There’s not a standard for everyone. Personally, I like to eat 1 hour beforehand for most workouts, and 90 minutes beforehand abs/core workouts.
You should know that Muscle synthesis lasts for around 48 hours, which means you won’t burn up muscle on a empty stomach.
However, when insulin is low and glucagon is high, fat loss occurs. In return, it’s wise to avoid spiking your insulin before working out, while having glycogen store for great performance.
In any event, eating and working out go hand in hand.
If you are not sure how long to wait before a workout, don’t worry. This guide will help you decide.
Depending on whichever approach you decide to take, exercises can bring both positive and negative bodily effects. If you work out too soon after a meal, you could end up cramping up.
This is because your digestive system requires time to process the food that you eat before your workout.
Every person has a different tolerance when it comes to digestion. This determines how soon you can exercise after having a meal. Exercises that require a lot of jolting like a high-intensity aerobics class will be different for the time required compared to walking or weightlifting.
1. How Long Should You Wait after Eating to Work Out?
Due to the difference in digestive tolerance among people, this question is difficult to give a definite answer.
However, there are a few things that you can consider to enable you to determine the amount of time you need to wait after eating before embarking on your workout.
2. The Amount of Food You Eat
If you had a simple meal of not more than 300 calories, it shouldn’t stop you from working out. However, consuming a bigger meal will require you to take a few hours before starting on your workout routine, especially if it is a high-intensity one.
Small meals have less impact on your body, but you should not start exercising soon after consuming something heavy.
3. The kind of Exercise
The type of exercise you intend to partake in is a big determinant when it comes to deciding how long you should wait before a workout.
Some exercises like High-Intensity Interval Training and running will need you to wait a bit longer, unlike others like weight lifting or walking. What differentiates these exercises is the motion needed by your body to complete them.
4. Trial and Error
Before you can settle on the amount of time needed before a workout, you need to experiment first. While it is possible for some people to exercise immediately after a meal without any problems, others tend to feel sick. Experimenting can help you determine which of the two groups you fall under.
For some people, waiting for 1 to 3 hours is fine, but then, no two people have the same digestive systems. The only way to figure out how your digestive system handles the situation is by exercising between meals.
Generally, you will need a meal that is rich in carbohydrates and proteins and low in fat three to four hours before a workout. Carbohydrates are to supply your body with the much-needed glycogen for a gym workout. If you skip them, your muscles will fail you when you need them most.
If you are trying to shed some pounds, it might seem ridiculous to eat a carb-rich meal before going to the gym. However, complex carbs like lentils, beans, starchy vegetables, and whole grains will not only provide you with fiber and nutrients but also act as the fuel you need for the workout. However, refined carbs tend to increase your appetite, as well as increase your waist size, which you are trying to avoid.
However, having a fatty meal before a workout slows the digestion rate. Proteins, on the other hand, are meant for muscle support. As you work out, your muscles cells break down and then rebuild. Eating the right proteins will provide your body with the required amino acids that your muscles use to rebuild themselves.
Some great sources of protein include chicken and lean meat as they have all the needed amino acids. There are some grains like quinoa, beans, and a variety of vegetables that contain some good proteins also.
If you are one of those people who prefer to work out early in the morning, you need to wake up early enough to have breakfast an hour before hitting the gym. Ensure you fuel up before working out.
Eating or drinking a carbohydrate-rich meal is bound to help you maximize your performance. It also enables you to work out for longer periods and at a higher intensity too. Failing to take breakfast before your workout will leave you feeling sluggish or lightheaded.
If you want to exercise within an hour after your breakfast, make it light or go for something like a sports drink. Include carbohydrates for added energy.
There is a misconception that you should not eat before a workout. This is entirely false. The truth is that you should ensure you eat something before any kind of workout to keep your body fuelled.
The explanation behind this misconception is that working on an empty stomach will force your body to burn extra fat during your workout. This is very wrong as starving can do more harm to your body than good.
Your body requires a specific amount of sugar for fuel you when working out. In the absence of glucose, the body converts muscle tissue to energy. Remember you are trying to maintain those muscles but not to deplete them. Your body also requires energy for all high-intensity workouts.
Partaking in high-intensity workouts on an empty stomach will not be successful as you will not have any energy to perform them. You need stamina, strength, and speed to burn calories, as well as get quick results, which will not be possible if you have low blood sugar. The results will be a dizzy feeling and sluggishness.
5. What Is Glycogen And What Is Its Role In Exercise?
Glycogen is the stored form of blood sugar/glucose. It is the polymer of accumulated insulin that gets broken down into glucose. Glycogen is usually stored in the liver and muscles. If your blood glucose levels go down, glycogen provides the body with energy.
Glycogen is very important when it comes to exercising as it fuels your muscles. As you workout, your muscles will use the stored glycogen. Both glucose in the blood and glycogen in your muscles power your muscles.
The glycogen levels get replenished after a workout. The replenishing period depends on the intensity level and time spent working out. It could take just a few hours or as long as several days for your glycogen levels to be fully replenished.