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How Long Should You Wait To Run After Eating?

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So you’re asking yourself how long should you wait to run after eating? It is a delicate balancing act. Of course, you want enough nutrition in your body to fuel your run without causing your body to revolt. How do you know how much to eat before running? Can you run on a full stomach? Are there standard rules? Are some foods better than others?

Can I Run On A Full Stomach?

Honestly, that depends on a lot of variables. How big of a meal are you talking about? What kind of food? Some people tolerate a post-meal run better than others. Is the meal bland? Do you often run after a meal? What is your idea of a “full stomach?”

Everyone’s idea of “I feel full” is quite different, which is an important factor.

Is It Okay To Exercise After Eating?

Again, there are a lot of variables to consider. Some people are fasted runners. This means they prefer to run without anything in their stomach at all. Other runners would not dream of running without putting some fuel in their body.

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Most runners find some type of happy medium between an actual “meal” and not eating anything before running.

Running After A Large Meal

If you have had a large meal, you should probably wait three or four hours before heading out for a run. If you eat a heavy meal and attempt to run you could end up with indigestion, heartburn or worse.  Some people experience reflux if they run too quickly after consuming a lot of food, or after eating heavy food.

Another consideration is what kind of meal you have had. Have you ever had something spicy and then attempted a run? If you are like me, it ended badly. The worse post-meal running experience I have ever had involved a giant enchilada, an equally large margarita, a few hours of digestion and a run in 90 degree heat. I thought I had given my body enough time to recovery. I was wrong.

Let’s just say the enchilada ended up in a reversal, as they say in the competitive eating world. So if you’re asking yourself how long to wait after eating to run, you should first ask yourself what, exactly, you are eating.

What About A Small Meal?

Many people find they are perfectly capable of running after a small meal. This means if you fuel up with a little something, you are probably fine. Many people use this school of thought for race day fueling.

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If you are racing at 7:00 a.m., for example, you might have a small breakfast at 5:00 a.m. so your body has some time to digest and convert the food into fuel for your race.

Some typical race morning breakfasts include:

✓ Whole grain bagel with peanut butter

✓ Oatmeal

✓ Toast with nut butter on it

✓ An energy bar

What About Runch?

Have you ever thought about running on your lunch then multi-tasking at your desk? These people often refer to this as Runch, or a running lunch hour. If you plan to run at lunch, you may need a small snack to tide you over until you can get some lunch into your body.

Quick snacks to get into your body to hold you over through the mid-day run include:

✓ An apple with peanut or another nut butter

✓ A small fruit smoothie

✓ A banana or orange

✓ A small amount of dry cereal

✓ Cereal or energy bar

If you plan it properly,  this small snack will keep you going through the lunchtime run so you have enough energy to tackle the workout you have planned.

Before Dinner Run

The same is true if you plan to run after work and before dinner. Depending on what time you had your last meal, you likely need something to keep your body moving, especially if you have a particularly long or taxing workout planned.

Any of the breakfast or lunchtime snack options would work as a great pre-run snack in the evening. Just remember that at this time, you likely have a bigger meal ahead of you. You don’t want to wreck your appetite for a meal with your family.

If you are anything like me, however, you get a bad case of the Rungries and whatever you do, you will be ready for dinner!

Breakfast!

Runners who need fuel before working out, sometimes find themselves in a quandary over how much to eat in the morning and how to time it out. If you’re like most runners, you probably don’t need a lot of fuel before heading out for an average run. Most athletes can run for sixty minutes or less on just a small amount of food, or none at all.

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Here is where a small breakfast will usually get the job done for you. Ideas for pre-run breakfast include steel-cut oatmeal,  a banana with nut butter or a bagel with cheese.

I have a friend who eats almost no grains and on race morning she typically fuels with a few hard boiled eggs and fruit. Would that work for me? Nope. But guess what? It works for her.  Even though conventional wisdom says “carbs before you run,” not everyone has a body that has the same needs.

Listen To Your Body

When asking yourself how long to wait to run after eating, it is important to remember that no two bodies are alike. Like with most things, you will have to implement a little trial and error to determine what works for you and your body.

This probably means experimenting a bit with what will help you to perform at your best. You may be surprised to hear that if you enter a race at an odd time, your body may be a little upset with you on race day if you neglect to experiment with some training at that time.

I recently posted a 5:00 p.m. group run and there was a lot of grumbling. This can be anything from fueling issues to people who just are not accustomed to running after their workday. If it’s a race day situation, you need to practice the situation you will be in to perform well!

This is especially true of fueling your body, both before and during your run!