• Apala Guha

Can Eating Right Help You Meditate Better?

What you eat, can affect the kind of attention you are able to harness, your spectrum of focus, etc. Additionally, practising meditation also brings about a sense of mindfulness towards what and how you are eating. In the long run, this becomes a lifestyle rather a choice. Our gut and brain are connected to more ways than you can imagine. Your brain receives direct signals from your gut the moment food enters your mouth. Some of the basic digestion processes even start in the mouth. Actually, if you go deeper, even before putting food in your mouth, your brain processes it through the signals of sight and smell.


The connection between eating right and its effects on the brain have long been established by researchers. Apart from the fact that carbohydrates in the food are the fuel for your brain, there are many other factors in our diet and lifestyle that effects brain health. Meditation is considered a deep-rooted practice to train and calm the mind. It is a self-directed process that trains the mind to be disciplined, positive and happy.

At Elate Wellbeing, meditation experts have curated plans that specifically depend on all the important factors of mental and physical wellbeing, which are nutrition, meditation, yoga, and sleep. Among this nutrition and meditation, are interconnected as are the other components.


Initial practices encompass 4 major considerations:

  1. A preferably quiet location

  2. Focus on attention and breathing

  3. Comfortable posture

  4. A no judgement policy as different thoughts come and go.

What you eat can affect the kind of attention you are able to harness, your spectrum of focus, etc. Additionally, practising meditation also brings about a sense of mindfulness towards what and how you are eating. In the long run, this becomes a lifestyle rather a choice. Our gut and brain are connected in more ways than you can imagine. Your brain receives direct signals from your gut the moment food enters your mouth. Some of the basic digestion processes even start in the mouth. Actually, if you go deeper, even before putting food in your mouth, your brain processes it through the signals of sight and smell.


A recent event at Elate Wellbeing was conducted on how our gut and brain are related and directly interact via the vagus nerve. 90% of the serotonin, your happy hormone, is produced in the cells of the gut. This production depends on the kind of food you eat. Therefore, when you are training for meditation, it is of little doubt that your meals will affect your practice.


What happens when you meditate after eating?

I have tried this on myself. I had my breakfast one morning and sat down to meditate. I thought, well, why not utilize the time to do some breathing and focus meditation. I could relax! But it turned out to be the exact opposite. I felt drowsy and sleepy, unable to focus. I decided to read up on some recent researches by experts. What the common factor in all these researches was, that meditating after eating is the worst idea.


When you eat, the food stays in your stomach for a pretty long time and takes about 3 hours to move into the intestines. During this time, your whole body, the blood flow and the brain are focussed on digestion, absorption and assimilation. No matter how much you try, it is physiologically impossible for your brain to anchor it is focused on anything else but that. Meditation Specialist Nayaswami Hassi says, “If you try meditating after a hearty meal your energy will be working hard to digest the food. For it is the same energy your body uses for digestion as your mind uses to concentrate deeply. If the energy is diverted to your stomach, you will have less for effective meditation. Before meditating, eat only lightly. Better still, do not eat at all. Wait two or three hours after a full meal.”


Effect of what you eat on Meditation

Feeding your body, a nourishing diet is a key for success because this will give your system a steady stream of energy along with all the vitamins and minerals it requires to obtain a health status focussed on achieving optimal wellbeing. If you consistently suffer from blood sugar highs and lows on a day to day basis, you will have greater difficulty getting into the meditative state and holding it there for an extended period of time.


Ideally, you want to be able to ‘get into the zone’ as easily as possible and maintain that state of mind as you progress through your session. This is bound to happen if your diet pattern is clumsy and does not comprise of the correct quality, quantity, and timing of feed. For example, if right before going into a meditation session, you feel hungry, you gulp down a can of sugary drink or soda, your blood sugar levels will rise immediately giving you a sense of satiety. After about 40 minutes, probably by the time you are trying to go deep into meditation, this spike diminishes, pushing you into a state of blood sugar crash and therefore an increased feeling of hunger.


If you experience a blood sugar crash mid-way through and feelings of hunger overpower your mind, your body will pull you away from that meditative state and take you out of the zone. So, in such a case your snack should have been fruit, a bowl of salad or whole-grain products.


In general, there are two types of carbohydrates that we consume in our diet:

Non-processed and Processed. The processed or simple carbs are found in candy, soda and syrups. These foods are made with refined sugars and typically do not have vitamins, minerals or fibre. This is why they are frequently called “empty calories.” They provide you with excess calories, but none of the important nutrients for brain activity.

The non-processed or complex carbs are often found in starchy foods such as beans, peas, potatoes, corn, and whole-grain bread and cereal. These carbs get absorbed more slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels, thereby providing a more sustained energy level and does not cause crashes in sugar levels or hunger pangs.

Common Sources of Healthy Carbs:

  • Whole Grains

  • Fruits & Vegetables

  • Nuts & Seeds

  • Beans & Legumes

  • Meat, Poultry, Seafood

Common Sources of Processed Carbs:

  • White Bread & Pasta

  • Soda & Syrups

  • Donuts & Pastry

  • Candy & Sweets

  • White Rice

Maintaining Homeostasis- A new concept for an improved meditative experience

If you eat two doughnuts and drink a can of soda at the same time, you will experience a temporary boost of energy. This is due to the insulin rapidly taking the sugar from your bloodstream and bringing it into the cells so the sugar can be used as energy. But, as that sugar is removed from the bloodstream, you will then suffer from a significant blood glucose crash, which will probably leave you ravenous, irritable, and very unable to concentrate.


The above explanation is a simplified version of how refined sugar is assimilated in your physical body, but it gives you an idea of how simple carbohydrates, such as white sugar, can influence your mood due to the way they are metabolized in the body. This is why it is important that you are not over-consuming refined or processed carbohydrates, especially right before you begin meditation.


It is best to focus on getting primarily unprocessed carbs in your diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. These types of carbs will aid the body in maintaining an environment of homeostasis which is defined as the stable state of an organism. Natural, wholesome foods provide a healthy source of fuel for the body, and they also contain a bounty of essential nutrients.

Go light on your diet right before a session

There is a reason why meditation practitioners at Elate Wellbeing and yoga practitioners recommend waiting 1 to 2 hours after eating a meal to begin a meditation or yoga. This general rule has to do with the digestive process. If you try to meditate immediately after eating, you might feel sluggish and struggle to stay awake because the body streams more blood to the digestive system, and the brain releases serotonin that causes drowsiness. Due to a heavy meal, your brain will put its focus on digestion and not in training or calming your mind.


Eating a large, heavy meal before meditating might be the most significant blunder that you could make as you settle into a comfortable position to begin your meditation. You want to make sure that you are feeling satisfied, but not over satiated as this could make you want to lie down or take rest or doze off during the meditation practice. If you are going to eat within 60 minutes of doing your meditation, keep it to small portions that contain around 300 calories which is more like a snack. Fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, or drinking a nutritious smoothie are all healthy choices.


The basic idea is therefore to let your brain cells free to do the job on meditation and not engage it elsewhere. This concept is the same as trying to focus your mind on an anchor during meditation and not let in a stray from the moment. Expert curated online meditation programs at Elate handhold you into the process of learning meditation and improve on your practice through recurring sessions and consultation on-demand with the facilitators along with nutrition advice!

We have Elate Wellbeing have curated wellbeing programs combining yoga, nutrition, meditation, and sleep. Our counsellors help our subscribers improve their meditation practice by incorporating best practices available around the world.