How Long Should I Wait to Workout After Eating?

woman-bike-workout

Q: Hi Dr. Phoenyx, how long should I wait after eating before I workout? I want to run right after breakfast, but wasn’t sure how much time I should give myself to digest. – Sidney

A: Hi Sydney, that’s a good question that I’m sure many others have had too. And the fact of the matter is the answer really isn’t very cut and dry. But I’ll try to make things as simple as possible by explaining why the average person should wait a bit after eating before they exercise. So let’s start off with what happens to our bodies after we eat.

Shortly after we’ve eaten a meal, our body will begin to use a good amount of energy to digest the food we’ve just eaten. First, to facilitate the digestive process, the body directs more blood flow to the stomach and other internal organs like the pancreas, gallbladder and colon. This is one reason people often feel sleepy following a large meal. Because all that blood flow that is now being directed to our internal organs for digestion means that there will be less blood flow available to our large muscle groups, like our legs and arms. And when we exercise, the opposite occurs – blood flow is redirected from internal organs to our muscles to provide the necessary energy for muscle contraction. So basically, our body is not designed to do both digestion and exercise at the same time. That’s why people can get things like stomach cramps and stomach aches when trying to run/exercise on a full stomach.

if your exercise routine requires a lot of intensity, you may even want to wait up to 2 hours after eating a large meal

Now there are some athletes who do eat and exercise at the same time – particularly endurance athletes (like marathon runners) who have trained their bodies to eat on the run. Still yet, even with endurance athletes, you’ll hardly see them down a huge meal right before training because they may end up with the same stomach cramps and other digestive problems. So taking all this information in, my recommendation for the average person would be to wait at least 60 minutes to exercise after eating a large meal. And I define a large meal as at least 600 calories.  Furthermore, if your exercise routine requires a lot of intensity, you may even want to wait up to 2 hours after eating a large meal. Now that said, I want to emphasize that my recommendations are not set in stone because every situation isn’t necessarily the same. Meal sizes vary and people train differently. So depending on how much you end up eating and the intensity of your upcoming workout, I would definitely encourage you to do a bit of experimenting to see how long it takes for your body to feel comfortable with exercising after a meal.

OK, so now that I’ve offered my recommendations I want to open up the floor to other readers. I’m curious guys- How long do you wait to exercise after eating?

About the author:

Dr. Phoenyx Austin is a physician, author and media personality. Dr. Phoenyx’s new book, If You Love It, It Will Grow: A Guide to Growing Long Afro-Textured Hair is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. Special autographed book copies can be ordered directly from her blog, DrPhoenyx.com. You can also find Dr. Phoenyx on Facebook and Twitter.