While working out in the morning is very common, there are many athletes that prefer to train in the evening, after dinner. If you are thinking about scheduling your workout during the evening hours, you might be asking yourself if it is okay to eat dinner beforehand.
Eating dinner before your workout will not have a negative effect on your training session as long as you give your stomach enough time to digest your meal. If you are eating a meal that is made up of a moderate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and minimal fat, it is best to wait at least 1-2 hours before training.
If you do not allow your body a sufficient amount of time to digest your dinner before you start to workout, or if your meal is too large, you run the risk of experiencing symptoms of digestive upset while you train.
In addition to this, if you are choosing foods that take longer to break down, such as high fat and high fiber foods, your meal could take even longer to digest. It is important to take this into consideration when you are composing the dinner you will eat prior to working out.
Throughout this article, we will be discussing:
- The Pros and Cons of Working Out After Dinner
- What To Eat If You’re Working Out After Dinner
- What to Avoid If You’re Working Out After Dinner
- How Soon After Dinner Can You Workout?
- Should You Skip Dinner and Just Eat After You Workout?
- Does Working Out After Dinner Impact Your Weight Loss Goals?
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Pros and Cons of Working Out After Dinner
Working out in the evening hours after dinner comes with its own set of pros and cons. While some may swear by working out later in the day after their dinner, it may not work as well for others.
Pros: Workout After Dinner
1. Eating Dinner Before You Train Will Help To Fuel Your Workout
One large advantage of working out after your dinner is being able to utilize the fuel you just ate in your workout. This extra fuel could make all the difference in maximizing your training session.
If you are working out in the evening, not only are you benefitting from the extra fuel from your dinner, but you will also have some energy stores ready to use from earlier meals in the day.
This is a compelling reason to schedule your workout at the end of the day in comparison to an early morning workout, where you will have much less energy stored in your body from fasting overnight.
2. Working Out After Dinner Means You Don’t Have To Rush
If you are someone who finds themselves rushing through your morning workout in order to get to work or just to get started on your to-do list, then you might want to consider working out in the evening.
While this advantage would be largely dependent on each individual’s personal schedule, working out after dinner can help to ensure that you don’t have to rush through your session.
If your workout is one of the last things on your to-do list after dinner, there is more opportunity for you to enjoy your training session without feeling like you should be doing something else.
3. Working Out After Dinner Can Help You To Decompress From Your Day
There is nothing better than a good workout to take the edge off of a stressful day. If you schedule your workout after dinner, you will reap the benefits of being able to decompress from your day through your workout.
According to Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults 18-64, participating in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity can help to improve your mood and decrease tension levels.
In addition to this, a workout can also help to calm the body by releasing feel good endorphins that can help to relieve any stress you may have accumulated throughout your day.
Cons: Workout After Dinner
1. Working Out After Dinner Can Cause Digestive Issues
The main complication that can come from working out after dinner is digestive upset. The risk of this is even higher if you don’t give your body enough time to digest your meal, if you choose the wrong foods, or if you overeat.
Some of the symptoms that you might experience are:
You are more likely to experience the symptoms above if you are taking part in moderate/high-intensity exercise (such as a heavy weight training session) or endurance-type exercises (running and cycling).
2. Eating a Large Dinner Can Result in You Feeling Sluggish During Your Workout
If you indulge in a large portion at dinner, your food will take a longer amount of time to digest. The larger your meal, the longer it will take your body to fully digest your food, and the longer you will have to wait to train.
It can take up to 2-4 hours for food from your stomach to transit to your small intestine. While it is unnecessary to wait until your food is completely digested prior to training, it is ideal to let your stomach settle as much as you can before your workout.
Working out shortly after a large meal with food still sitting in your stomach will result in less energy for your workout due to the fact that a lot of your body’s energy will be funneled toward digesting your meal.
Therefore, if you are training after dinner it is recommended that you give your body time to digest your food, as well as keep your portions modest.
3. Completing an Intense Workout After Dinner Right Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep Patterns
If you are working out after dinner, it is likely that your training session will fall shortly before you go to sleep.
Completing a vigorous workout after dinner shortly before bed can have a negative impact on your sleep cycle, and cause you to wake up more times during the night. Sleep is imperative for recovery after your workout, therefore anything that disturbs your sleep cycle has to be considered.
If you decide that an evening workout after dinner is what is best for you, but you don’t want to risk disrupting your sleep cycle, stick to less vigorous forms of exercise and stay away from high-intensity workouts less than an hour before bed.
At the end of the day, the best time for a workout is one that you can stay consistent with. If your schedule only allows you to train in the evening after dinner, you can still have a successful workout as long as you consider the type of dinner that you eat, and the time you need to digest it.
What To Eat If You’re Working Out After Dinner
When you want to hit the gym after your dinner, it is important to examine not only the type of food you are going to eat but the amount you are going to eat as well.
If you are going to train 1-2 hours after your dinner, your meal should consist mostly of carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of protein and minimal fat.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel, and they are the fastest macronutrient to digest. Including a source of carbohydrates in your dinner will help to ensure that you will have plenty of energy to power your workout.
Including protein in your dinner will ensure that you are getting in the proper nutrients needed to build muscle from your training session.
A great example of an optimal dinner to eat 2 hours prior to your workout would be a serving of chicken breast, white rice, and asparagus. This meal contains ample carbohydrates and protein to fuel your workout, without adding anything to weigh you down while you train.
What To Avoid Eating If You’re Working Out After Dinner
When you are planning your pre-workout dinner, there are certain foods that you should avoid in order to ensure optimal digestion. In general, it is best to stay away from high fat and high fiber foods if you are planning to work out shortly after.
High-fat foods take a long time for your body to break down and digest. If your dinner is full of fat, your body will likely not have enough time to digest and assimilate your meal, increasing your likelihood of digestive issues while you train.
Similarly, foods that are high in fiber take more time and effort for your body to break down. If you plan on working out after dinner, you do not want all of your energy going toward digestion. Therefore it is best to avoid foods that are high in fat and fiber shortly before you train.
How Soon After Dinner Can You Work Out?
It is crucial that you do not overeat at dinner if you plan to train afterward. This is because the more food that you eat, the longer it will take to digest.
If you begin your workout while your meal is only partially digested, it will result in you feeling sluggish and lethargic while you are trying to train (as mentioned above).
While the amount of time required to wait after dinner to work out is varied depending on the individual and the type of meal that they eat, it is generally recommended to wait 1-2 hours to train after eating a moderate-sized meal.
If you have a large dinner that is particularly high in fat and/ or fiber, you may want to increase this wait time to 3-4 hours, in order to make sure that you don’t cause any digestive issues.
Should You Skip Dinner And Just Eat After You Workout?
Despite the fact that working out too soon after dinner can result in some negative side effects, the solution is not to skip dinner entirely.
If you go into your workout without the proper fuel, you run the risk of depleting your energy stores too quickly and sacrificing performance in the gym. In order to maximize your performance in the gym, it is imperative that you give your body the proper fuel to do so.
If you want to save your dinner until after your workout, try introducing a small snack consisting of fast-digesting carbohydrates roughly 30 minutes prior to working out. This is a much better option than skipping food entirely.
Does Working Out After Dinner Impact Your Weight Loss Goals?
If your goal is weight loss, the most important factor is to remain in a calorie deficit. Therefore, as long as you are not going above your calories, it does not make a difference whether you are working out before or after dinner.
Despite the fact that some would argue working out in a fasted energy would burn more fat, there is no compelling evidence to show that the rate of fat loss changes if you are in a fasted vs. fed state.
Therefore we can conclude that as long as you are sticking to your calorie deficit, working out after your dinner will not have a negative impact on your weight loss goal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Work Out 1 Hour After Dinner?
If you are planning your workout 1 hour after you eat dinner, it would be best to keep your meal to a smaller portion, consisting mostly of carbohydrates. This will ensure that your meal is properly digested before you start to train, thus avoiding indigestion or sluggishness.
Can You Work Out 2 Hours After Dinner?
Working out 2 hours after you eat dinner will help to ensure that you have given your body enough time to digest your meal, which will help you to avoid any digestive issues while training. However, if you eat a large meal that is high in fat and fiber, it might be best to wait a little longer to allow for digestion.
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About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.