We need calories to survive. Even if you were just laying on your bed all day you still need to eat. But what about those of us who wake up bright and early to workout? Eating something is still a good idea. Here's a list of foods to eat before early morning workouts and why.
There are 2 key variables that will dictate what the best choice of pre-workout fuel is for you. First it's exercise intensity and second it's the amount of time you have before you're actually exercising.
High Intensity Exercise
High intensity workouts would be the ones that have you gasping for air. Weight lifting sessions, spin classes, kickboxing, or really any total body conditioning class will put your body into it's anaerobic zone. Without oxygen to energize the muscle cells, our bodies in this zone will pull from glycogen stores. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates.
If you're finding your early morning workouts include quick bursts of activity, think about what carbohydrate sources are going to help fuel those bursts.
Homemade Energy Balls
You'll want to include some source of protein too. I especially recommend something lean. Dietary fats will elicit a hormonal response and Cholecystikinin CCK will tell our GI tract to slow down. When we're intensely exercising, we want rapid fuel. So leaner proteins are the way to go.
The volume of food will make an impact on how your feel, so if you're not used to eating before a workout I recommend having half the portion of whatever. A half of a protein bar is a good example of what I mean.
Lower-fat, Lower-fiber protein bars like Epic Bars or RX Bar
Squeezable frui & protein pouches like Fuel for Fire
Hard Boiled Egg
Greek yogurt or Skyr
Protein Powder & water, or a low fat milk, almond coconut or soy milk
Coffee with protein like collagen
Coffee-flavored protein powder like Vega Energy
A pre-packaged smoothie base with almond or cashew milk like Daily Harvest
Low Intensity Exercise
What if you're just waking up to do some cardio? Assuming it's not high intensity cardio, then honestly you're probably good to go without eating. At least, that's what some research shows. But before you assume fasted cardio as the fat-burning holy grail, know that there is research that shows the opposite.
It's conflicting results like this that make you stumped on what to do. Since we are looking at research that shows physical benefits to both fasted low intensity cardio and not fasted low intensity cardio, I suggest doing what's mentally better for you.
If you're waking up super early and eating will delay your start time, then you're probably okay to skip. Just make sure you have a protein + carb rich combo for immediately after. You can have something quick and easy to eat within 30 minutes, but follow it up with a full meal in about 2 hours (or whenever you're feeling hungry).
You might be able to workout longer though if you do have something in your stomach, so think about small amounts of carbohydrates and protein sources, ,like the ones in the lists above, will be good choices. This is anecdotal evidence, but I have seen my clients hit PR's the mornings they ate versus didn't, actually finish their workouts, and I myself kick ass in the gym when I eat before. #jussayin.