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Savvy Tips & Helpful Hints

What Happens if You Eat a Big Meal and Then Exercise?

Have you tried eating the best burgers in Brisbane and all the good food you could and then decided to hit the gym afterwards? Or have you been contemplating that idea, thinking you can burn the calories you’ve taken?

Before you actually do it, here’s what you need to know about eating a big meal and then exercising.

What are the risks of exercising after eating?

Definitely, working out immediately after a meal, especially a big one, is not a good idea. It could be the worst punishment you can give yourself after enjoying good food. Exercising immediately after eating is harmful to the body as it prevents the digestive system from properly absorbing the nutrients you get from eating. It’s just a waste of time and the food you eat. 

If you work out after a heavy meal, you’ll feel sick. There’s a high chance of having an upset stomach or gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating and cramping, as the food won’t be digested properly. Other digestive discomforts you may experience are nausea, reflux, diarrhea, vomiting and sluggishness.

Also, you won’t have the best possible performance because of the competing demands between your digestive system and your muscles. For once, food digestion takes some effort to the body, and it needs a lot of energy to do it. When you do both exercising and food digestion at the same time, your body would need to provide much energy simultaneously to sustain the activities. You’re going to overload your body! You may end up slowing down and feeling fatigued faster.

Additionally, when the food you eat is being digested, your body sends oxygenated blood to the stomach. The blood is needed to perform digestion and absorb nutrients. As the blood is the body’s oxygen delivery system, it’s then possible that you have less oxygen available to your muscles if you work out right after a big meal. The body is still processing the food, and it may have a lack of blood supply to the muscles. That’s a problem when exercising as the muscles also need a lot of blood so you can perform better. Muscles with more oxygen for fuel can work even harder. If you don’t have enough oxygen, you may feel light-headed or you may even pass out, and that’s not what you want when working out. So, doing both, digestion and exercising, at once won’t really work. It’s like asking your body to decide whether to send blood to your stomach or to your muscles. 

Endurance athletes are more likely to experience side effects if they work out right after eating because of the nature of their sports. On the other hand, golf and other lower-intensity sports are at lower risks of triggering digestive symptoms or side effects. 

The good thing is you can avoid these side effects by allowing sufficient time for food digestion before exercising.

How long should you wait to exercise after eating?

It does make a big difference in your workout when you know what and when to eat. The food you eat helps you fuel up and recover from doing CrossFit in Sydney or any workout routine you have. Eating before your workout actually helps you perform your best. 

However, it still depends on the type of workout, size of your meal and how long after eating do you exercise. Eating too close to an exercise may affect your performance negatively. The food is going to stay in your stomach for a lot longer! You should allow enough time for digestion before you start running or lifting weights. 

Food digestion is a slow and long process. It can go anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the type and amount of food you eat. The bigger the amount you eat, the longer it takes to digest it. While you don’t necessarily have to wait until the food is fully processed in your stomach before you exercise, giving it some time to settle in your belly can help you avoid stomach upset. 

The intensity of the workout also increases the risks of side effects associated with exercising after eating. If you plan to do short, vigorous exercises after eating, make sure to get those with low fibre, low fat and high carbohydrate snacks at 30-45 minutes before working out. Some examples are granola, yogurt, fruits and peanut butter which can quickly break down to provide you with fuel.

Meanwhile, for high-endurance activities like swimming, a mix of protein and carbohydrates at 2-3 hours before exercise is recommended. This is because these activities will require you to store up more energy long before you start working out. 

In general, the bigger the meal you eat, the more time you should wait before you exercise. Thus, it is recommended to work out about 1-2 hours after having a moderate-sized meal and  30-45 minutes after a snack.

Do what works for you

In the end, it’s still up to you if you want to or if you can exercise after a heavy meal. People have different bodies, and each differs in what it can tolerate. The optimal time to exercise after eating depends on the kind of food you eat and the type of workout you’ll do. Nevertheless, make sure you only start working out when you feel comfortable. And don’t forget to consider these facts about what can happen to your body if you eat a big meal and exercise afterwards.

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