If you still have your mother’s voice in your ears yelling at you not to go swimming in the sea after lunch (this is so Italian!), it won’t be the first time you’ve asked yourself this question: is it possible to run after eating? How long should you wait to startphysical activity after a meal?
These are perfectly legitimate questions, partly because one of the advantages of running is precisely that you can train wherever and whenever you want, with no organizational constraints. Some people run after work, some prefer to get up at dawn, and some work out after dinner. Being able to be as organized as possible makes the sport even more enjoyable, especially if you only have a lunch break to train.
So: is it good to run after eating? Do you have to go for a run two hours after lunch or can you go right away? Better on a full or empty stomach?
Read on and you will find the answer to your questions!
Running after eating: a matter of planning
We said that the beauty of running is being able to do it anywhere and anytime you feel like it, but that doesn’t mean that training shouldn’t be planned!
It is important to arrange to go for a run at least 2 to 3 hours after the meal so as not to hinder the digestive process. Also is crucial how much and how you eat before the race: you should never have too large a meal or eat heavy foods, but you neither should fast. Ideally, you should have a small snack about an hour before your workout, with the right combination of carbohydrates and protein.
So, to answer one of the most frequently asked questions right away: it is not good to run after eating on a full stomach, but neither is it good to run on an empty stomach. In the former case, in fact, you interfere with digestion, while in the latter you will not have the energy you need to sustain training.
Running after lunch: what to eat
Whatever kind of workout you’re about to go through, it’s definitely not a good idea to do it after a full meal, whether it’s a hearty breakfast or lunch. As anticipated, at these times the body’s main purpose is digestion, which is a more complex and delicate process than it seems. During digestion, the body will not be able to properly flush the muscles, because a large amount of blood will be used to accomplish the digestive task.
Running immediately after lunch will therefore not only make training unprofitable, but may contribute to increased risk of injury, as well as certainly unpleasant digestive problems.
What to eat before going for a run, then? A light snack, perhaps with tea and a couple of rusks or shortbread, is ideal. It all then depends on the type of training you are going to undertake: in the case of short, fast workouts, such as uphill sprints, repeats or progressive pace, you can carry maltodextrin sachets, while for longer workouts (slow cross-country, race pace) salts are indicated.
In the case of very long workouts, you can carry an energy bar (or gel) specifically for endurance sports, which will give you the simple carbohydrate intake you need to complete your workout.
After the workout is over, after a nice invigorating shower, it is of course appropriate to have a more substantial meal, so as to regain strength and restore hydrosaline and carbohydrate balance.
In general, avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods before training because they are more difficult to digest and weigh you down. If you have a carbohydrate and protein meal, wait about 3 hours before you start running. The ideal pre-run meal is a low-fiber but carbohydrate-rich snack, eaten in the 30 to 60 minutes before the run. Consider that for every hour of intense workout over 60 minutes, or for a moderate one over 90 minutes, between 30 and 60 grams of carbohydrates are needed to replenish glycogen stores and have the right amount of energy.
Here are some examples of ideal pre-run snacks:
- Two bananas
- Two slices of bread with honey or jam
- Two low-fiber bars
- 75 grams of dehydrated fruit
Running before or after lunch: pros and cons
Lunchtime is the ideal time for high-intensity training: the potential for a perfomance at this time of day is 100 percent, because your body is not too tired from all-day activities, your energy reserves are charged, and you feel less physical exertion. This is really the ideal time for an intense and fast workout.
On the flip side, as anticipated, if you decide to run after lunch your body will need more time to digest (obviously also depending on what you eat), so here are some tips to follow:
- If you have a light snack, wait 30 minutes before starting your run
- If you have a large meal instead, wait about two hours before running
- Avoid running on an empty stomach; you may have insufficient energy.