Over the last several years I have learned what foods fuel my yoga practice – and what reduces me to a lethargic mess who would rather sleep all day!! I wanted to share some tips that may help fuel your yoga practice, by re-energising you – and getting you off your sofa, and onto your mat.
You are what you eat
We’ve all heard that phrase a million times, so let me rephrase it. What you eat will impact every aspect of your life. Your energy levels, the ways in which you move, your health and happiness – food has an impact on everything.
I now know that eating my weight in Cadburys Creme Eggs after dinner will not inspire me to get up at 5am for a full well-rounded practice. Even if it is Easter!
I am an intuitive eater, I will stand by and fully believe that forever. I don’t believe restricting food, or trying to ‘make do’ with a meal you don’t remotely want, will help you lose weight.
But what’s so intuitive about eating something that will make your body and mind feel bad the next day?
(Woah. Controversial Tali?)
Instead I encourage you to have what will make you feel good, satisfied and happy – both in the present moment and the future.
With that important disclaimer down, let us continue.
WHEN to eat to fuel your yoga practice
I know that eating a heavy meal within 2-4 hours of a big practice is probably not a good idea. I will feel lethargic and slow, unable to twist or bind deeply. My energy levels will be lower and I will generally feel heavier – and have to say goodbye to arm balances as a result!.
Are you a morning practitioner?…
Breakfast is a tricky subject for me – most yogis will not eat before a morning practice, for the above reasons. Who wants to do a deep twist with a full belly? However, I am prone to dizziness and am a huge breakfast person – don’t talk to me if I haven’t had my oats (in fact it’s probably best to avoid me completely if I’m breakfast-less!). I have learned that a small breakfast about 45mins before I get on my mat will keep me on an even keel.
Go with your unique needs with breakfast – your mileage may vary. If you know you can function for a few hours on an empty stomach in the early morning then just load up on tepid water with lemon (optional), or at most a smoothie/juice. If you know you need fuel to function, eat what you need – but just make sure you don’t hop on your mat as soon as you’ve eaten!
…Or a afternoon/evening yogi?
This is a bit simpler. Eat good quality food during the day, and try to limit what you eat in the 2-4hours before you hit your yoga mat. Again, if you eat a heavy meal right before practice then don’t expect to feel comfortable, or be able to twist or bind to your full potential! Make sure you stay hydrated during the day too.
WHAT to eat to fuel your yoga practice
In general, a diet filled with whole, unprocessed and non-refined foods is the best way to ensure optimal health and consistent energy. Try to avoid artificial ingredients, or products with a lonnnnnng ingredient list. Thinking about better fueling your yoga practice is a great way to start preparing food from home! Cooking is so cathartic and a really rewarding way to nourish yourself.
Again, everyone is completely unique on a biological level, so don’t just take my words/experience as gospel! Try it out for yourself and see what works. I don’t advocate erasing any food group unless you are really committed, as I don’t think it’s a sustainable way to eat.
That being said, if I know I’m doing a big practice the same day, or even the next day, I will try and avoid consuming much
refined sugar. I don’t actually eat much refined sugar as I love the taste and quality of decent raw chocolate, but I’ve also found that eating sugar can cause my energy levels to plummet to almost zero. I feel really lethargic and more often than not need to take a nap! You can imagine what that does to my yoga practice!
(120 minute savasana anyone?)
I also know that eating
animal protein and fat can also make me feel heavier and slow as they take a long time to digest. A lot of yogis are vegetarian/vegan for ethical or environmental reasons (and read my blog post on ahimsa), but for those of you who do eat animal products it is better to avoid them for a few hours pre-practice. Fish is often a ‘lighter’ alternative. This is not me telling anyone to follow a particular diet or cut out food groups by any means, but just to consider the timings and sizes of your meals.
If you know your metabolism is higher than average, and you have a tendency to crash energetically-speaking between meals, it can be helpful to snack. Nuts, seeds, fruit (especially bananas!), healthy snack bars and energy balls can be really good to keep energy levels consistent.
Hydration is another important factor – particularly if you’re planning on having a sweaty power practice! Drinking lots of green smoothies/juices, coconut water (to keep your electrolyte levels up) and plain H2O throughout the day will prevent dehydration.
And what about AFTER my class?
Again this will depend on the time of your yoga practice, but in general eating some protein (plant or animal-based), some fat, some carbohydrates and lots of nutrient-dense veg will help your body repair muscles and restore energy levels.
If you’re going to a late-night yoga class (9pm onwards) then just have some coconut water or a smoothie as this will prevent your body from having to digest food while asleep.
What else can I do to support my yoga practice?
Sleep!!! Regularly getting 7-8 hours of deep sleep a night will make a world of difference to your life in general, as well as your asana practice. Try to find a good routine where you have a set bedtime and wake-up time, and try to commit to it as much as you can.
Rest and restore. Restorative yoga, meditation, and even just chilling out in legs-up-the-wall pose prevents burn-out, injury and fatigue. Make sure you have at least one rest day a week.
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, is great for improving your diet and daily rituals depending on your personal constitution.
That’s all my tips for today <3 I would love to hear what has worked in your experience! What helps or hinders your yoga practice? Let me know in the comments.