Exercise: How Long After a Meal Can I Start?


Exercise on an empty stomach? Many experts will tell you no. They will suggest that you eat something earlier so that you have more energy and perform better.

However, some people who eat before training experience unpleasant side effects, which significantly reduce their performance.

These side effects can be completely reduced if we allow the right time to digest.

The time we have to leave depends on 3 things:

  1. The food we ate
  2. The amount of food
  3. The type of exercise

In this article we will look at these parameters one by one.

I have eaten. How long does it take to start training?

When we eat a meal the food is processed slowly in our stomach with the gastric acids. Then small amounts gradually enter the small intestine from where the assimilation of nutrients begins.

As a rule, we need 2 to 4 hours to completely digest a meal and to pass the total amount through the small intestine.

In fact, we do not have to wait all this time to exercise. However, it would be good to wait a while for our food to be processed (digested) in the stomach and begin to pass through the small intestine.

For most people who do not have a digestive problem 1-2 hours is enough time after a normal sized meal.

If it is a light snack, 30 minutes may be enough time to start our workout.

While this time may be satisfying, another factor to consider is the type of workout as well as the type of food.

If we have eaten braised meat with French fries and are preparing for a hard workout with weights we may have to wait much longer than if we were eating an omelette and preparing to do Pilates or cycling.  

The quantity and type of food plays a role

Regarding pre-workout food the two main factors that play an important role are the amount of food and the type of food.  

The larger the amount the more time we need to wait before exercising.

In addition, the type of meal counts as it affects the speed and process of digestion.

Meals that are high in fat, indigestible protein and high in fiber are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates and processed proteins such as whey and some pre-workout supplements.  

Foods with a large amount of indigestible proteins are red meat, pork, chicken and to a lesser extent fish.  

If the food also has spicy sauces with spices and is accompanied by something fried there is a possibility that we have intense heartburn during our training, especially if it is high intensity.

It is good to avoid indigestible and heavy foods that cause heartburn, bloating and heavy stomach such as:

  • pasticcio
  • spaghetti with minced meat or lots of sauces
  • moussaka
  • bean soup, giant beans
  • chickpeas and lentils
  • steaks with french fries
  • red meats such as lamb, goat, beef
  • fried fish

It is also good to completely avoid drinking alcohol before exercising. The results will be disastrous. Both in performance and in possible side effects.

Possible side effects if not digested

Possible side effects vary from person to person, as we all have different digestive systems. However, the most common side effects are associated with indigestion and poor performance.  

May cause digestive disorders

If we eat something indigestible or a large amount just before training

We may experience some digestive problems as well as discomfort. The most common are:

  • Inflation  
  • Motion sickness  
  • Stomach cramps  
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Sluggishness

The data we have suggest that endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists have an increased risk of side effects. because of the nature and type of sport.

High-intensity aerobic sports are very demanding and in no case should we have eaten something indigestible before they started.

Low sports activities such as golf and walking rarely cause side effects when we have eaten something before.  

If we allow enough time to pass from the time we ate to start our workout, the chances of an unwanted side effect are greatly reduced.  

Usually 1-2 hours is the ideal time after a normal portion of food. If it’s a light snack like a fruit, 30 minutes is a good time.

It may affect your performance

Exercising on an empty stomach will not provide us with the energy we need. A proper meal or a proper snack is often necessary for high performance.

However if we have a full stomach during training our performance can drop a lot, especially if the sport is demanding.

Athletes or people who work out at a high intensity in the gym feel “heavy” and sluggish after a meal.

A small study of 10 basketball players found that many of them felt nauseous, bloated and prone to vomiting when they ate a meal that contained both protein and carbohydrates before training, compared to a meal that contained only carbohydrates and no protein.

The intensity of the symptoms is proportional to the intensity required by the sports activity or sport.

So for sports such as running, basketball, tennis, volleyball, as well as CrossFit or weightlifting, it would be good to have digested everything we have eaten.  

How long do I have to wait before I start training?

The time required to avoid digestive problems and disorders varies, depending on each person and the type of exercise, sport or sports.  

There is no relevant research regarding time, however the following table is indicative and gives the right directions:  

Type of training                Waiting time – Snack          Meal

Free skiing                           30 minutes                            1–2 hours

CrossFit                               30 minutes                            1.5–3 hours

Cycling                                30 minutes                             1.5–3 hours

Winter skiing                      15–30 minutes                        1 hour

Golf                                    15–30 minutes                        1 hour

Mountain biking                  30 minutes                              1–2 hours

Run                                     30 minutes                               1.5–3 hours

Swimming                           30 minutes                               1.5–3 hours

Walking                               Minimum                                 Minimum

Some endurance sports such as cross-country or outdoor running, cycling, cross-country skiing and tennis that last more than 1 hour may need to be eaten in advance to have enough energy reserves.

In such cases we need digestible carbohydrates with rapid absorption such as fruit juices (not acidic) and energy gels so that we do not have digestive side effects.

It would be good for each practitioner to experiment on his own, avoiding indigestible meals and preferring foods that he knows do not cause bloating or indigestion.

What should I eat before training?

Below we write you some examples of foods and snacks depending on the sport or type of exercise so that you have energy but also do not face digestive problems or any side effects.

Demanding aerobic sports

Running, cross country, fast cycling, high level tennis, marathon. All the above sports have a high requirement in aerobic capacity and raise the pulse a lot.

Under no circumstances should we have a full stomach. Whatever we have eaten we must have digested. These sports usually last close to 1 hour and in many cases more.

The energy requirements are high. If we do not have enough energy reserves our forces will leave us. Good food choices are: butter spaghetti, baked or boiled potatoes. Waiting: 2 hours

Mild aerobic sports

Light jogging, brisk walking, gentle cycling, swimming. The above sports and activities raise the pulse but not to a great extent.

In order to have enough energy and to give to our exercise, a light snack such as: toast, fruit, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese would be good. Waiting: 1-2 hours

Demanding anaerobic sports

Weights, CrossFit, functional training, Vibration training (power plate), EMS training. These types of exercises are very demanding on energy. When it is high intensity, they completely exhaust our muscles and raise our pulse.

Under no circumstances should we start this type of training without being fully digested. Large meals with lots of fats and sauces, as well as indigestible proteins such as red meat should be avoided.

Snack: Prefer non-acidic fruits (eg banana, apple, pear), pre-workout drinks, protein drinks. Waiting: 30-45 minutes

Larger meals: Baked potatoes, butter spaghetti with low-fat cheese or some other light food, not spicy or too greasy. Waiting: 1.5-2 hours

Demanding sports, individual or team

Tennis, squash, basketball, football, volleyball. They require concentration, strength, endurance, good coordination and control in movements. We get tired both muscular and cardio-respiratory.

These sports raise the heart rate and if we have a full stomach it is almost certain that we will have unwanted side effects.

Snack: Non-acidic fruits (eg banana, apple, pear), pre-workout drinks, protein drinks. Waiting: 30-45 minutes

Larger meals: Baked potatoes, butter spaghetti with low-fat cheese or some other light food, not spicy or too greasy. Waiting: 1.5-2 hours

Mild activities, sports and hobbies

Walking, treadmill, yoga, Pilates (low intensity), stretching, beach rackets and golf.

These activities do not raise the pulse and do not exhaust us. We do not need to have completely digested what we have eaten.

They will rarely cause us any problems. However again it would be good to wait a while after our meal before we start.

Snack: Non-acidic fruits, cottage cheese, nuts, light toast. Waiting: minimal

Larger meals: Baked potatoes, butter spaghetti with low-fat cheese or some other light food, not spicy or too greasy. Waiting: 30 – 45 minutes

METABOLIC FIRE. More energy, more burns during training

In addition to the right diet that will give us energy for our workouts, certain vitamins, herbs and phytochemicals have been shown to increase metabolism and give us more energy. 

Such examples are:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • The ACAI berry
  • The beetroot powder
  • The pomegranate
  • The guarana
  • The Siberian Ginseng
  • Capsaicin

Based on all the above, the Healthier team designed a specialized package with 3 nutritional supplements.


Along with all the above that you will choose to follow, this package will cover all your food gaps and will speed up your burning to activate your metabolism and increase calorie burning on a daily basis.

Also Read : 11 Essential Minerals And Their Function In The Body

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