Updated: Jul 27, 2019
As endurance athletes we often have our first workout of the day completed before many others are awake. When rising for these early morning sessions our body needs fuel. I am often asked, “How much should I eat at 4:30 am” before going to the pool, hopping on the trainer or heading out for a run. Fueling very early in the morning has its challenges including not feeling hungry, lack of time in the early hours of the day or simply not being used to eating before a workout.
Upon awakening from a night's rest, we are dehydrated and our glycogen (energy) stores are depleted. Going into a workout under fueled and dehydrated can result in a higher than normal heart rate with decreased performance. Starting a workout with fuel in the tank will help with energy levels and help prevent fatigue.
The timing of the meal is important and individual considerations need to be taken into account for everyone-there is no cookie cutter option. Some need to fuel an hour before and others can ingest food and water 10 minutes before a workout with no problem. A great way to ensure that we have proper time to fuel before a workout is preparing the energy we will consume the night before, so when we wake the morning is simplified and the fuel is ready to go.
Look for a fuel source that is primarily carbohydrates with a little protein and fat as this will help with a steady rise in blood sugar as opposed to a spike.
Here are a couple of examples of fuel for an early “wake and train” session up to 90 minutes:
- One banana or apple with 1 TBS of peanut butter
- 16oz of sports drink
- Small bowl of oatmeal (make ahead the night before)
- Toast with a little jam and peanut butter
Early morning fueling takes some experimenting to find what works best for you. With proper fueling you will have more productive workout by starting with a full tank of fuel and optimal hydration.
Dial in the nutrition, dial in the performance.