Getting your morning workouts in before the sun comes up presents a common question: Should I eat anything, and if so, what?
I’ve personally noticed a difference between when I am fueled for my workouts and when I am not. When I have eaten, I am able to have more stamina for any cardio I do and much more energy for any weight lifting. Without that fuel, my workouts are more challenging to finish, and I want to end it much sooner than planned.
Read on to learn about the importance of nutrition in fueling for your workouts and see what a difference it can make! And don’t worry; I’m not talking about a huge meal!
Why Fueling for Workouts is Important
Empty stomach workouts tend to be low energy workouts and on top of that, your workout will not be as effective. If you’re going to put in the time and effort, you want to get the most bang for your buck, right? Skipping your pre workout fueling can lead to cramps, headaches and more. And not just during your workout, but sometimes for hours after.
I personally find that if I skip my pre workout fueling, once my workout is done, I am ravenous! That leads me to make less optimal choices for breakfast and then I eat too fast. So it truly does bleed into other goals when you do your workout with no fuel.
What to Eat Before a Morning Workout
Depending on what kind of workout you have ahead of you, I would always at least start with a carbohydrate.
Yes, carbs. No, they are not bad for you nor are they the reason you are gaining weight. You gain weight from eating in a caloric surplus, but that is another topic. There are faster digesting carbs and slower digesting carbs so consider what type of workout you will be doing. It will look different if you are going on a 10 mile hike compared to a 30 min yoga class.
Berries, banana, applesauce or graham crackers are some of my go-to’s for faster digesting. For slower digesting, I love oatmeal because it is also so savory.
Again, start small. If you never eat in the morning, you will only be able to do a smaller serving whereas if you wake hungry and ready to eat, you may want a slightly larger portion. Just be aware this is not a “meal”, it’s just to ensure you have fuel. After your workout is complete, you can eat more and that needs to have a heftier focus of protein.
There is bound to be a learning phase with some trial and error. I would suggest you start small and have a journal so you can write down what works and does not work so you remember. Writing down not only what you are eating and in what quantity, but also what time you eat will be helpful. Knowing how much time you had between eating and working out and measuring your workout intensity and recovery can tell you a lot. How did you feel before, during, and after the workout? (Did that banana give you banana hiccups?) That way you can make educated tweaks instead of feeling confused or making knee jerk reactions.
Remember, so much of this depends on your starting point, what kind of workout you are going to do, and how your body digests food. Everyone’s digestive system is unique. Certain things will be digested better for others where you may struggle with that same item.
Morning Pre Workout Meal Ideas
Some of my favorite pre workout fueling ideas are:
- Before a run I will eat 1/2c to 1 cup of Applesauce depending on how long I am running for. This gives me quick energy and is easy on my stomach.
- Before I lift weights I will tend to eat a low sugar Chobani yogurt. It has a nice blend of protein, carbs and fats and it’s not heavy.
- Prior to power yoga, I will eat 1/2 c of Berries and 1/2 piece of ezekiel bread that has 1/2 tbsp of high quality peanut butter.
- For all workouts, I will drink 1 cup of black coffee, usually half-decaffeinated as I am sensitive to caffeine and it actually makes me more hungry.
I would suggest overall to skip protein bars as most tend to pack sugar and are more “glorified candy bars”. They may seem convenient but it is not a great way to kick off eating for the day.
Setting Yourself Up For a Successful Morning Workout
Ask anyone that exercises in the morning and they will tell you how great it is! From the sense of accomplishment to feeling ready to handle the daily stresses of life, it’s a great way to start the day. In order to have a successful morning workout, you will want to not only ensure you have a pre workout fueling, but also that you are hydrated, rested and in the right frame of mind.
Once your alarm goes off, grab a 16oz glass of water and chug it; your body needs water since you did not drink any while sleeping. It’s important to stay hydrated during exercise, but it’s also important to hydrate beforehand. A good night’s sleep is 7+ hours, so if you are only getting 6 or less hours of shut eye, this could be affecting not only the quality of your workout, but your overall mental state around the workout. While you get your gym clothes on, eat and drive to your workout, listen to some of your favorite pump up tunes so that you are primed!