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Yoga Essentials: What to Eat Before & After Class

Q: I know I shouldn’t eat two hours or so before my yoga class, but what should I eat afterwards?

A: First, let’s examine the old trope that you should practice yoga on an empty stomach. This is something that you should ditch for “eat before yoga or don’t–whatever is best for you.” I (Jane) will generally practice having eaten a light to medium meal within two hours of starting class and have no trouble, but wouldn’t feel good having eaten something heavier. On the other hand, Mindy needs to have a pretty empty stomach to feel right. All people are different in this regard, so please do what your body needs and probably err on the conservative side to start with. The first time you simultaneously bend and twist with a too-full-for-you stomach, you will know to do something different next time. 🙂 Our teachers practice trauma-informed and adaptive yoga so you can feel good in your body, whether it’s a full stomach, full brain, or an injury that may be affecting your practice on a given day.

Regarding what to eat afterwards, sports nutrition practices tell us that the answer depends on the strenuousness of the yoga class. We have worked to make our yoga classes accessible to everyone. You are able to take each class at your own pace and make it as challenging as you would like. If you didn’t exert yourself much, simply eat a normal meal the next time you feel “meal hungry.” Be sure to drink some water right after class because even though you might not feel like you were sweating, you were. We lose about a quart of water per day through “insensible” loss, meaning that you can’t feel it happening. Chances are you aren’t properly hydrated to start with, especially in the winter, so it is a good habit to get into for many reasons.

If you got sweaty and really used your muscles during class, choose a substantial snack that has both carbs and protein within two hours of class ending. If you want to sound all scientific, this is called the “anabolic window.” This will optimally replenish your energy stores and maximize muscle repair. By a “snack,” we mean more than an apple and less than a meal, although if you are meal hungry, definitely eat a meal. Maybe an apple and a granola bar. Or an apple with cheese and crackers. Or some yogurt with toast and jam. Or any bread product with peanut butter. And an apple (I am really craving an apple right now, can you tell?) A sports bar of any kind will probably have a good mix of macronutrients. Choose something that will feel good in your body, and you can’t go wrong.

You definitely need to drink water as well–probably 24 ounces, and perhaps more if you were really sweaty. There is no need for an electrolyte replacement drink unless your class was in a heated room or lasted 90 minutes or longer.

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