.

You could top this off with some fruit, nuts, and honey, to make it extra special.

4. Banana topped with nut butter

Banana with nut butter

This is a very good option f you are looking for a quick energy boost. However, this is one foe the recommended meals that need a bit more time to prepare, unless you have ready nut better.

For those of you who want to make some hi=omemade nut butter, try out these recipes:

5. Oatmeal

Oatmeal in a bowl

Oatmeal is an option I tend to have at weekends as I like to have time to sit and enjoy it. Perhaps it can also be considered as comfort food, perfect for a cold winter morning.

One thing to point out is that some instant oatmeal varieties are loaded with sugar. And this is something we should try to avoid. So check the label so you know what you are purchasing.

The main benefit of eating oatmeal is that it helps us feel full and helps control blood sugars, very important for when we want to practice yoga.

It is very simple to prepare and there are several options. Here is a wonderful and simple recipe with salmon milk and chia seeds:

What to Eat After Yoga

As a general rule, after yoga eat something with a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. These will help replenish us so our body can focus on recovery. Some healthy options include buddha bowls with a nut sauce and vegetables and avocado toast with egg.

After most of my practices, I find that I am very thirsty and want to eat something that looks and feels extremely healthy. Does anyone else feel the same?

During our yoga practice, especially if it is a physically demanding practice, our muscle or tendon fibers may tear slightly or they may even get injured. This is one of the main reasons why what we eat after our practice is very important.

We ideally want our post-yoga meal to replenish us and be easy to digest so our body can focus on recovery.

So it is worth putting some thought into what to eat after practice so we can help our body recover.

Below are a few suggestions of ingredients worth considering trying out after your yoga practice. These are categorized into the three major macronutrients that make up our diet: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

What to eat after practiceBenefits
CarbohydratesFruit (e.g. banana and mango), sweet potato, rice, dates and oatsThese will help replace the fuel in our muscles that we burn when we work out
ProteinPulses (beans, peas, lentils), tofu, seeds and nutsThese will help aid protein synthesis
FatNut milk, avocado, chia seeds, and eggsThis will help metabolise fat
Potential things to eat after your yoga practice.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates should be our body’s main source of energy in a healthy, balanced diet. Even though carbohydrates, fat, and protein all provide energy, especially when we exercise, our muscles rely on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel.

Limiting our carbohydrate intake may result in a lack of energy during exercise, fatigue, and delayed recovery.

As a general guide, if we consume 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That translates to 225-325 grams of carbohydrates a day.

An article in Shape mentioned that: “For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s only about 20 grams of carbs per day-about the size of a large slice of bread. If that sounds really low, you’re right: It is.” And so the important thing is to do what feels right.

Protein

Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. We need protein in our diet to help our body repair cells and make new ones. 

As a general guide, we want 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So for example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you would want to consume 47 grams of protein daily.

Protein is something vegetarians and vegans really need to pay attention to, as we have to be careful that we get enough during the day.

Healthline posted an article titled: The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians. It is definitely worth a read if you are looking for inspiration for protein-rich sources.

Interestingly, Tempeh is second on their list, and I actually only found out what tempeh is on my trip to Bali last year. I absolutely fell in love with it. And of course, after finding out that it is a rich source of protein, I made sure it was on most of my meals!

Fat

Fats are a primary energy source and this helps to support the basic functions of our body. Consuming healthy fats regularly includes many benefits, such as balancing hormones and fighting inflammation.

As a general guide, we want 20%-35% of total calories to be from fat. So if you have a 2,000 daily calorie intake you would want 44-77 grams of fat in your daily diet.

There are 4 types of fat:

  1. Monounsaturated Fat, found in olive oil and linked to several health benefits. According to Healthline, “In one study, people felt fuller and took in fewer calories for the next 24 hours after consuming bread rich in oleic acid, compared to bread that contained less”.
  2. Polyunsaturated Fat, such as omega-3s. According to Healthline, “Studies have found that long-chain omega-3 fats have benefits for inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and other health conditions”
  3. Saturated Fat, can raise bad cholesterol levels in some people. According to Healthline, “studies suggest that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil and palm oil may boost metabolic rate and reduce calorie intake”.
  4. Trans Fat, found in dairy, animal foods, and processed foods. According to Healthline, “One study estimated that replacing trans fat with other fats could reduce heart disease risk by up to 40%, depending on the type and amount of fat substituted”

Drink Enough Water After Yoga

It is very important to stay hydrated throughout the day.

This is even more important when we exercise or practice yoga. Not enough water can lead to dehydration and dizziness, both things we ideally want to avoid. And both things which are easily avoided by drinking enough water.

ANd of course, with so much information out there, we may not be sure of how much water to drink.

Well according to WebMD:

For men, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a total of 13 cups (about 3 liters) of fluid each day.

For women, they suggest 9 cups (a little over 2 liters) of fluid each day. Pregnant women should drink about 10 cups of water daily. Those who breastfeed need about 12 cups.”

They do of course go on to point out that these guidelines can fluctuate. For example, anyone who exercises or spends time outdoors on a hot and sunny day and sweats a lot will need to drink more water to stay hydrated.

If you find it challenging to drink this recommended amount of water, you could try having infused water.

Infused water is when we add fruit and/or herbs to our water, and then let it infuse for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge. Your options are limitless, but some go-to additions can be: citrus, berries, fresh ginger, and mint.

For example, you could try adding 1 thinly sliced grapefruit with a handful of pomegranate seeds as well as a dozen mint leaves to a jug of water next time you feel inspired. And who knows, maybe you will find it much easier to drink water!

Meals to Eat After Yoga

These are some of my favorite go-to recipes I try to make after my yoga practice. Naturally, what you make will depend on the time of day that you practice and also how much time you actually have.

Feel free to have pre-yoga meals even after your yoga practice. Especially the banana smoothie.

So for example, when I practice in the morning, I tend to go for either the banana smoothie or the Avocado toast option listen below.

When I practice in the afternoon or evening, any of the meals listed below are ideal, filling, and nutritious.

Green salad with grains and avocado

Green salad with grains and avocado

There really are endless combinations you could make with greens and grain salads. You could add kale, spinach, or arugula. Anything that you feel like using, or even a combination fo them all.

Similarly with the grains. You can use bulger, or barley, or quinoa, or even tabbouleh.

Start off my boiling the grain of your choice. Leave it to cool and then simply toss in the greens of your choice. On tope of that you can avocado to make it extra special.

To keep it healthy, add olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper

Vegetable soup with lentils

Vegetable soup with lentils

This type of soup is wonderful to have in the winter, or if its a chilly and gloomy day.

This is extremely filling and rich in protein thanks to the lentils.

Here is a lovely recipe for this type of soup. Thought one thing to point out is to try t choose the vegetables that are in season and also feel free to use the vegetable you prefer.

Buddha bowl with a nut sauce and vegetables

Buddha bowl with a nut sauce and vegetables

I was first introduced to Buddha bowls on one of my trips to India. I was amazed at how simple a concept it is and yet how healthy and nutritious it can be.

You basically want to find a grain as a base and then work around that with the vegetables and protein source of your choice. If you are trying to make it as nutritious as possible and perfect as a post-practice meal, then try to add some nut sauce and fresh vegetables.

Also, especially for vegetarians and vegans, remember to pack in plenty of protein. This could be in the form of tofu, lentils, or mushrooms.

Here is a very informative video, which actually contains 5 vegan Buddha Bowl recipes:

Avocado and toast with egg

Avocado and toast with egg

This meal option is perfect for non-vegans. It is a level up from the pre-yoga recipe of Avocado with toast, only now we have added some slices of organic and free-range hard-boiled egg on top.

Top it off with a sprinkle of olive oil, some lemon, salt and pepper, and even some toasted pine nuts for that extra crunch.

6 Tips on what to eat before yoga (and what to drink before yoga)

  1. Try to avoid practicing yoga on a full stomach. This means giving your body around 3-4 hours after a full meal before you do your yoga practice. Of course, this time depends on what you have eaten.
  2. Try to avoid spicy and fatty foods before your yoga practice. The reason is that it may take more time to digest them, and you may end up feeling heavy and bloated in your yoga practice.
  3. If possible, practice yoga first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. At least as an experiment. You may notice how lighter your body feels and also how easier some of the twists are!
  4. Try to be hydrated enough for your yoga practice. This means drinking enough water so as not to feel too thirsty in your practice.
  5. Especially if your yoga class is early in the morning, then do your best to avoid drinking alcohol and eating salty foods the night before. The reason for this is that alcohol and salty foods will dehydrate you and this, in turn, will make your yoga practice that much harder.
  6. Just before practice, a nice option is a cup of hot water with some squeezed lemon, especially in the winter. This is particularly good for you first thing in the morning, regardless of what time you practice.

Ahimsa in our yoga diet

Adding ahimsa to our diet is one way to bring yoga off the mat and make it part of our lifestyle.

What is Ahima? Well, ahimsa is the yogic concept of non-harming.

Ahimsa is actually the main reason yoga practitioners tend to be vegetarian or vegan.

The role of ahimsa is to make environmentally-conscious health choices that do not harm other people, animals, or the planet. As a general rule of thumb, aim to:

  • Buy locally produced food in order to minimize the carbon footprint of our food.
  • Avoid plastic bags, plastic packaging, and plastic water bottles in order to reduce the waste we produce.
  • Avoid meat as much as possible.
  • For the non-vegans, eat animal products that you know come from farms where the wellbeing of the animals is a priority.
  • Eat food that truly nourishes and sustains you.
  • Prepare all meals with love, and who knows? Maybe our food will taste just that much better.

Related questions

Can we eat food before yoga?

As a general rule, we can eat food before yoga. Try to eat at least 3-4 hours before our next yoga class. The reason for this is that we want to give our bodies enough time to digest. Otherwise, our yoga practice may end up feeling rather uncomfortable.

What foods should I avoid before and after practice?

Foods we should try to avoid include:

  • caffein
  • chillies
  • onions and garlic
  • unripe fruits
  • processed foods
  • food additives
  • unripe vegetables
  • alcohol
  • meat

Should we drink water during practice?

As a general rule, we drink water during yoga. However, if you are practicing a dynamic form of yoga such as Ashtanga, aim to avoid drinking water during practice. The reason is that in a dynamic form of yoga we heat up the body, and by drinking water, we may end up cooling it.

Is there a specific yoga diet?

According to the yogic literature, there are three types of yogic diet. Sattvic, the type we want to consume which includes fresh and natural foods. Then there is Rajasik, which we should aim to avoid as they can be stimulating. Lastly, there is Tamasic, which creates a feeling of lethargy.

In yogic literature there are three types of food:

  • Sattvic food is the type of food we want to consume. These foods are fresh, whole, and natural. They don’t pull energy from the body, nor do they weigh us down. Examples include fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, lentils, rice, and grains.
  • Rajasik food is the type we should ideally avoid. These foods stimulate the nervous system and overly stimulate. Examples include coffee and black tea, onions, alcohol, and spicy food.
  • Tamasic Food creates a feeling of heaviness and lethargy. These are foods that are prepared more than three hours before being eaten, and food that is tasteless.

Alexia Koletsou

Alexia Koletsou is a Level 1 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher with a Ph.D. in Science Communication. She received her blessing to teach Ashtanga Yoga in 2019, from the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, where she has had the honor of practicing with R. Sharath Jois multiple times over the years. She is the owner of her own Shala in Greece and now shares her knowledge on yogamyoldfriend.com and her YouTube channel Alexia K Yoga.

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