Eating before early morning exercise

As the days have become hotter, I’ve looked at getting out earlier in the day to knock off the exercise…mainly to be able to keep High Intensity in the workouts without redlining my Heart Rate as it tries to keep my body cool.

Typically, I’m up around 6:30’ish, and if I’m planning to exercise in the morning, having my morning fruit shake for 400’ish calories by 7:00, and can get out around 8:30 – 9:00 with a pretty settled stomach…I can get out 1 hour after, but I’m typically tasting fruit shake a few minutes in with any intensity at all…not pleasant…and not really thrilled with the idea of a non-nutritional 2-300 calories of something like Gatorade just to have something easier to digest on my stomach.

…of course triathlete’s with real jobs are my hero’s…my Iron Buddies that do, including Iron Daughter, tell me that early morning workouts are just part of the deal 🙂

So I’m thinking, how about just heading out at 7:00am, and have my morning shake as my recovery drink and get on with the day…without having to get up at 5:00am just to do that.

Like all things training, ‘it all depends’, so here are a few opinions:

The Mayo Clinic says:

If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to eat breakfast — that may mean one to two hours before your workout. Most of the energy you got from dinner the previous night is used up by morning, and your blood sugar may be low. If you don’t eat, you may feel sluggish or light-headed when you exercise. If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a lighter breakfast or drink something to raise your blood sugar, such as a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.

NBC on a feature on the Today show says:

Morning exercisers often make the mistake of thinking they can burn more calories by jumping out of bed and into the gym without stopping for breakfast. The problem with this thought process is that a good night’s sleep inevitably leaves your blood sugar low and your liver glycogen close to depleted. This translates into a weaker workout. Since intensity and quality of training results in a more fit body, there is no need to sacrifice a meal. Fuel up in the a.m. before you hit the gym with just enough to reap the benefits: Consume at least 25 grams (100 calories) of carbohydrate before hitting the gym and then eat a solid breakfast afterward.

Joe Friel, as quoted in an article in Lava magazine:

In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic-index  carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There  may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber.  Take in 200 to 300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If  eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10  minutes before the workout or race begins.

Monique Ryan in an article in Velonews:

Real life often requires that you consume some fuel 30 to 60 minutes before training. Rising in the early morning hours to train often requires a quick bite or gulp before heading out.  You are most likely to derive a performance benefit from eating 30 to 60 minutes before training if you have not eaten for four hours or more.

You are likely aware that consuming carbohydrate in the 30 to 60 minutes before training does produce a marked increase in blood glucose and insulin levels prior to training. And there can be a small, but short-lived drop in blood glucose during exercise. Most athletes experience no ill-effects from this drop which quickly corrects itself, and there are plenty of studies that show a performance improvement with this eating strategy. Some athletes are carbohydrate sensitive right before exercise, and a few simple strategies can help them tolerate a snack at this time. You can actually have a slightly higher dose of carbohydrate.

While many athletes may consume 50 grams or more from a gel, energy bar, or concentrated drink, aim for over 70 grams to offset the drop in blood glucose.

…sooo, I’m not really seeing anyone thinking that going out the door with _nothing_ is a good idea…and then as you can see it’s all over the place…it ultimately really depends what you can tolerate stomach-wise and/or have enough energy for an under-fueled workout

…the general rule that 2 hours before exercise remains the favored minimum interval…what I now generally do…anything shorter than that will take some experimentation…in all likelihood, your workout will not be as solid as if you had a ‘bigger’ breakfast, that had 1-2 hours to refuel your muscles, and then do your workout…or leave the morning workouts for your easier outings, and higher intensity or longer distance workouts later in the day

…it reminds me that from experience, I’ve found that what Monique Ryan says about that 30-60 minute window is true for me, and was creating a problem in races on the swim, when I was still taking in Gatorade prior to the swim, and then a few minutes into the swim, feeling wiped out and almost freaking out, until I recovered from the blood glucose drop…now I don’t take in anything 1 hour before race start…Joe Friel’s point on the 10 minutes before, is that it doesn’t have time to create the jolt up in blood glucose, and that once exercise starts, the calories are more smoothly assimilated

…not sure how that’s going to fit with my training schedule, since I do have the luxury of time flexibility most days…seems to me that one option may be Joe Friel’s idea of taking in 200 calories of Gatorade 10 minutes before going out the door one day just to see how it works out

…science experiment of one 🙂


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