Question:

How long should I wait to work out after I eat? I usually eat about 2 hours before working out.

– Bryan D.

Answer:

Your time frame is fine for GI comfort after a medium balanced meal. Most solid food would be working its way from your stomach to your intestines by then. Your peak fuel supply comes when digestion, absorption and transport to muscles are complete. Then you can burn molecules for ATP formation and muscle energy. Assuming your goal is to maximize muscle activity, you could wait another hour after a larger meal, or for a shorter gap, pare down the meal to a snack. With the latter choice, be sure to have a sports drink on hand and your recovery nutrition ready for afterward.

See our article Fuel Your Workouts to Maximize Your Results for pre-workout nutrition.

Timing also depends on what you eat and when you ate the previous meal. Starches and simple carbohydrates are a bit easier to breakdown than proteins and fats. For example, a breakfast of cereal and fruit will process faster than one of bacon and eggs. A dinner of pasta marinara will digest faster than one of chili. If you had a light dinner the night before and wanted to hit the gym first thing in the morning, a shake on the go would be fine. A gut-busting buffet lunch followed by a regular dinner 5 hours later may mean you should wait even longer to work out. Good thing most LA Fitness Sports Clubs are open until 10 or 11 pm!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

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This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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