It’s cute when someone says yoga is so low-key, so graceful, so relaxing, because while that’s definitely an accurate description of some practices, if you’re an avid yogi trying to master complex poses or flowing in a heated studio, yoga can be an incredibly challenging, full-body experience. As someone who tries any workout available to them, I can vouch that yoga sessions can be just as tiring as an hour of lifting weights or running sprints, and by the end of it, you’re probably thinking hard about what to eat after yoga. It really doesn’t matter if you’re zen-ed out in a vinyasa sequence or testing your strength in an Ashtanga class; anything that requires energy and movement is going to result in your body demanding a refuel, so it’s best to have snacks at the ready post-flow, because trust me, friend, you will be famished.
Granted, I’m the type of person who’s always hungry anyway, workout or no workout, but I’ve never experienced hunger pains like the ones that wash over me after I’ve been on the mat for an hour or so. See, the difference between something like weightlifting and yoga is that you can take a break in between sets. Of course, if you’re the type of yogi who prefers practicing in the comfort of your own home, you control your flow, but in a class setting, it’s one pose after another, and don’t think for one second that holding your position counts as a pause, because it doesn’t.
When your muscles are working hard with little to no rest, it’s really not surprising that your first stop after a yoga class is in front of an open fridge.
For the record, I’m not saying yoga won’t help you unwind after a rough day, because even the most difficult sequences are still relaxing. I’m just saying, like any other workout that’s meant to, you know, work you out, it’s likely going to kick your ass in the process. When your muscles are in motion, your energy levels are going to drop, and what do you do when your body needs fuel? You eat, and you eat a lot.
As far as Stephanie Ferrari, MS, RDN is concerned, yoga is no less of an exercise than any other physical workout, and especially during the more vigorous practices, your entire body is in for a ride. When you practice yoga, Ferrari tells Elite Daily, you’re working everything, which means you muscles are firing, stretching, and releasing, your cardiovascular system is activated, and that all translates to a ton of calories (and energy) burned.
What’s more, according to Dr. Rudy Gehrman, DC, Physio Logic’s executive director and founder, and clinical nutritionist Michelle Miller, MSACN, that slow burn from an easy-going yoga practice is actually going to make you hungrier than more intense exercises. Apparently, when you’re, say, running on a treadmill, cycling, or running laps, your blood is going to redirect its flow toward the areas that are being worked, like your heart, lungs, and muscles. Because of this, Gehrman and Miller tell Elite Daily, your body isn’t going to want you to eat immediately after a workout.
But after something a little more slow-moving like yoga, the goal is to stabilize your blood sugar levels, hydrate, and pack in the protein.
Now, if you’re anything like me, chances are, after a workout, all the hangry feels blind you to anything related to nutrition. I’ll admit, I've helped myself to plenty of post-workout meals and snacks that weren’t exactly “healthy,” but you can bet they were super delicious. Still, it’s in your best interest to have some semblance of self-control and wait for the blinders to come off, so you can make smart decisions about what to snack on because, unfortunately, a scoop of ice cream after hot yoga might cool you down, but it won’t do much for your muscles.
So what should you eat after yoga? Well, according to Keri Gans, RDN, a certified yoga teacher and author of the book The Small Change Diet, the goal is to refuel with a meal or snack that includes two things: carbs and protein. "Any snack or meal post-practice should consist of carbohydrates and protein for replenishing glycogen stores and muscle mass," she tells Elite Daily. "In other words, carbs for energy, and protein for muscle repair and building." It's no pint of Ben & Jerrys, but I think this combo is doable, don't you?
So basically, this rule of thumb goes for any meal or snack, no matter what time of day you practice yoga. For example, Gans suggests grabbing yogurt topped with berries, or apple slices and almond butter for a snack, avo toast and egg for breakfast, a green salad with shrimp for lunch, and a whole wheat pasta salad with beans for dinner. As long as you have a balance of carbs, proteins, and a ton of essential vitamins and nutrients on your plate, you're golden.
Of course, as is the case with any post-workout routine, it's vital that you re-hydrate. Gehrman and Miller suggest quenching your thirst with a lot of H2O to "prevent dehydration, headaches, and muscle cramps." As long as you're making sure the snacks you grab after class are just as nutritious as they are delicious, you should be fine (plus, you can always have ice cream for dessert).