Should I Eat Before I Workout in the Morning?

To fuel or not to fuel prior to a morning working out continues to be a hot topic in the world of dieting, sporting performance and healthy eating. But if excuses like “Ï’m just not hungry in the morning” or “I’m trying to lose weight” popped into your mind when you read this headline, then read on to find out the perfect FUEL for your morning workout which will get the best out of your workout at minimal effort and maximum benefit to your body.

I started my sporting life in an era where we did not understand good sporting nutrition at all. We believed that if we trained hard before breakfast we would get skinny and therefore run better. I should also add that in this era, girls were continually injured with shin splints, bone issues or worse still – eating disorders. It’s good to know our understanding has come a long way.

In short the answer to the headline question is, yes, absolutely, you want to fuel your body upon awakening prior to working out. However, you need to understand that there is a big difference between feeding the body and fueling the body. These are two completely different ideas.

For example, you can consume eggs and bacon prior to a workout. This food will feed your body, but in no way will this fuel your body. This would be like putting water in the petrol tank of your car. Water and petrol are both liquids, but it does not mean they are both fuel sources. I have tried this option, particularly before a long bike ride when, my mind said, why wouldn’t I have “breakfast?” It only lead to feeling full, bloated and regurgitating most of it up the first hill 11km from home.

You want to be sure that upon awakening that you are fueling your body and eating with purpose and not just feeding your body. That is of course, if you are looking for the best results possible in terms of performance, recovery, and body composition.

Glycogen Stores

One of the main keys to success when it comes to performance, recovery, and body composition is to continually load and reload muscle glycogen stores. This is a big reason why fueling the body properly, right away upon awakening, is a big key to success.

Upon awakening, you are dehydrated and your glycogen stores are sub optimal. Why would you want to push your body and mind while in a sub-optimal state? Fueling properly will also help assist with hydrating your body upon awakening (along with drinking water of course). This alone will have a huge and positive impact on your workout. If you go into a workout under fueled and dehydrated, this can result in a higher than normal heart rate which will affect the whole workout.

Hurdles in the Way

However, when chatting to many of us sporty types, most of whom are parents, then I often hear these typical excuses for not eating before a morning workout.

  • “I’m just not hungry when I wake up in the morning.”
  • “I’m trying to lose weight and body fat and I felt that if I just get up and work out, I would burn more body fat and lose more weight.”
  • “I just don’t have time; I wake up at 4:30AM and I start my workout by 5:00AM.”
  • “My stomach can’t handle food before a workout.”

Since I have been there too I have searched, and found, my perfect pre-workout fuel.  Solid and liquid fuel can both be very valuable and I would recommend trying different options to see what works best for you. For me, liquid fuel (a smoothie) is a great go-to option for many reasons. It’s very easy on the system and it will get digested and absorbed quickly and it will also help with hydration.

Here’s a smoothie recipe that will fuels my early workout correctly.

  • 1 banana
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (24g protein)
  • Water – fairly runny in my case to aid hydration and keep it from hitting the tummy too hard.
  • I would add ice if I were to be using a blender but not if I am simply shaking it up in a protein shaker
  • 350 calories in total

If you are new to pre-workout fuel, no worries; let tomorrow be the start. If you are a pre-workout fuel veteran, great; power up the body with this smoothie. Whether you have a 30 minute workout, a six hour workout or something in between, this will be a great start to getting your body properly fueled.

Timing Of Your Fuel

Also, be sure to experiment with the timing of your pre-workout fuel. For may of us, it’s not really a dilemma. My aim mainly being to stay in bed as long as possible whilst still ensuring I get the workout started before traffic gets too bad (or before the kids wake up!). So I slam this smoothie down about 5 minutes before getting on my bike. If I am running then I will leave 30 minutes between smoothie and run because my tummy rebels if the time gets shorter. Experiment – find the optimum for yourself.

But above all – fuel your morning workout. You will get the best from your body and work out and recovery quickly ready for the next session.

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