Get more from your hot yoga class feel great by eating for Optimum Health.
By Karen Ward.
Nutrition can support Bikram yoga by:
* Avoiding dizziness
* Maximising fat burn and weight loss
* Development of lean muscle
* Boosting energy
* Aiding detox
As a Nutritional Therapist I’m often asked what the best foods to eat before exercise are. While a pre exercise snack is not unimportant, its value should be minimal. What I mean by that is, try and ensure that the body is so well nourished and hydrated on an ongoing basis that what is consumed immediately or in the run up to up to a workout is not a major factor, fuel wise.
Did you know that 40% of our daily Stress comes from poor food choices?
Most exercise enthusiasts will benefit most from a workout when they eat clean on their off days too. What this means is avoiding - refined sugars (go instead for coconut sugar or xylitol if you have blood sugar issues), processed foods, excess caffeine and alcohol. If eating meat/fish be sure to accompany with plenty leafy green veg for balance. If you are a vegan ensuring you are getting good sources of plant based protein such as pea/hemp protein powder each day. Eat a rainbow of colours each day to ensure you have enough cell protecting antioxidants on board and last but by no means last I cannot stress enough the importance of adequate hydration.
There are many nutrition silver bullet approaches that may result in small improvements in performance but studies show the greatest benefits are seen when the diet is healthy overall. A tailored healthy baseline eating plan will provide your body with the raw materials it needs to function at a high level, especially during Bikram. It’s also really important to remember that how well your digestion is functioning will determine the benefit you get from the food you eat. By this I mean the level of nutrients you digest, absorb and assimilate into the body for energy and overall good health.
I would urge you to not ignore digestive symptoms in any form as they are a sign that the balance in your gut is off. Without a healthy balance of good bacteria in our gut we will not achieve optimum health.
I don’t mean guzzling an actimel however. Whilst it is important to ensure you take a good quality probiotic (not the aforementioned) you also need to ensure we are providing our good gut bacteria with the right foods on a daily basis such as soluble fibre such as chia/flax, onions, garlic,leeks, leafy greens and supergreen powders. We now know an imbalance in our gut microbes plays a key role in imbalanced mood, depression, obesity, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, allergies, food intolerances….. The list really does go on.
- Drink a glass of room temp water on waking with a squeeze of fresh lemon or have a glass of chia ade (see recipes)
- To replenish glycogen stores after your overnight fast always eat a light breakfast (at least >90 mins before your practice) Chia oats, eggs and greens, Green Smoothie,. If following Paleo/Grain Free lifestyle way of eating go for a mix of protein and low starch carbs such as leafy green veg.
- If however you do a v early bikram session and do not feel like eating beforehand make sure to have a really good meal the evening before such as sweet potato, coconut oil, sautéed leafy greens, source of protein (tofu,meat,fish) and a raw salad. On waking drink chia ade and if you can stomach something small then go for a piece of fast releasing energy such as a banana/handful of blueberries or some of the direct fuel bites in the recipe section.
- Consume larger meals at least 3 hours before yoga. This could be a light meal such as a handful of walnuts on top of a light, leafy-green salad with a quarter of an avocado, some tofu and drizzle of olive oil, a tsp of chia seeds and ½ a sweet potato with coconut oil.
- A Super smoothie with some protein such as hemp/pea or Good quality whey if you are ok with Dairy is also a good option as a meal 3 hours before. Remember the protein slows the release of the glucose into the blood preventing low blood sugar (tired, hungry feeling) giving rise to steady energy release before your exercise session.
- Avoid eating heavy, fatty foods the evening before Bikram because of how long it takes the body to digest fats. However, this doesn't mean you should avoid fats altogether. Rather, healthy fats in moderation can fill you up, stabilizing blood sugar levels and preventing hunger pangs during or after classes.
- **. This is where your protein bomb or super smoothie comes in. Don’t miss the window or you will go into metabolic shut down, essentially becoming insulin resistant which could last up to 72 hours.
- Boost your intake of anti-inflammatory foods after exercise to control inflammation from tissue damage and support the immune system as exercise is a stress on the body due to free radical damage. Nuts, seeds, chia, turmeric can all be added to smoothies.
- Boost antioxidants such as vitamin C and choose brightly coloured foods. Acai Berry powder is rich is compounds that help minimise cell damage after exercise due to its ability to fight free radicals. Camu Camu powder contains 50 times more vitamin C than an orange so add both to a recovery smoothie.
- Get 8 hours sleep each night and try to get to bed before 11 and at the latest 12 midnight the night before yoga.
- Take an Epsom salt baths after intense exercise, the magnesium will help relax the muscles and joints. Better You Magnesium Oil is also fantastic to rub on after a session. It will sting to begin with but this just means your body REALLY needs it!
- Know your hidden Food allergies or intolerances: Having food intolerance is not the same as having a full blown allergy; however they can manifest in various different symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, sinus, frequent mucous build up, constipation or diarrhoea, irritable bowel, weight around the middle, fatigue, headaches, low mood and poor nutrient status due to absorbency issues. The main reactionary foods include; gluten, wheat, dairy, soya and yeast. Removing a problematic food can make a massive difference to energy, performance, weight loss, concentration and mood. If you suspect that you may have a food intolerance speak to me and I can guide you through an elimination diet or provide various testing options in my clinic.
- Eating the wrong foods or too close to practice may lead to indigestion, nausea, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. The foods you eat should agree with your stomach and allow you to feel good both during and after your practices. This takes practice as everyone is different.
Follow the hydration guidelines below on your exercise days.
Before Exercise • Drink plenty the 24 hrs prior to exercise: 2litres minimum
• Drink 500ml 2/3 hrs before exercise
During Exercise • Drink between 200-350ml every 15-20 mins
• If exercise is >1hr drink should contain some carbs and some electrolytes, esp. sodium. Coconut water or homemade chia up good here.
• Water is fine for all exercise < 1 hr.
After Exercise • Drink up to 150% of weight loss as fluid. To calculate this weigh yourself before and after. For every lb lost you should drink 500ml fluid to ensure hydration. • Adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt to your water helps to replace lost electrolytes as does coconut water.
Very useful post. I knew about many of the benefits of hot yoga but didn't have much idea about the role of healthy foods and drinks.
Now I've been enriched by gathering a great resource from you. Thanks a lot.
Very good article. I find avoiding dizziness especially challenging.