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You have probably heard people saying that you should not exercise or go cycling on a full stomach and wait for sometime after eating. There’s a logic to it – and it’s to not disturb the digestive process within the body due to intense cycling or workout. This may lead to stomach discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloatedness.
People often ask me ‘how long should I wait to cycle after eating’ and my answer is 2 hours after a heavy meal and at least 1 hour if you have eaten moderately. However, there are exceptions to that. If you are a regular bike commuter then cycling at a comfortable pace after eating light should be okay. Vigorous cardio cycling should be avoided on a full stomach.
Let’s make it simpler for you. You know it’s okay to walk after dinner. Yes! Health experts recommend a light walk after dinner to aid with the digestion process. But, is it okay to run after dinner? No, because this can be hard on your stomach and upset the digestive system. You may go cycling but only at an adjusted pace if that’s your means of transport.
Understanding How Digestion Gets Affected
As you eat food, the digestion starts right in the mouth where the enzymes present help in breaking down the food. It then moves through the food pipe into the stomach where the intestines absorb the nutrients and liquid from the food consumed. After the absorption occurs, the indigestible wastes are eliminated from the body.
Although the complete process of digestion usually continues 24 to 72 hours after consuming food, you are good to go cycling 2 hours after eating. This obviously varies depending on the kind of meal you have. If it’s a very heavy and oily meal, it may take more than 2 hours to give you that light stomach feeling. If your food was moderate then 1-2 hours may be fine and for a light snack 30 to 40 minutes should be okay.
Cycling On An Empty Stomach
If your objective of cycling is to lose weight or maintain your fitness then riding after a meal will nullify the potential gains. To get the best benefits, we suggest that you ride a cycle for at least 30-40 minutes on an empty stomach. Well, there are people who can’t start the day without eating something and cycling on empty stomach may be out of the question for them.
You can give yourself a quick boost of energy without eating a heavy meal to ensure that you can ride comfortably. A banana, a granola bar, some cereal, or a bowl of porridge may be enough to give you that much-needed fuel for your bike commute. In case you don’t feel comfortable to eat before cycling but feel hungry midway, take a break and eat a granola bar to keep going.
5 Benefits Your Body Will Miss If You Don’t Wait To Cycle After Eating
If you are practicing for a race, or you plan to go mountain biking, it may not be feasible for you to wait too long before cycling every time. As a result, we would suggest that you adjust your diet in a way that you eat less at a time. This will keep your body energized and cycling will not mess with the digestive process. You may also include energy drinks in your diet to fuel your activity.
The reason why we are emphasizing on waiting to cycle after eating is that your body will miss out on various benefits. Good digestion is, of course, the most important of all, but there are several other things that may be compromised if you try cycling just after eating a full breakfast. We have listed down the 5 benefits your body will miss out in such a scenario:
#1. Utilizing your stored energy (fat)
The body has a way of storing energy in the form of glycogen or blood sugar, which becomes utilized when you are in need of energy. When that energy does not come from a meal, the body uses the stored fat and converts it into glucose to fuel the muscles. Thus, cycling on an empty stomach in the morning helps in using the glycogen that is stored as fat, helping you lose weight.
#2. Spike in production of growth hormones
When you are on an empty stomach, the rate of growth hormone production increases by manifolds. This further helps in building new tissues, burning extra fat, boosting longevity and improving bone density. So, cycling on an empty stomach helps your body generate more growth hormones and turn into a fat-burning machine.
#3. Fast Fat Burning
This is linked to the point number one. When you cycle with an empty stomach, your body extracts energy from the stored and stubborn fat in your body. So, if you have been struggling to lose those inches from your waistline, skip the breakfast before going on a bicycle ride. You will see the difference yourself with amazing fat-burning benefits.
#4. Boost Your Body’s Capacity
Studies show that when you cycle on an empty stomach, this helps you boost your body’s capacity and increase the endurance level. As your body utilizes a significant portion of the fat to energize itself, this also helps in increasing the mitochondrial density. This leads to a VO2 max as your body intakes a higher amount of oxygen.
#5. Speeding Recovery
When your body has improved the production of hormones, better glycogen storage, and fat burning, this influences the way you heal after an accident or illness. It also helps with muscle and tissue repair leading to faster recovery., something that is difficult to achieve if you ride a cycle right after a meal.
Food You Must Avoid Eating Before Cycling
Well, this might look unrelated when we are talking about how long you should wait to cycle after having a meal, but look closer. The kind of food you eat will determine how long it takes for the digestion to complete and your body to get ready for a cycling session.
Whether you plan to do a cardio cycling or go on a casual bike ride, make sure you eat food high in carbohydrate to energize your body and provide sufficient fuel. This may vary from person to person. We suggest eating foods that do not make you feel bloated or cause any kind of gastrointestinal symptoms.
You should limit the intake of excess oily food, spicy food, too much fiber, excess caffeine-infused food, and alcohol at least 2-4 hours before cycling. These are known to be the common causes of gastrointestinal discomfort such as bowel upsets and diarrhea.
Cycling after eating is not necessarily a big problem if you ride at a comfortable pace and eat light. Yes, it does reduce the potential gains (mentioned above) you may otherwise get from cycling. The problem arises when you eat a heavy meal and go for vigorous cycling right after. This can upset your digestion and make you feel sick, hence we suggest waiting for at least 2 hours before cycling.