Morning Exercise Nutrition
How to eat before that a.m. workout
If you’re like most people who work out first thing in the morning, figuring out what to eat beforehand can be a challenge. It’s like one of those 1,000-piece puzzles: you really don’t know where to begin, but, as soon as you find the end pieces and start putting it together, it begins to make sense.
For many reasons, mornings are a challenging time of day to exercise. You wake up a bit dehydrated and with lower levels of carbohydrate in your system − not to mention you may not feel fully awake before that morning cup of go-go juice!
While there are no steadfast rules for what to eat or drink before a morning workout, there are some general guidelines you can experiment with to determine what works best for your body.
In general, it is wise to have a snack comprised of mostly carbohydrates with a moderate dash of protein and fat 30 minutes before a morning workout. It doesn’t have to be too much, just enough to get you through the workout and on to breakfast.
Keep in mind what you eat in the morning before a workout will also vary based on what type of workout you’re doing. It’s more challenging to eat before high-intensity workouts like running or CrossFit because of the stomach-jarring motion associated with them.
If it’s appropriate for your workout and agrees with your stomach, try a liquid source of nutrition before morning sessions. Liquids empty out of the stomach faster than solids and also act as a great hydrating strategy. Fruit and yogurt smoothies or chocolate milk are good examples.
If you want or need a more substantial meal, or if your workout calls for lower intensity and less-jarring motions, try something like Greek yogurt with berries or oats mixed with almond milk and nut butter.
Regardless what you choose, be sure to experiment with what works best for your stomach and the demands of the workout, and remember to focus on carbohydrates with a moderate balance of protein and fat.
American College of Sports Med, American Dietetic Assoc., Dietitians of Canada: Nutrition & Athletic Performance Joint Position Statement: Med Sci Sports & Exerc 2009; 709-731.
Carbohydrates for training and competition. Burke LM, Hawley JA, Wong SH, Jeukendrup AE. J Sports Sci. 2011 Jun 8:1-11.
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS
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