Do you like to exercise first thing in the morning? Are you struggling with what to eat before your early workout? Do you eat too much or not enough for the workout you are planning? Your fueling methods for morning workouts may have an impact on your workout performance and recovery.
Endurance athletes looking to maximize their workout time can use I early mornings to help manage their time with other activities such as work or family needs. Many of our athletes also do morning workouts before they start their workday. An issue many athletes have with fueling for morning workouts is having enough time to digest the meal before heading out the door. The dilemma is getting up early enough to eat and digest and getting enough fuel.
I like to think of my fueling as what I need for the workout, then the rest of your fuel is during the workout and post-ride recovery. You don’t need a full meal pre-workout, just enough to give you the energy you need to meet the workout goals.
Fueling for morning workouts less than 90 min
Workouts less than 90min are usually either active recovery, easy endurance or something intense such as a high paced ride or intervals. Your fueling strategy and goals may dictate what you eat.
Workouts less than 90min are a good candidate for a fasted workout. Fasted means no calories for 12 + hours since your last meal, light dinner in this case. You can have plain water and black coffee or tea but no sugar or cream/milk. I don’t recommend fasted workouts more than 2 days a week and keep them under 2hrs, and I suggest working your way into them, starting at 30 min and progressing over a couple of months. There are a lot of advantages of doing fasted workouts, which is a topic for another post. I’d like to point out one advantage though, is that you don’t need to worry about digesting your food. You can pop out of bed, have a quick coffee or tea, and start rolling into your workout. I can generally be into my workout within 30 min of waking up.
If you choose to have some calories, you don’t need a lot for a short workout. I recommend something easy to digest and around 200-350 calories depending on the duration, such as the full 90min. My goto morning fuel is a Clifbar or Fig Bar, or any energy bar (not a protein bar) with about 200-250 calories. Another easy quick option is toast with nut butter and a banana. If I’m going to have a hard workout I’ll add a serving of Infinit Mud with almond milk. All of these allow you to costume and digest quickly.
During workouts, I recommend plain water for workouts less than 60min and adding electrolytes or light carbs for the full 90min. I like to use Infinit Hydrate when going the full 90 min for hard workouts and just plain water for endurance/steady-state workouts.
Fueling for morning workouts 90 min to 3hrs
Workouts between 90min to 3hrs need a little more fuel. If you are doing 2 hrs you can likely get away with what was outlined above as long are you fuel during your workout with an extra gel or 1/2 bar, 1/2 serving of energy drink.
Beyond 2hrs my recommendation with to fuel with a pre-training smoothie. This smoothie allows you to get the fuel you need quickly and not have to get up early to wait for it to digest. I like to give about 45-60min to digest before starting a hard session. If you make the smoothie the night before and place it in the refrigerator it will be waiting for you when you get up.
Another good option is 6oz of greek yogurt and some fruit, such as berries or banana or 1 tablespoon honey. This is about 300cal with 50g carbs.
During this length of workout I recommend 250-300 calories with 60g carbs and electrolytes with 20oz (.75L) an hour. My goto fuel is Infinit GoFar for workouts 2.5+ hours.
Fueling for morning workouts more than 3hrs
Workouts more than 3hrs are easy to fuel. You don’t need to get up hours before to create a big meal and leave time to digest. I recommend the same pre-training and race smoothie as above, but with some extra carbs and protein. I’ve been using this fueling technique for many years, and not just for workouts but for races over 3hrs as well.
These long workouts and races take more fuel than what I mentioned above, and if I am doing an extra hard workout or race that is more than 3 hours I use the advanced pre-race smoothie. The advanced pre-race smoothie provides extra calories and nutrients to endure a long workout or race.
Another good option is 6oz of greek yogurt and some fruit, such as berries or banana or 1 tablespoons honey, + hemp seeds, toast with nut butter about 450cal and 70g carbs
Workouts or races over 3hrs need more calories, especially carbs, amino acids, and electrolytes. Our go-to fuel for workouts and especially races is Infinit Custom Formula. You’ll want to consume ~300 cal with 60-70g carbs and electrolytes with ~20oz (.75L) an hour.
Over the years as an athlete and coach I have found these fueling options work well. You may need to make some adjustments to suit your preferences and needs, but this should give you a good idea about where to start. Please reach out if you have any questions, or leave a comment.