What to eat at 5am
Early Morning Eating
Now that I wake up at 4:53am every every morning for personal training sessions, I have developed an insight into the importance of early morning efficiency. Every minute wasted was a minute of potential sleep, now lost into the dark Canberra morning. Planning is also essential, because you can’t get a friend to drop something into you at 6am - you need to be organised
A question I get asked a lot from the fellow early birds who join me at the gym is – what are the rules for eating in the morning before a workout?
It’s a great question and I understand why there is confusion. On one hand, you might have been told that you need something in your stomach before exercise, particularly in the morning, because you have been fasting all night. On the other, you might just not feel like eating something massive at 5am!
People fall into two categories – team eating and team no eat. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, so lets discuss each and see where you fit in.
You Want To Eat
My standard pre-workout recommendations are a good mix of protein and carbohydrate, that are easily digestible. I personally find myself in team eating, even when I’m training at 6am.
I’m sure all of my clients are familiar with the yoghurt, oats and fruit option for breakfast, as this fits those criteria well. Other options can include oats, peanut butter on toast or even a small smoothie.
I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t like to consume milk before exercise, so be wary of cereal and larger smoothies. This isn’t to say milk is bad – just an observation!
If you are looking to join Team Eating from the other side, take a progressive approach and see how you respond during exercise - this is exactly what athletes do. For all the nutritional science, research and guidelines there are for sports nutrition, it really comes down to what the athlete feels comfortable with and helps them perform best!
You Don't Want To Eat
I would recommend consuming at least a glass of water when you wake up, to get some content into the stomach. If you are skipping food before workout, your nutrition for the rest of the day remains important.
First up is the post-workout nutrition, where you can replace some lost carbohydrates and provide protein for growth. Over the rest of the day, ensure carbohydrates are adequately replenished (requirements will vary with exercise intensity) to ensure your next workout has fuel. In essence, dinner has become your pre-workout meal.
Supplementation with brain chain amino acids can also be useful for anyone looking to build muscle tissue or retain mass while losing body fat. BCAA can be mixed with your morning water or sipped on during a training session.
Please note: don't avoid eating before exercise for weight loss measures. If you read last week's article, you would know that fasted cardio does not burn more fat than fed exercise. So if you are skipping breakfast in the hope of burning more fat, don't!
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Coffee - Yes Or No?
Anyone getting up at 5am will understand the desire for caffeine. Yes, it is fine to consume coffee before a workout in the morning. My recommendations are to have a class of water in addition (always start the day with a glass of water) and to have a small-sized coffee. The last thing you want is to have a tonne of liquid squelching around your stomach as you are putting in work at the squat rack.
I personally avoid coffee until mid-morning. This is because I like to have one coffee prior to exercise and one in the mid-afternoon when the 4:53am start is beginning to bit. Two coffees per day sits well personally, but that's just me!
My preference is to have clients consume a small breakfast with some protein and carbohydrates before their morning training sessions. However, you can skip a meal before breakfast and there will be no adverse consequences.
At the beginning of the day (see what I did there?) if eating one way or the other is what helps a client come into a training session, they can do that. Once in the gym, they will provide stimulus for muscle and strength development, create an environment for fat loss and generally enjoy the improvements they are making.