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Why eating while moving can be bad for you?

Building on the idea that it’s not what you eat but the way you eat it that matters, it’s important to explain the reasons why moving while eating can be bad for you. Knowing this can ensure that it never is bad for you by empowering you to get all the benefits and not the problems.

Moving around conflicts with Digestion

Besides health and safety reasons like distracting you while doing dangerous things or encouraging you to spill liquids when you are working around high voltages, it’s really an issue of your body finding it hard to move around while digesting food at the same time.


So, it’s actually a resourcing issue. Moving requires more oxygen, energy, water and other nutrients which are all delivered in blood. So moving means more blood is delivered around the body. The faster you move and the higher its intensity, the more blood that’s required.

Blood supply

The problem is that the stomach is generally the body system that requires the most nutrients and, therefore, blood. Moving is basically the only thing that requires more blood, so these two systems often compete for a limited blood supply. This is why your pulse goes up when you exercise. It’s your body’s way of getting more blood around the body.

The same can happen when you eat, just on a much smaller scale. It’s why you often feel tired after a big meal. All the blood is being diverted to digest the food you ate, so less is available.

This is why the most important factor in whether activity is ok or not is the intensity of the activity versus the difficulty of the meal to digest. This is about the size of the meal and the type of food eaten.

High-intensity exercise is fine when a meal is easy to digest, meaning it is:

  • small
  • high in water content
  • low in bran and high-fibre foods
  • low in protein
  • preferably liquified-like soups, thinner soups preferred

Medium-intensity exercise is preferred when your meal is moderately difficult to digest. Things like:

  • bits of softer food like cooked pasta and rice.
  • a medium size meal
  • thicker soups

Low-intensity exercise is better when your meal is hard to digest. This includes:

  • a big meal
  • high protein content, particularly tough meats like beef
  • lots of hard solid food: not liquified

I can see quickly how these lists can be misinterpreted so I’ll work on them over time. For now I hope their simplicity can be a useful guide. Common sense is always recommended, these details just complement.

Don’t challenge your stomach

The basic idea is that anything that challenges the digestive system will require more blood from the body. That puts it in conflict with the blood required by the movement system. If the blood required for both digestion and movement is greater than your body can provide, problems arise because one system or both won’t get enough. So either you can’t move as well as you like or your body can’t digest things properly.

The right balance

Therefore, you must find the right balance, with the key being eating foods that are easy for your body to digest. That’s why liquified foods like soups and drinks are so good when you move. Your body just doesn’t have to do so much to digest them because they are already broken down, reducing the challenge on your digestive system and thus your body and its ability to supply blood.

Stomach pains

Dehydration, whether it is caused by exercise or something else, can cause pain while your body digests a meal. Tomorrow, I will explain how I have learnt to deal with stomach pains from dehydration

Everyday activities

In two days, I will explain how knowing all this helps me enjoy everyday activities more.

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