Skip to main content

How Long to Wait After Eating to Run?

antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Novice runners who are just starting to run receive all sorts of advice from experienced athletes on what running shoes to buy, what to eat, how to breathe while running, and more. Some of the most passionate exercise advice runners tend to give out pertains to eating before running. Do you run on an empty stomach to reap the benefits of fasted cardio workouts, or do you load up on calories and energy to help sustain your workout? Striking that perfect balance is the key to a great workout, and it’s different for everyone.

The advice for running after eating may not be entirely accurate. The human body is a lot more complex than we ever thought. The best plan for your body is to do what feels right to you. Let’s explore how to find out what that means.

Related Guides

Is it OK to Exercise After Eating?

Dragan Grkic / Shutterstock

There’s no real scientific evidence that something bad can happen when you’re exercising on a full stomach. However, digestion requires an extraordinary amount of energy from the body, and running at the same time could reduce your perfect workout. For example, the typical lunch includes 400-600 calories, containing proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and other materials.

The energy required to digest this type of meal could cause you to feel woozy running or just unsettled. If you push yourself too hard, your body could reject your lunch altogether. The reason is your body has limited resources. When you eat, those resources head to your digestive tract. When you exercise, your body removes those resources from digestion and diverts it all to your muscles. Trying to make that happen together could be uncomfortable.

Can I Run on a Full Stomach?

Maridav / Shutterstock

Whether you are running at night or in the morning, the best advice is to stick to a small snack of no more than 200 to 300 calories. Gain a boost of energy with simple carbohydrates and easy-to-digest materials. For most people, this is enough to provide fuel for running without causing discomfort.

Wait 30 minutes to an hour before running if you’ve had a small meal or at least two hours after a big meal. That might be the easiest way to ensure you can perform your best on your runs. Until you get a better idea of what your body can do, taking the general advice is best.

The Running Method Matters

Maridav / Shutterstock

For beginning runners or short distance runners, it may not be as crucial to fuel up before or during a run. Short distances — less than a mile, for example — may not tax your energy reserves as much as a full marathon would.

As you advance in your abilities, you might need to build a more robust fueling system before you run. As you extend your distances or times, your snacks and small meals need to evolve as well. It’s still best to stick to small meals and wait an hour before heading out.

If you’ve been running for a long time, you may choose a different path. You know your body, strengths, and capabilities. You may be someone who can run after eating with few to no consequences. It’s essential to listen to your body’s cues. If you eat and don’t experience discomfort, you don’t need to worry about the traditional advice.

Foods to Eat Before a Run

Markus Mainka / Shutterstock

A light snack can help get you on your feet and give you the energy to complete your workout. These snacks should have carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. Some examples:

  • A small banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • Small yogurt with seasonal fruit
  • Bowl of oatmeal
  • Small fruit smoothie with ricotta cheese
  • Crackers and cheese

Foods to Eat After a Run

Yuriy Golub / Shutterstock

Once you’ve completed your run, your body needs to replace the energy so it can rebuild muscle. Foods that provide complete nutritional requirements to help your body repair and rebuild. Take the time to cool down, and when you’re ready, you can prepare:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables
  • 8-12 ounces of chocolate milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Pita chips or vegetables with hummus

Tips on Eating and Drinking for Your Run

Yuriy Golub / Shutterstock

Customizing your running approach can take some experimentation. Here are a few things you might consider.

Can I Train my Body to Eat Before a Run?

If you’re an endurance athlete or aspire to be, training your body to fuel up during a run can keep you going the distance. This can take time and experimentation. Mid-run fuels include easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Many runners use sports drinks or energy gels.

Can I Drink Water During my Run?

You will need fluids and hydration during a run — too much, however, and you could experience cramps and nausea. Listen to your body’s cues, but the general advice is to drink half to a full cup of water every half hour or so during your run.

Troubleshooting Your Run

BaanTaksinStudio / Shutterstock

If you experience GI discomfort during your runs, there can be a number of different causes.

  • Dehydration: If you don’t prepare before your run, your body may experience discomfort due to a lack of hydration. Drink plenty of fluids up to an hour before you begin your run.
  • Too much fiber: Eating too much fiber the night before to the morning of a run can cause cramping. Eat a balanced diet instead.
  • Overheating: If you feel nausea while you’re running, temperature could be the culprit. Stop running immediately and seek shade and fluids.

Staying Fueled the Right Way

GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Overall, the best thing for you to do is listen to your body’s cues as you experiment with how best to stay fueled. The tips above are an excellent starting point for ensuring that you don’t experience discomfort as you complete your runs.

With these tips and your own good judgment, you can fuel your body before the run. You’ll have more satisfying runs with less discomfort. Find your perfect snack and keep your running skills in top shape.

Editors' Recommendations

Nate Swanner
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running and What You Need
trail running shoes

Even if you’re not a very outdoorsy person, you’ve probably heard of trail running. It’s a pastime that’s becoming more and more popular as people look to spend more time outside in nature while also getting in a healthy workout. If you’re interested in seeing if trail running is a good fit for you, here’s a great beginner’s guide to introduce you to this unique sport and teach you everything you need to know to become a trail runner. When you're ready to get started, put on your best trail running shoes and keep your feet steady.
What is Trail Running?
As the name suggests, trail running is a type of running that takes place outdoors, usually on wilderness trails. Generally, trail running involves more changes in elevation (with ascents and descents) and diverse terrain than road running, practiced on unpaved, gravel, or dirt tracks.

Is Trail Running Difficult?
It depends on the type of trail you’re running on, but generally yes, due to the alternating terrain and obstacles, trail running is more difficult than road running. This is why it’s important to take your time easing into this sport. Even if you’re an experienced runner, for your first trail runs you should start on flatter, better-groomed trails so you get accustomed to the difference in feel and difficulty from the running that you’re used to. After you’ve gotten into the swing of things, you can branch out to other trails that have more changes in elevation and aren’t as groomed or maintained, and may have obstacles like rocks, roots, uneven surfaces, and sharp changes in elevation. As you practice and run more, your stamina will improve.
How Do You Train for Trail Running?
Trail running is a whole different animal from road running in terms of form and physicality. In road running, you’d usually use longer strides to cover more ground faster, but in trail running, to maintain balance and traction with the uneven ground, you’ll want to practice taking shorter strides that keep your feet under your body. You should also swing your arms more to help with your balance.

Read more
How to Train for Your First Half Marathon This Fall 2022
how to train for a half marathon ff 10

In order to run for a half marathon this fall, it takes careful preparation to not only complete but also enjoy those 13.1 miles. Sean Garbutt, director of training programs for three Fleet Feet running shops in and around Sacramento, California, knows all too well about running beginners. He has guided and trained hundreds of athletes for half marathons, and with his tips, you’ll know the roundabouts of running in no time.

Related Guides

Read more
The 9 Best Exercise Bikes for Any Home Gym
best exercise bikes bowflex c 6 feature

Without the cardio equipment, can you really say that your at-home workout gear and gym equipment are complete? Cardio might be the least liked part of anyone’s workout routine, but this kind of exercise is essential for weight loss and can help improve brain and joint health — especially when paired with weight training. It's also considered the best exercise for cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) fitness. A way to incorporate some low-impact cardio into your routine is through indoor cycling. Hence the exercise bike.

Related Guides

Read more