There are numerous considerations when planning an exercise routine; what type of exercises will you partake in? What clothes should you wear during said activities? How hard you want to push yourself and for how long, among other factors. One concern many people may overlook is the importance of how long to wait to exercise after eating or snacking.
Eating too much beforehand can make physical efforts seem unbearable, leading to pain and potential health hazards such as cramps or constipation.
So, how long should you wait after eating before exercising? Will exercising make it harder for your body to digest food? What are the benefits of waiting before taking a workout break?
This guide will discuss how much time you need to wait between meals and working out.
Factors Affecting the Time for You to Eat Before Exercising
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the time you wait to begin to exercise after eating; rather, it is tailored for each individual based on various criteria such as dietary needs and sleep habits.
Factors such as these will affect how often you should eat or exercise per day:
- Type of Food
- Portion Of Your Meal
Your meal size might also affect the wait time before you start working out. After eating, it takes your body some time to digest all the food you have consumed. Due to this, you might have to wait a few hours before starting anything too physical or strenuous.
- Workout Type
When we exercise, our bodies are stimulated to release chemicals (e.g., endorphins) that combat pain and promote feelings of well-being. When these chemicals enter the bloodstream, they reduce blood flow to less active areas such as your digestive system; this can make digestion difficult when exercising due to hormonal changes associated with intense physical activity.
- Your Body Type
Everyone has a unique digestive system. Age, gender, health condition, and other factors can determine how well a person’s stomach digests food and dictate how sensitive they are to certain movements while digesting.
A study has shown that women digest food more slowly than men. As you age, your digestive system slows down, which could mean it takes longer for the stomach to process what is consumed.
This can also be true for those who suffer from disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Digestion is a complicated process that involves breaking down macronutrients—carbs, fats, and proteins—into smaller parts that your body will absorb and use for energy, growth, or cell repair.
Pros of Eating Before Exercising
Proper pre-workout nutrition depends on a few factors. It helps if you can digest certain types of food and how long or intense your workouts may be beforehand.
If that is the case, it will help you at work when you take care of what needs to happen beforehand. Plan a well-rounded meal if you want to eat 3-4 hours before a moderate-intensity, hour-long workout.
This generally includes:
- Complex Carbohydrates: these are found in items such as grains, beans, and vegetables which increase energy when working out.
- Protein: protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery, so items such as meat, fish, dairy, and beans are great protein sources if eaten within an hour post-workout.
- Healthy Fats: healthy fats come from items such as nuts and seeds or even fatty fish that take longer to digest but offer additional benefits while being digested.
If there is no time limit, but if you plan on exercising more than four hours after your last meal, eat a small snack 30-60 minutes before to give yourself the energy needed for exercise and muscle growth.
Eating carbs and protein in your pre-workout snacks has been shown to increase endurance and performance.
Cons of Eating Before Exercising!
Eating too close to exercising may cause discomfort in the stomach and intestines. The most common ones include bloating, diarrhea, nausea, cramping, reflux, vomiting, and sluggishness.
A study shows that runners and cyclists are at the highest risk of experiencing these side effects due to the nature of their sport. Lower-intensity sports such as walking, golf, and archery are much less likely to cause digestive problems.
If you want to avoid side effects – make sure to give yourself at least an hour or two after eating or drinking anything before training.
So, how long should you wait to exercise after eating?
When you eat, food enters your stomach and moves through it at a relatively slow pace. Food takes 2-4 hours to make its way through your stomach and into your small intestine.
Although it is generally not necessary to wait until the food is fully digested before exercising, for most people waiting about an hour after eating a moderate meal or about half an hour after eating a snack will suffice. As the intensity of your exercise increases, so does the chance of adverse reactions and side effects.
There are many ways to increase your energy stores, but what works for one person may not work for another.
Ideally, it would be best if you ate a light meal or snack before exercising so that you do not run out of fuel working out. However, some people experience nausea or other gastrointestinal distress when they exercise after eating without allowing proper digestion.
Experts suggest we might feel better if we wait an hour or two after a small meal and thirty minutes after a snack—but it depends on many factors: duration of the workout, type of food eaten pre-workout (carbohydrate vs. protein), etc.
Generally speaking, though, most people will feel good if they wait about an hour between their last bite and start their next activity—especially if it is intense or lasts more than an hour.