How Long Should I Wait To Workout After Eating?

We have all been told that eating before exercising is beneficial as it gives your body some power.

How Long Should I Wait To Workout After Eating

However, some people will experience some side effects when eating too close to initiating a workout.

This can typically be avoided by allowing sufficient time for digestion although this time period will vary depending on the type of exercise you will be participating in.

Food is designed to give you energy and fuel for a workout, but eating too soon before a workout can give you stomach problems. 

Eating food too far in advance of a workout will leave you feeling under fueled to finish said workout, how much you need to eat before a workout will depend on you as a person and what your nutrition goals are. 

What is crucial before a workout is drinking water but like food it must be balanced, with too much leaving you feeling bloated and sluggish and having too little water and electrolytes can cause muscle contractions which will lead to poor performance, recovery and dehydration. 

This article will explore how long you should wait to exercise after eating.

When To Exercise After Eating

After you eat a meal the food enters your stomach and is then slowly processed until it is released into the small intestine.

This process typically takes 2-4 hours for any food to move fully from the stomach to your small intestine. 

This is not to say you should wait this long until you begin exercising but it is best to give your stomach some time to settle down before jumping into a workout.

For the majority, giving yourself 1 to 2 hours of relaxation before exercising will give your body plenty of time to process the food to the state where you are capable of exercise.

If you are only eating a small snack then waiting just 30 minutes should be sufficient.

The food should be digested by the time you begin exercising so you should avoid any upset stomach, although the intensity of the workout can affect the side effects felt from eating beforehand so always be aware. 

Food Volume And Type

So now you know how long you should wait before initiating a workout lets discuss whether meal size and composition play a significant role.

It is relatively simple to break down, the bigger the meal you eat the longer it will take to digest, and thus increasing the amount of time you will have to wait before working out.

The composition of the meal also affects the digestion time.

Meals that are higher in fat, protein and fiber will tend to be digested slower than those that contain a larger proportion of simple carbs and more processed proteins, typically found in protein shakes and supplements. 

High protein foods will include intact animal proteins like beef, chicken, fish and pork.

So it is best to avoid eating any large meats that contain large amounts of fat, protein and fiber shortly before any workout to avoid any potential negative side effects. 

The Side Effects

Ultimately the side effects that can come from exercising after having just eaten can vary widely depending on the person as it is highly individualized.

The most common are digestive symptoms and performance issues. 

Digestive Symptoms

Eating too close to a workout can cause you some digestive comfort. The most common of these are:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slugishness

People who participate in endurance sports such as running, cycling will be at the biggest risk of suffering from these side effects due to the nature of the sport they are partaking in.

Lower intensity sports such as golf, walking and archery will be much less likely to trigger the digestive symptoms.

How Long Should I Wait To Workout After Eating

Most of the stated side effects can be easily avoided by just simply allowing time to pass and for digestion to take place before training.

As we have already discovered, leaving just 1 to 2 hours of time to pass before exercising and just 30 minutes after a snack. 

Affecting Performance 

Fueling up for an intense training session is crucial, when eating too close to a workout you will notice a big dip in your performance.

Athletes and gym goers will often experience the feeling of sluggishness when exercising straight after a meal. 

When working out shortly after eating can lead to you suffering from nausea, belching and stomach bloating specifically after eating a protein and carb heavy meal was consumed.

In comparison a high carb meal without protein did not have drastic symptoms. 

These symptoms may hinder your performance when participating in your workout or exercise of choice. 

Final Thoughts

To make sure you get the most out of your workout it is generally recommended that you should be eating something beforehand.

That being said some people may experience negative side effects when they are eating too close to a workout. 

For the majority of people, waiting only one to two hours after having a meal before working out and at least 30 minutes after a snack is more than sufficient to avoid having any side effects.

Those who are participating in endurance sports may choose to wait a bit longer than those who do less intense workouts, as they will need to incorporate some fast digesting carbs during workouts that last any longer than one hour.

Finally, if you can avoid having large meals that contain a high proportion of fat, protein and fiber will help to lower the risks of negative side effects.

So now hopefully now you know just how long you should be waiting to start your workout after having a meal or even just a snack. 

Of course it varies person to person so start with the recommended time break and then work around what suits you.

We all love food and we all love a good work out so do not let your workout be ruined by rushing into it after enjoying a hearty meal.

Jenna Priestly
Latest posts by Jenna Priestly (see all)