When I first started meditating, I had loads of questions in my mind. One of them was: can I meditate right after eating? So, I researched quite a lot about this and got a logical answer. In this article, I’ve put together everything for you to discover everything about how your meals affect your meditation, whether you should meditate after eating or not, how long you should wait, what types of foods to avoid, and more.
You should not meditate just after eating. It will negatively affect the quality of your meditation and you will probably feel drowsy. If you want to meditate sincerely, you should do it empty stomach or slightly hungry. Although if you’re starving, feel free to have a glass of juice or a very light meal.
But is there a logical reason as to why you shouldn’t do that? What if you’ve already had a meal but want to meditate? How long should you wait? Let’s dive a bit deeper to answer these questions in practical terms.
Why it is better to meditate on an empty stomach
I just started meditating a few weeks ago and 10 minutes into the session yesterday, I experienced this deep thoughtless concentrative state. And I had a large-sized double cheese Margherita with extra cheese, cheese burst pizza just before the session. Can you explain that?
Congratulations! Try not to slip into those “deep concentrative states” ever again. Chances are, that was just you dozing off in an attempt to meditate while your body was trying to work out the pizza you had stuffed.
Meals and meditation
Let’s first understand how and why we may feel drowsy after consuming food. The next step for your body after eating is to digest it. More of your blood starts to flow towards your stomach to transport the new metabolites that are being digested. Because of this process, less blood is left for the rest of the body including your brain, which is the reason you may sometimes feel a bit tired or sleepy after having lunch or dinner. It’s known as Postprandial somnolence and is quite common.
Meditation, on the other hand, is an endeavor to awaken yourself. You’re trying to incorporate awareness in your life. The idea is to start by sitting down cross-legged for some time and then gradually paint all your 24 hours with awareness.
When you meditate after having your meal, the quality of your meditation will drop significantly. You’ll find it harder to concentrate, and you’ll frequently lose the sharpness or lucidity of your practice. It may even be that you’re purely asleep in a sitting posture. And you don’t want to just sit and do nothing in your meditation sessions, do you? (Yes, there is a little joke here because nothing is what you want to do.)
Of course, there are a few other things to keep in mind as well. The effect of food on your meditation session also depends on what food you eat and the size of your meal. Certain foods cause more sleepiness than others, and heavier meals require your body to expend more energy in digestion.
Ideal time gap between meals and meditation
It largely depends on what kind of food you ate and how your body responds to it. However, a good idea is to wait at least 2 hours before meditating if you’ve had a full meal like your lunch. If you’ve had a light breakfast or snacks (or dinner depending on your diet), you can start your session after about an hour.
As you’ve read, your body expends energy in digesting the food, so you need to give it some time. That way, when you’re about to meditate, you’ll be full of energy to do it perfectly.
Wait, what? I need energy to meditate? Isn’t meditation a light and calm activity where you just close your eyes and do nothing?
I used to think like that as well. But the truth is, you do need a lot of energy to meditate. The lightness and peace are what you experience after your meditation session. Rest assured that while sitting on that mat, you’ll need to put in a good amount of physical and mental effort to do it correctly. You’ll start to see that once you practice it a little.
Foods to avoid before meditation
There are two kinds of foods you should avoid before sitting down to meditate. Protein-rich foods such as poultry, meat, fish, eggs, soybeans, cheese, tofu, etc. will induce drowsiness in your body. Apart from that, carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, bread, sugar, etc. will give you a burst of energy in the short term, but it’ll be followed by a good dose of tryptophan amino acids and serotonin, which are responsible for lethargy.
You should also stay away from having huge calorie-dense meals. They can make you feel uncomfortable and bloated.
If you really want to eat something, aim for a meal with a decent amount of grains, vegetables, and good fats. Such a balanced diet will provide you with a continuous supply of energy and will interfere less with your meditation session.
As they say, ‘You are what you eat.’ The food you eat affects not only your meditation sessions but your whole consciousness. Spicy and non-vegetarian foods, for example, lower your energy levels and concentration. That’s why, as a meditator, you also only ought to consume foods that elevate your consciousness and not lower it. But that’s a topic for another article.
Why you must meditate before eating
Your emotional state contributes directly to how your food affects your body and how well it is digested. It will also influence how you feel about your meals and yourself in general. That’s a big reason to make sure you are at an optimal emotional state before you have your meal.
Now, meditating for 10, 20 or 30 minutes before you eat may not be possible every time. However, that’s not what you need to do. It will only take one minute, and you’ll see a huge change in your relationship with food after one month from now.
So, try this quick meditation before lunch, brunch, dinner or whenever you’re about to eat:
Close your eyes, and take a few conscious breaths. Breathe gently and deeply. Focus your attention on your breaths. Notice where you’re holding tension, and let it go with every exhalation. Become aware of your body, your buttocks touching the surface, and your feet touching the ground. After a few deep breaths, open your eyes and express your gratitude for the food you’re about to have. Now, eat your meal mindfully.
As you do this, you’ll start to feel calmer and more stable. It will allow you to eat only as much as your body needs – not less, not more. You’ll also be in a better mood. Try it, and see the results for yourself.
At the end of the day, our bodies are wonderful and quite different. You may be able to meditate right after having your meal and have no side effects. Or you may fall asleep while sitting cross-legged.
In case you’re struggling for time. For example, if you only get the time to meditate after having your dinner. Then, by all means, go for it. However, in that case, it would be better if you complete your meditation session before your meal and then eat mindfully.