Bikram yoga is practiced in a room generally heated to approximately 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat of the room combined with the 90-minute practice may affect what and when you eat before classes. Eating the wrong foods or too close to practice may lead to indigestion, nausea, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. The foods you eat should agree with your stomach and allow you to feel good both during and after your practices.
Fruits are a healthy option to eat before and after a Bikram yoga class. Bananas, a source of potassium and sodium, make an ideal snack to restore the electrolytes lost from sweating during class. Fruits are low in calories and have little to no fat, making them a light snack to eat that won't weigh you down or leave you feeling heavy. They contain carbohydrates and provide a natural source of sugar to give you the energy needed to perform asanas and concentrate during class. Dates, raisins, apricots and water-rich plums and peaches also make for healthy yogi snacks.
You should avoid eating heavy, fatty foods while practicing Bikram yoga because of how long it takes 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. Snack on a handful of nuts hours before class or top a light, leafy-green salad with a quarter of an avocado or a drizzle of olive oil.
Whole-grain carbohydrates provide a source of energy to get you through a 90-minute Bikram yoga class. Unlike refined carbs such as white bread, whole grains contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which energy is released into the body. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady, avoiding fluctuations that lead to energy crashes and hunger cravings. For breakfast or a snack a few hours before class, enjoy a serving of oatmeal topped with a few nuts for added protein and healthy fats. Pair carbs such as a sweet potato or brown rice with lean protein after class to restore glycogen and aid in muscle recovery.
In addition to what you eat, you need to consider when you should eat for Bikram yoga. Bikram's Yoga College of India advises eating no food one to three hours before class. This gives your stomach enough time to digest whatever food you've eaten that day, avoiding unwanted stomach upsets from trying to exercise and digest its contents at the same time. You may need a completely empty stomach before class, while other yoga students may be able to chomp on a small piece of fruit an hour before an early-morning class.
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- EAS: Sports Nutrition: Confusion Over Carbohydrates
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- The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind; Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
- Bikram's Yoga College of India: Bikram Yoga FAQs
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