THE PROBLEM: You had good intentions to wake up with the sun and get your long run in before meeting your family for brunch. But you hit snooze, then hit again… and again. Then you’ve realized that you’ve hit snooze too many times so that you don’t have enough time to run before you head out to eat. “No big deal,” you thought to yourself. “I’ll just get in my 15-miler after brunch.”
But as you sit there finishing the last of four pancakes – after plenty of eggs, sausage, and hash browns, too – you’re likely kicking yourself for not waking up to run this morning. Because how on earth will you run now that you’re stuffed to the brim?
SHOULD YOU GO RUN? We’ve all been there. Overindulging from time to time is a runner’s calling card. But when you eat too much before a scheduled run, what are you to do?
You shouldn’t run yet. The general rule is to wait 3-4 hours after eating a large meal (600 calories or more) before running to give your body ample time for digestion.
During digestion, the body sends additional blood flow to the stomach and digestive organs. This means that less blood flow is available in other parts of the body, such as the legs. When we run, though, more blood flow is directed towards the legs. Simply put, the body cannot handle digesting a large meal and running at the same time. If you try to run on a full stomach, you’ll likely experience discomforts in the form of abdominal cramps, a stomachache, or runner’s trots.
TEMPORARY FIX: Wait 3-4 hours before your run. Putting off the run for this long is especially important if you have speedwork or a long run on the docket. You want your food to be digested as much as possible before you beginning an intense workout.
However, keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. Some runners are able to eat immediately following a standard-sized meal while others can only handle fluids or sports performance gels or chews before a run. If your stomach is on the sensitive side, you may need to wait longer than 4 hours before starting your workout.
But if you cannot put off your run for that long, simply swap workouts with another day. If today’s run was supposed to be intense and tomorrow’s easy, then do the easy run today. You may be more comfortable keeping the pace slow – and maybe taking extra walk breaks – after eating a large meal. You could also do a strength training session or light cross-training workout instead. Or take an extra rest day if you’re really not feeling up to running.
HOW TO PREVENT IT IN THE FUTURE: To keep this from happening again, plan your runs and meals better. Make sure you finish a large meal at least 4 hours before a run, or don’t plan to run on days when you know you’ll be indulging.
Overeating on occasion happens to the best of us. Try not to beat yourself up over the spoiled workout. Chalk it up as a learning experience and try to plan better next time.
Written by Jen Matz.