While nausea, bloating and feeling weighted down by a full stomach are concerns during any workout, they seem to double when you’re inverted. And they triple when you’re hanging upside-down with a band across your stomach.
Downward dogs and inverted pigeons aren’t the only tummy-troubling poses. Even if you stick to the basics—cobra pose, bridge pose, cat and cow—pretty much anything that contracts and stretches your abdominal muscles can get your stomach churning. (Bikram may be another beast altogether.)
You probably already know all this. But as I hadn’t done yoga in a while, I guess I’d forgotten. When I tried my first AntiGravity yoga class last weekend, I quickly remembered—for I may have been “antigravity,” but my breakfast was not.
No, I didn’t barf. But I thought I was going to.
Getting the balance right
So, what would have been good to eat before this hardcore-workout-in-disguise? A light meal that provides a good balance of quick and sustained energy. Usually that means a mix of simple and complex carbs plus protein.
These snacks provide that macronutrient mix and generally settle quickly:
- Whole wheat bread or toast with jam
- Yogurt or Greek yogurt and a banana
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Celery and peanut butter
- Protein shake
If you go for a protein shake, you’ll likely want to add carbs (such as a banana or oats) to get the ideal 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio. Carbs convert to energy more easily than protein, so it’ll ensure you start out energized.
Before my yoga session, I ate my usual pre-workout snack: protein shake, some fruit and a cup of coffee. The shake probably would’ve served me well if I hadn’t been chugging it on my way to class. I didn’t eat early enough in advance, so my food wasn’t settled and I didn’t have much energy to start out. And, indeed, the acidic coffee turned out not to be a genius pre-contortion beverage.
Most sports nutritionists say the ideal digestion time is between 1-2 hours depending on how heavy your meal is and the type of energy release you’ll get (quick or slow). At the least, they say we should give our food 45 minutes to settle. Anything less and stomach cramps tend to kick in, because the blood ditches the digestion process to start pumping to the muscles during exercise.
Smarter to skip the meal?
If you absolutely can’t eat before yoga, or any workout, without getting sick to your stomach, maybe it’s ok to skip the meal. Or have a really light snack and then eat afterwards. But if you do yoga in the morning, breakfast could be an especially tricky meal to skip. With a total mind-body workout where you’re using all your muscles as well as requiring balance and focus, being dizzy or sluggish isn’t going to work.
A final word to the wise: skip the OJ and the cola. Citrusy foods and drinks, as well as chocolate, caffeine and fried foods, are asking for acid reflux. And sugary foods and drinks tend to unsettle the stomach during exercise. Carbonation, beans, eggs, dairy and gluten are common gas culprits—and on that note, you might be surprised to find that things that normally settle well for you, don’t in yoga!
Also, unless you want to blow up like Violet in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, you may want to avoid fiber-rich foods pre-workout. That is, unless you’re used to eating a lot of fiber in protein shakes and bars, veggies, etc. I learned this once the hard way.
What’s your pre-workout fuel of choice?
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