Hot Yoga: Eating For Success

Posted by – October 01, 2012
Categories: Food & Nutrition

With increased vitality, weight loss, detoxification, increased mental clarity, and reduced stress on the menu[1], it’s hard to turn down the benefits that Hot Yoga dishes out. I’ve found that Hot Yoga can be a great way to transform the mind and the body. However, like anything good in life, you’re going to have to work for it. If you’ve done any type of Hot Yoga before, you know how strenuous those 96 minutes in 90-105 degree heat can be[2]. The 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises will leave you exhausted, but extremely satisfied. In order to do such demanding exercise, your body works best when hydrated, rested, and well fed. For all of the food-lovers out there, Hot Yoga creates a major conflict: to eat or not eat, that is the question. We all know that food is the vitality of our lives, the base of our energy, and the fuel for our rigorous and hectic schedules, so here are a few eating and drinking tips about the “what, when, and how” of nourishing your body in order to rev up your yoga sessions!

Before your Hot Yoga class:

Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day! It is imperative that you drink more water than you normally would. The high temperatures of Hot Yoga that make this type of yoga unique also dehydrate the body. In extreme heat as well as during exercise (double whammy with Hot Yoga!), the body sweats to maintain a safe core temperature. Working hard in hot temperature means burning more calories, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t replenish your body before, during, and after every session. Try to drink 2-3 liters of water (10-12 8oz. glasses, just 2 more than the the typical recommended water intake [3]) the day of your session if you are attending a late-afternoon or evening class. To avoid a sloshy stomach, try to drink this consistently throughout the day. If you drink a lot of water right before your class, you might be uncomfortable while doing difficult poses.

What to eat and when to eat it?

This question depends entirely your body and the conditions under which it functions best. Some people like to do Hot Yoga in the morning to start their day off right. If this is you, then there are two options for the food category: 1) you can choose not to eat at all, just drink some water, 2) if you are like me and have to have some kind of nourishment in the morning, try a glass of juice or tea with milk—it will make you feel full, but is easily processed by your body. If you practice yoga in the evening and feel low on energy or are just plain hungry, try eating a small snack, such as a banana (good for potassium and electrolytes!), almonds, or maybe even a protein bar about 1-2 hours before exercising[4]. If you go into your class with a full stomach, it will feel like a rock; you may feel sluggish or potentially sick to your stomach. If you are intending to eat a large meal sometime before class, make sure you have a 3 hour window for digestion. For getting the most out of each class, remember, a light tummy is a happy tummy!

During your Hot Yoga class:

Hydration is still key during your session! With all that sweating, you will become thirsty,  making it important to drink small sips throughout the class. Avoid consuming large quantities of water at one time while practicing Hot Yoga because it is very difficult to continue working vigorously with a full stomach. Also, it is a common symptom of the intense heat to feel a little nauseated. Taking big gulps of water during the session to satisfy your thirst may increase this nausea. If at any time you feel nauseous, it is recommended to lie down and take a break, resuming the exercise when you feel comfortable again.

During your Hot Yoga session, you will be so busy with the poses and the heat, you won’t even think about food!

After your Hot Yoga class:

Can you guess what comes after your session? Drink more water! Even though you have already consumed water before and during, your body still needs hydration after losing so much sweat during the class. Continue to get your H2O fix. You might even want to replenish your body by drinking coconut water because it is filled to the brim with electrolytes.

Since Hot Yoga will not only help your flexibility, your balance, and your strength, it also can help detoxify due to the heat. After class, you’ll probably be feeling lighter. Are you going to want to run out and buy a hamburger with a side of extra-large fries? Probably not. Large meals and especially meat and dairy will make you feel heavy and sick to your stomach because they are hard to process. Chances are, you won’t even crave those hard-to-digest foods after Hot Yoga. Stick with a light meal like a salad, tofu prepared in your favorite way, or fruit.

Although taking care of yourself and eating properly before, during, and after your yoga class is important, try to carry these healthier eating habits into your everyday life. Yoga teaches you to be in tune with your body and to create a healthy lifestyle out of an exercise experience. The more you nourish your body with happy foods and good exercise habits, the lighter and more energetic you will feel! Trust me, once you get into the flow, your body, your mind, and your spirit will thank you.


Tags: Yoga

About the Author

Aaron is an intern at North Atlantic Books and an English major, French minor at UC Berkeley, focusing on British Renaissance literature. She spent the last year studying in France, eating more pastries than humanly necessary, and she participates in the occasional half marathon or intramural volleyball team in her spare time. If you'd like to discuss Harry Potter, Shakespeare, running, or food, she's your woman!