Early Morning Exerciser? What You Should Eat to Get the Most Out of Your Workout

We’ve all been there…a faint beeping is going off in your subconscious. It starts getting louder and louder as you’re being pulled out of a sweet dream and you realize, to your dismay, that it’s your alarm clock, not the oven letting you know your pizza is done. Immediately, disappointment and for some, anger, washes over you as you slowly start to realize that it is now time to wake up and face the day, starting with a workout at the gym. Your stomach starts to growl and you wonder if you can make it through the next hour without eating anything, or if you should risk eating the leftover giant pancake in the fridge and increase the chances of puking during your workout.

One of the hardest things about being an early morning exerciser is knowing what to eat before you hit the gym. Most articles or blogs about pre-workout nutrition suggest eating a full meal 1-2 hours before you workout. However, this is often unrealistic because most early morning exercisers do not set their alarms early enough before their scheduled workout time to eat a pre-workout meal. Instead, they refrain from eating anything before they workout, which can actually do more harm than good.

There is a common held belief that not eating before a workout will actually help you lose weight because your body will be forced to burn fat for fuel. However, this is a myth. When your body is deprived of sugar (glucose) which it uses for training, it starts burning muscle tissue to make up for it. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at cyclists who ate before their workout versus those who didn’t. It found that both groups burned the same amount of fat, but the group that didn’t eat before their workout had 10% of their calorie burn come from protein. In layman’s terms, the cyclists were losing muscle because their body was not getting its fuel from the correct source.

    It is also important to note that your body needs energy to be able to work out at a high intensity. It is common knowledge that high intensity training yields the most health and fitness benefits. If you haven’t fueled your body properly before a high intensity workout, then your body won’t have the same amount of strength, speed, or stamina than if you had eaten something beforehand. Therefore, in order to obtain the best physical results and get the most out of your workout, it is extremely important that you are feeding your body the proper nutrients.

    So, what should you eat 30-45 minutes before you workout? First of all, it is important to keep your pre-workout snack light. You want to eat something that has mostly simple carbs (these can be easily digested in a short amount of time) and a little bit of protein. Here are some ideas for pre-workout snacks:

  • Banana (.3g fat, 22.8g carbs, 1.1g protein)
  • Greek Yogurt (Dannon Oikos Triple Zero – 0g fat, 15g carbs, 15g protein)
  • Half a bagel (Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Bagel (half) – 2.25g fat, 23.5g carbs, 6g protein)
  • Granola Bar (Kind Peanut Butter Banana Dark Chocolate Protein Breakfast Bars – 11g fat, 25g carbs, 8g protein)

You can now breathe a sigh of relief. You don’t have to set your alarm clock any earlier in order to eat something before you workout. Just grab a quick snack before you head out the door so you’re ready to crush your workout when you get to the gym!