Let’s see if you think this is a good plan. Wake up around 7am, have a moderately-sized breakfast. Skip lunch, dinner and all snacks and then around 5pm, try to execute a hard workout. You would probably run out of gas early on. Even if you could keep going for your full workout duration – your technique, form and speed would suffer.
Well, this very plan is essentially what you are doing when you skip a pre-workout snack before an early morning workout. Your last meal was dinner, most likely 8 to 10 hours prior to your workout. How can you expect to get the most out of your efforts on no fuel? While some may argue that you burn more fat when working out on an empty stomach, if you cannot give it a solid effort and bonk before you finish – you are burning fewer calories overall and not supporting weight loss. Your workouts may be shorter and less intense on an empty tank, up to 30 minutes according to some studies. Your body may also dip into valuable lean muscle mass before it goes to your fat stores when looking for fuel.
The reasons for not eating prior to an early morning workout abound: it makes me feel sick, I don’t have time, I forget, nothing sounds good. Dismiss these excuses and just eat something already. You only need about 100 to 200 calories, if you plan on exercising for more than 1 ½ hours, you may need something more substantial.
Going for an early morning run or a cardio-based kickboxing class? Go for carbs, about 30 to 60 minutes before. Avoid fats and white, refined flours that cause quick spikes in blood sugar – which will make your energy peak too soon. Try:
- A banana
- Two medjool dates
- Small serving of oatmeal
- Smoothie made with a banana, a few berries and milk (soy, cow, almond, rice)
- Half of an energy bar – not a protein bar, however
- 8 oz. of Gatorade, if you can’t stomach solid food.
If you plan an early morning lifting session, consume a small amount (about 6 g) of branched chain amino acids before your workout. Consuming small amounts of protein before and after your strength routine can improve muscle synthesis by 200 percent. Try:
- Two slices of deli turkey
- Two scrambled eggs
- A scoop of whey protein in juice or water
Before Combo Workouts
Are you going to cycle and then lift a little or do an interval class? Try:
- A smoothie with banana and whey protein and milk
- One egg white-oatmeal pancake
- Gatorade mixed with whey protein