Is It Safe to Walk After Eating a Meal?

A casual walk after a meal isn't harmful, but whether you should do a walking fitness routine after eating is a bit more complex. In general, nutrition before a workout is essential for several reasons, including providing much-needed energy. However, you'll need to take into account several factors to determine if it's safe for you to walk after a meal.

Couple take an evening stroll on a boardwalk (Image: iofoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Benefits of Eating Before a Walking Workout

During physical activity, your body's primary source of energy is glycogen, which it gets by metabolizing the carbohydrates you consume during your meals. Eating before a meal also helps to prevent hunger and low blood sugar, which can lead to symptoms such as headaches, light-headedness and nausea. It also helps to settle your stomach and strengthen your mental state.

Factors to Consider When Eating Before a Walk

The timing and size of your meals before a walking workout makes a difference. If you're consuming a large meal, wait for about three to four hours before walking. If you consume a small meal, wait between two and three hours before you set off. However, after a small snack, you should be able to go walking within less than an hour. Keep in mind that these ranges are general and can vary from person to person. Your best option is to try various time periods to see which one works best for you.

Possible Effects of Eating Before a Walk

For some people, walking or other exercise after a meal may cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal or stomach discomfort. You're more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms if you're a woman, just beginning an exercise program, or you're anxious or stressed. A preexisting gastrointestinal problem also increases your risk of this type of discomfort during your walk.

Foods to Avoid Before Your Walk

Some foods may cause digestive discomfort and force you to shorten your walking routine. They include high-fat or high-protein foods such as bacon, caffeinated beverages and sugary foods and drinks. Instead, stick to complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread or crackers, which digest easier and help to keep blood glucose levels stable. Small amounts of low-fat protein foods, such as low-fat cheese or lean meat, should also be fine. Finally, avoid eating any food you're unused to before going for your walk.

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