How Long Should We Wait To Exercise After Eating?

It’s often recommended to eat before exercising to top off your energy stores.

However, some people may experience side effects when eating too close to exercising.

These can usually be avoided by allowing sufficient time for digestion, though this time period varies by the type of exercise

When To Exercise After Eating

When consuming a meal, food enters your stomach and is slowly processed and released into your small intestine in small amounts. It generally takes 2–4 hours for food to completely move from your stomach to your small intestine.

While it’s usually unnecessary to wait until food is fully digested before exercising, it’s best to give it some time to settle in your stomach.

For most people, 1–2 hours is sufficient after a moderate-sized meal, while waiting at least 30 minutes after a snack is fine.

At that point, food has digested enough to avoid stomach upset. That said, as the intensity of the exercise increases, so does the risk of side effects.

While it generally takes 2–4 hours to fully digest a meal, waiting 1–2 hours after a moderate-sized meal and 30 minutes after having a snack should be sufficient before exercising to avoid side effects.

How Long Should We Wait To Exercise After Eating?

The amount of time required to avoid digestive side effects varies by individual and the sport. While data on the specific amount of time we should wait is limited, here are some general recommendations:

ExerciseTime to waitSnackTime to waitMeal
Cross-country skiing30 minutes1–2 hours
Crossfit30 minutes1.5–3 hours
Cycling30 minutes1.5–3 hours
Downhill skiing15–30 minutes1 hour
Golfing15–30 minutes1 hour
Mountain biking30 minutes1–2 hours
Running30 minutes1.5–3 hours
Swimming30 minutes1.5–3 hours
Walkingminimal timeminimal time
Weight training30 minutes1–2 hours

Some endurance sports, such as running, cycling, and cross-country skiing, lasting over an hour may require eating while exercising to maintain energy stores. In this case, it’s best to stick to fast-digesting carbs like energy gels or chews to prevent any digestive side effects.

You may find that you can comfortably train shortly after eating, or on the contrary, you may require waiting several hours to avoid side effects. Therefore, you should experiment to determine your ideal digestion period before exercising.

The length of time you should wait before exercising varies by sport and individual. Thus, you may have to experiment to find your ideal digestion period. Commonly, it ranges from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

To Sum It Up

To optimize our energy stores, it’s generally recommended to eat something before exercising. That said, some may experience negative side effects when eating too close to a workout.

For most people, waiting 1–2 hours to exercise after a meal and at least 30 minutes after a snack is sufficient to avoid side effects.

Those practicing endurance sports may want to wait longer and need to incorporate fast-digesting carbs during workouts lasting longer than 1 hour.

Lastly, avoiding large meals containing a high proportion of fat, protein, and fiber will further help lower the risk of negative side effects.


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