A shirtless man eating salad before he goes to exercise

How Long Should You Wait After Eating to Exercise

Chris

Written by fitness expert Chris on December 21, 2019

After eating, you should wait at least 1-2 hours before you exercise. If your meal is lighter, you can start your vigorous workout after only 15 to 30 minutes. Finding the right workout routine is almost as important as the act of working out itself. There’s a lot that goes into a proper workout routine, and your meal timing is important. The smaller the meal, the less you need to wait.

No matter what your reason is for getting healthy, whether it’s losing weight, maintaining weight, putting on weight, or simply staying active, you should follow some simple guidelines to make your experience as pleasant as possible. What you eat, when you eat it, and how you eat it, are all important variables to the fitness process.

Let’s explore how long you need to wait after you eat to get back to your workout routine more in-depth.

Guidelines for Eating Before Exercise

A shirtless man eating a protein bar

Overall, it is important to eat something before going to the gym. The important part is knowing when to eat it and how much to eat. A pre-workout snack like a protein bar, light sandwich, or meal replacement can give you the calories you need to have a successful workout. Even so, you shouldn’t be chowing down on a big bowl of chicken alfredo before jumping on the elliptical.

Generally, you want to wait for at least one to two hours before working out after a proper meal. If you just eat a protein bar or drink a pre-workout shake, it is not going to matter much. In fact, some workout regiments require that you have a high caloric intake so your body can keep up with all the exercise you’re doing. Yet, there is a delicate balance you need to abide by.

Eating too much before your workout can be a one-way trip to dizziness, nausea, and bouts of sickness. This is, among other scientific reasons, because you are doing so much movement while you exercise. Imagine a belly full of cheeseburger just writhing and wiggling around while you try to run on the treadmill. It’s no wonder that it wants to find a way out after even a short time.

Experts Agree That You Should Keep It Light

A woman dressed in her gym clothes eating an apple

Scientists and fitness aficionados alike agree that your best course of action before a workout is to keep it simple. Eating a piece of fruit or a healthy snack can help give you the boost you need to carry on with your routine. The more you eat, though, the higher your chance is of falling ill.

This also depends on the type of workout you’re doing. If you’re just going for a walk around the block, you can pretty much feel free to eat whatever you want because working out does help in some ways with digestion. Throughout the process of moving around, you’re getting many more benefits than you would if you were just sitting down and unbuckling your belt in sadness. That’s why it’s smart to get the blood flowing after big meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

If you’re heading to the gym for a three-hour workout, you need to find the right balance. If you pile on your protein-filled chicken and rice before you get to the heavy lifting, it can throw you all off. The key is moderation while still getting the calories you need to feed your body as it works overtime.

Digestion

Most of these problems boil down to how well your body is digesting your food. As a general health tip, the better your body digests your food, the better it can process and expel it in a healthy manner. That’s why you want to eat foods with plenty of fiber and protein if you live a healthy lifestyle. If you eat foods that are hard to digest, it can be difficult for your body to know what to do with it all as you push yourself to the limit.

Basically, your body needs time to process the food you’re intaking properly. The process of digesting this food takes time and energy to be properly completed. When you’re dedicating your energy to something like working out, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to process your meal and turn it into the calories you need.

In short—it’s best to give yourself an hour or two before working out after eating a full meal.

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