How Long To Wait After Eating To Run

How Long To Wait After Eating To Run

If you’re a regular runner then you may have experienced the odd occasion where you’ve gone running too soon after eating a meal and you’ve had to endure cramps or fatigue from your stomach being too full.

The tiredness you experience during your run after eating a meal is because your body is using most of its energy to digest the food instead of using it to power you through your run.

If you’ve consumed a large meal or lots of liquid before your run then this can fill up your stomach and prevent you from being able to take a large breath so you have to do lots of shallow breathing so you’ll experience cramps in your stomach.

We know some people find it impossible to exercise without eating beforehand, so what is the right amount of time to wait after eating before going on a run?

How long should you wait after eating to go for a run?

There is no straight answer for this question as it weighs heavily on your circumstances such as what you have been eating, how long your run is going to be, and also what time of day it is. 

Most experts would recommend runners to wait for 2 to 4 hours after a meal before heading out on a run, this will leave enough time for your body to digest your food so you’ll have adequate blood flow to help engage your muscles during your run.

However, those with quicker metabolism may find this period of waiting too long and feel like they  need another meal after this before going on a run. 

The key is to listen to your body, if you’re someone who likes to eat smaller meals regularly throughout the day then you may be able to only wait 1-2 hours before going on a run, whereas people who eat 3 larger meals during the day may need to wait longer so their body can make good progress with digesting their food. 

The best way to figure how long of a wait works for you is by keeping a log of your runs and tracking what you ate, drank, the waiting period you left before your run, and also the running conditions that day.

It will also be important to write down what time of day you ran at each time as your body can digest food at different rates throughout the day.

You’ll then be able to find a trend of when you’ve had your best runs and then be able to identify a good length of time to wait after eating before going for a run. 

What should you eat before going on a run?

If you have a busy schedule or you simply don’t like waiting around after eating before going on a run, then you should try sticking to meals that are higher in carbs but lower in fiber, fats, and protein as these will be easier for your body to digest but still give you good energy to power you through your run.

You should be able to go for a run 30 minutes after eating a meal like this.

Meals that are higher in fiber, fats, and protein will take longer for your body to digest and you may have to wait nearly 2 hours before your body feels energized and ready to go out on a run without any stomach cramps.

So if your meal is going to contain a balanced mix of all the above macronutrients, then you should probably leave it up to 4 hours before considering going out on a run, this will ensure you’ve given your body plenty of time to digest most of the food. 

However, there are no strict or highly recommended meals that you should eat before going on a run. Many experts and runners say you should eat a usual balanced nutritional meal that you would typically eat throughout your day. 

You should try to avoid legumes and high fiber vegetables like broccoli and artichokes to be in your meals if you plan to go for a run that day as these can be very difficult for your body to digest and then cause gastrointestinal problems causing them to move through your body more quickly and resulting in more frequent bathroom visits on your run.

You’ll want to stay away from caffeine and spicy foods before you run as these can easily cause an upset stomach and could lead to you being caught short on your run when you’re unable to find a bathroom. 

What are some good foods to eat before going on a run?

Many runners enjoy eating simple and lighter meals before going for a run, even if it’s going to be a particularly long run.

Some recommended foods to fuel your body before a run include:

  • Oatmeal with berries
  • Avocado toast
  • Bananas and almond butter
  • A turkey sandwich on wholewheat bread
  • One bagel with peanut butter

These are some smaller meals, but larger meals that contain more dense proteins like a chicken burrito or a rice/pasta with a protein will require a longer waiting time before going on a run as these are high in proteins and fibers and take ages for the body to digest. 

Can you go for a run on an empty stomach?

Yes, some runners do prefer to not eat at all before going for a run, especially if it’s first thing in the morning. It all comes down to personal preference and what makes you feel the best whilst running.

Some feel light and more energized on an empty stomach whereas some people will feel weak and sluggish.

People who run longer distances such as half marathons and full marathons will eat a light meal such as a banana, a small portion of oatmeal, or some peanut butter on toast a few hours before they begin their run.

However, many of these people will be focusing on their nutrition days and weeks before runs and will be consuming foods like lean meats, rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables to ensure their body is fueled properly.