Eating and Drinking in the Sauna
An authentic Russian sauna brings joy to the soul and health to the body. The health benefits of proper bathing, in moderation, are absolutely enormous. The proper approach to bathing in a Russian sauna, ‘banya’, extends to the food and drink you consume during a visit to the sauna. A sauna session lasts for several hours and consists of several exposures to the steam room interspersed by intervals of rest. During this time, you will undoubtedly want something to eat and drink. In this article we share recommendations on what to eat and drink, when and in what proportions during a visit to the Russian banya.
Note, by Russian sauna we mean an authentic Russian banya fitted with a traditional masonry stove proven to generate the light steam and soft heat so valued by sauna connoisseurs. In our opinion, modern style saunas, electric heaters and other 'misconception' as we call them, are detrimental to one's health. Furnace Art Engineering specialises in creating classical sauna stoves and steam rooms. Our stoves are designed with a unique, integrated feature which enables them to ventilate the steam room.
Preparation Wait for at least two hours after your previous meal before visiting the sauna. When the body is busy digesting food, blood rushes to the stomach and intestines. In the steam room, the body experiences intense thermal demand causing the blood to rush to the skin. In these circumstances, some people may experience dizziness. It is particularly important for the elderly to be cautious.
We also recommend that the food you eat two hours prior to a sauna visit be relatively light such as vegetable ragu, fruit salad, pasta and seafood etc. It is better to abstain from foods such as pastries, sweets, smoked foods and meat.
Take with you herbal tea, fruit juice, kvass and still mineral water. All drinks should be served at room temperature with the exception of tea, which can be drunk hot or warm.
Before the sauna A glass of natural kvass will assist the deep cleansing of the body from toxins that takes place in the Russian sauna through the dissipation of sweat. In Russia and Germany, people eat a little pickled cabbage directly before visiting the banya (juice from sauerkraut is just as effective). The benefit of these drinks lies in their rich microelement and salt content. If neither a fermented drink like kvass or pickle juice are to hand, we recommend mineral waters like Georgian Borjomi, German Selters and French Perrier but the still variety rather than carbonated. Choose a mineral water with a high mineral level, at least 1 500 mg/L
During the sauna session When a bather sweats in the steam room they release toxins and a substantial amount of water and body salts. The loss of liquids needs to be replenished so in between exposures to the steam room, drink tea, juices (fruit and berry compotes) or mineral water little but often.
Herbal and green teas are best. Tea from linden flowers helps against colds, tea from St. John's wort stabilizes the digestive system, mint tea has a calming, relaxing effect and tea from rose hip or hibiscus has a high vitamin C content. Black tea and coffee in the banya are too 'heavy' and contain too many stimulants to be drunk during a visit to the banya. Believe us when we say, that in the banya, you just won't need them.
The banya and beer . Beer is considered a traditional drink to enjoy in the sauna. A pint glass of light, cool beer will not do any harm. Two glasses won't bring any benefit and a third will spoil the effect of the banya and you won't get any pleasure from the steam room. It is not so much a matter of the beer, as an excessive amount of liquid consumed in one go. Look after your heart. The alcohol content also places stress on the liver and increases blood pressure. Be patient. One hour after the banya the body will have returned to its usual condition and then you can eat and drink beer :). Prawns, steamed crayfish, dried fish, salted nuts and cheese are all perfect with a glass of beer.
Food and the banya By the time you have your third exposure to the steam room, your appetite will awaken. The goal is not to overeat, but simply to still the feeling of hunger. For this reason, we focus on light dishes and eat small amounts. Here vegetable and fruit salads, small sandwiches, canapes, cheese, nuts and prawns are perfect.
You don't have to indulge in everything at once. Sample one or two dishes, eat a little and then stop when the feeling of hunger has left you. There are still several sittings in the steam room to go in the one session which will bring benefits and feelings of happiness. 'Pareniye', thermal procedures on a full stomach is just nonsense.
Please don't even think of smoking in the sauna, even after eating. Light steam does of course ease one's breathing in the steam room but there is no point in placing undue demands on the heart.
After the banya. Be forewarned: Once you leave the banya you may experience intense feelings of hunger. Don't get caught in the trap. Exercise will power. The intensity of the hunger pangs will subside if you wait about half an hour. Meanwhile, drink a cup of tea or a glass of fermented kvass drink. Once half an hour has passed, you can then have lunch or dinner. Again, the choice of food should be light and healthy. It is wonderful when a visit to the banya ends with a pleasant meal in the company of friends.
Healthy food can still allow for the choice of a diverse menu:
salads: cabbage with cranberries, chicken breast with cherry tomatoes and rocket leaf, fitness salad with apples, celery and low-fat yogurt, Greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, red onion, cheese), fruit salad;
Soups - vegetable and fish but low-fat and avoiding spices;
small snacks: cheese balls, squid rings, tarts or pancakes with caviar, garlic croutons, Baltic herring, mini sandwiches or canapes, small pies (with more filling than pastry e.g., with cabbage and egg or apple and raisins);
grill: mini-skewers and kebabs, barbecued chicken wings;
english roast beef with cranberry and nutmeg sauce or Worcestershire sauce, with a few potatoes with green peas as a side;
Norwegian trout in dill or Russian sterlet in a vegetable jacket;
cheese board (4-5 types of cheese, nuts and grapes);
spaghetti, paella, pizza;
desserts according to taste but avoiding pastries and baked puddings.
Have wine or beer with the meal but all things in moderation. Bon appetite!
At Furnace Art Engineering, we specialise in crafting traditional, Russian, masonry, sauna stoves.To fully enjoy the little piece of heaven of an authentic Russian sauna, order one of our ‘turnkey’ custom made steam rooms.
'Happy Light Steam!'