How Long Should You Really Wait Between Eating And Exercising?

"Wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming!"

I think we've all heard that warning growing up and many of us repeated it.

As a kid, many of us probably ignored it, jumped in the pool, and felt so proud of ourselves for not getting a horrible cramp and drowning.

So, is it true that if you exercise, workout, or play too hard after eating, you will get cramps or hurt yourself?

That's an answer that depends on how much you eat and what you eat.

Do You Really Need To Wait Between Eating And Jumping Into The Pool (Or Exercising)?

Sometimes, it is better to wait. You could get pretty bad cramping if you eat and go swimming or exercise. Then again, you may not.

Let's take a look at what happens when you eat and then jump into physical activity.

Your stomach is like a balloon, and when you eat, it expands. The more you eat, the more it expands, and if you overeat, you can feel like you're going to burst.

But, it's not just your stomach that changes. The rest of your organs shift around to make room for your stomach. Your body diverts more blood to your stomach to help you digest the food. Your pancreas starts producing insulin to take care of the sugars from what you ate.

Those don't cause cramping – what does is your diaphragm.

When you eat, your stomach expands and it pushes up against your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that helps you breathe. Being such an important muscle is very vulnerable, and eating too much can restrict your breathing.

Now, when you combine that with jumping into a swimming pool, exercising, or running around, you have to breathe deeply and harder. But, your diaphragm doesn't have enough room to expand correctly and starts pushing and punching your stomach.

Now, you start getting indigestion, cramping, and all sorts of discomfort that you were warned about.

Should You Wait After Eating?

exercise, crampingIdeally, you should wait about two hours after you eat to digest your food. And, that depends on the type of meal you eat.

A light meal that does not make you feel full, probably won't give you problems if you start exercising right away.

The more you eat, the more you should wait.

Many times, you hear the warning at parties and celebrations. These are situations where people typically eat a lot of heavy foods at one time and then engage in activities.

That's where you see people being uncomfortable, cramping, and even being sick.

So, Should You Eat And Then Exercise?

exercise, crampingIf you can avoid it, no. Try to put about two hours between eating and exercising. That will allow most of your stomach to empty and you will be at the peak of your energy production from that meal. You can get the most out of your exercise quickly.

However, we know life doesn't seem to always work like that. Your exercise class might be right after dinner or first thing in the morning. It might be complicated scheduling meals and exercise to line up perfectly.

You have options.

  1. Change classes

This isn't always practical; many classes have a fixed schedule, and it may be challenging to find comparable classes nearby. But, if you can, you should.

  1. Adjust your eating schedule

Making an earlier meal your main meal can help you avoid feeling overfull.

If you have a family, this might not be practical, either. However, in some cases, it can be an option. We don't recommend exercising and then eating a large late dinner. That can have the opposite effect, increasing your weight.

  1. Adjust the type of foods you eat

This might be the most optimal solution. Having a smaller meal filled with vegetables is easily digested and helps you avoid that heavy feeling. Because vegetables are digested quickly, it can allow you to eat and go exercise faster than meals filled with pastas, bread, or a lot of meat.


Exercising after you eat isn't optimal, but it can be done if you choose vegetables and lighter fare. Not only does this allow your body to work as it should, but it increases your overall health, as vegetables are the basis of all diets that help reduce heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and the other health concerns many people face.