Athletes sometimes need fuel during a long, tough workout,such as a marathon or century ride. Even though a Bikram class lasts 90 minutes, however, and it certainly qualifies as tough, snacking during practice isn't required to keep you going.
Of course, going in to practice well-fueled is another matter. You must also consider what foods you eat after practice to heed recovery and hydration. Your overall diet outside of class depends on your goals: Are you in Bikram for weight loss, greater muscle tone or does it jive with an ethical belief? The foods you take in should help complement your practice and your overall intention in joining Bikram.
Read More: Diet Tips During Bikram Yoga to Lose Weight
You'll want to fully digest your food before you start twisting, sweating and balancing in a hot and humid environment. A snack two hours before class is close enough to practice to give you energy, but far enough away to prevent digestive distress. Keep that snack relatively small — around 100 to 300 calories — and only eat if it's been several hours since your last full meal.
Ideas for pre-Bikram foods include:
- toast with peanut butter
- fresh fruit and plain yogurt
- a natural foods bar, such as one made with dates and nuts
Always opt for something that isn't super-hard to digest, like exceptionally fatty fried foods, or high-fiber foods, such as a bowl of black beans.
You'll want to refuel with something that rehydrates you and restores any energy you lost during class. A smoothie made with fresh fruit, almond milk, yogurt and a little flaxseed goes a long way in restoring carbs and nutrients. If it's time for a meal, you might opt for a turkey sandwich with greens, avocado and tomato. When yoga is part of an entire ethical practice that includes veganism, hummus on a tortilla with shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers is a non-meat option.
Coconut water may seem cliche, but it does provide you with potassium, an electrolyte you might lose as you sweat in class. Consider adding some to your post-Bikram smoothie or sipping it alongside your whole-food snack.
Clean foods are those that haven't been overwhelmed by lots of processing and preservatives. A whole potato is clean, a bag of chips is not. If you're intention in going to Bikram is to sweat out toxins and cleanse your body, the foods you choose should support this goal. This means your diet should consist mostly of whole, unprocessed foods. Lots of green, raw vegetables, plain nuts and seeds and whole grains should be included in your daily meal plans.
Read More: What to Eat on a Clean Eating Diet
You may find that as you eat more whole foods and immerse yourself in the Bikram practice that your tastes change. Spicy, fatty foods might sit more heavily in your stomach and feel harder to digest. Grazing throughout the day — eating several small snack-sized meals — tends to consistently fuel your energy without making you feel stuffed.
Undergoing a Bikram practice does not mean you must become vegan or even vegetarian. If you choose to do so, continue to eat healthy foods and get plenty of protein from beans, nuts, seeds and soy. If you choose to eat animal products, consider seeking out humanely raised meats and poultry and choosing leaner cuts.
While water isn't technically a food, keeping yourself hydrated is critical if you're a regular Bikram participant. You don't want to risk dehydration or heat stroke, so consume around a liter of water in the hours before you practice. Afterward, consume enough water to quench your thirst.
Don't forget that foods also contribute to your hydration level. Lots of fresh, leafy greens and fruits add fluids to your system. Eat them raw, as cooking zaps some of their water content.