We have been hearing this since we were young “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Yet, for triathletes we often opt for those few extra minutes of precious sleep rather than getting up a little earlier and fueling for the workout ahead.
Most of us training for Half Ironmans or Full Ironmans are busy professions who are already sacrificing sleep in order to get training done in the morning before heading off for the day. Your morning probably goes something like this...Hit the snooze button one to many times, jump out of bed in a panic, rush to get in your whole workout, take the quickest shower known to man, drop the kids off at school and just like that your on our way to work. In that time we usually cut out all the things that “don’t matter” and breakfast is often one of the first things to go from our morning routine.
The good news is there are days where this will have a minimal impact on your workout, but with that the bad news is there are days that this lack of proper fueling for your morning workout will drastically decrease its effectiveness. When you are already crunched for time and trying to fit your training into your already busy schedule, you want to maximize every workout and proper fueling is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
Having a specific purpose for every workout (e.g. muscular endurance, aerobic, anaerobic, skill development, etc.) makes the most of the time and effort you are putting into training everyday. If each workout has a specific purpose beyond just logging time, then it only makes sense that you fuel your body's needs for each of those workouts. It’s also different and specific to the goal for that specific day.
No matter what the workout is, starting out on an empty stomach, dehydrated and when glycogen stores are at their lowest after a night of rest is never a good idea. Remembering to focus on the objective of each workout, here’s how to approach your morning pre-workout fueling based on the type of workout.
Rest and recovery is the main focus for these workouts and spending a few extra minutes in bed supports that objective. Give yourself a little extra sleep before waking up for breakfast and your workout. A quick, light breakfast is all you need before heading out for a short/easy workout.
Try a banana with nut butter or a bar for a quick and easy snack before starting your workout.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE, ANAEROBIC AND LONG DAYS:
As tough as it is to get up even earlier than you already have to for these hard workouts, it’s crucial to properly fuel and hydrate before taxing the body and asking it to work hard. This is particularly important on glycogen depletion workouts which are done carefully with the purpose of training the body to become the most efficient at utilizing its own fat as fuel. When you need sustained energy through a long, challenging workout, aim to have about 60 percent of your calories come from carbs, 20 percent from protein and 20 percent from fat. This is a good balance to provide the energy you need over a longer period of time. The carbs will help you get that initial energy and the protein and fat will help as the workout gets longer and more physically demanding.
Try whole wheat toast with nut butter and coffee or a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Make the smoothie the night before so you can sleep in just a few minutes longer and it doesn't delay you starting your workout.
Everyone’s systems are so different, so take the first few weeks of training to find what works best for you and your body when it comes to the types of food and exact timing of consumption before the workout. Unfortunately, this part can really only come through trial and error. The sooner you can get it dialed in, the more you will be able to benefit from training with the proper nutrition for your body.
Once you have completed your workout, don’t forget your post-workout nutrition as well. It’s equally important as it’s the optimal time for your body to absorb nutrients to help you recover and build strength. A great, hearty post-workout option with lots of flavor is a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal with some blueberries, cinnamon, vanilla accompanied by a latte. As always, be sure you are drinking lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
With a little planning ahead of time to ensure proper fueling for each morning workout you will quickly see the benefits as you will feel better and stronger during and after your workouts. You’ll not only see it as you continue with your normal routine, but also in each workout as you are able to demand more and more of your body.