To eat or not to eat? Your alarm bursts into life announcing the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. After some deliberation and bickering with the snooze button you eventually clamber out bed. You dare not be late for your training; the problem is you’re hungry, it's been 12 hours since you've last eaten and you're wondering should I eat and if so, then what should I eat?
The simple answer is you should eat; if you run very low on muscle and liver glycogen (the body's storage of carbohydrate) you will be forced to slow down or completely stop during exercise. When you wake after several hours of sleep, your carbohydrate stores may be depleted and replacing these calories is very important to your immediate workout performance.
It’s also very important to make sure that you are properly hydrated as your body loses water while you sleep through your pores, by breathing and during bathroom visits. Your body may be down by as much as 700ml from normal hydration levels in the morning so it's important to hydrate first thing. The better your hydration and fuel levels going into a workout, the faster you'll recover, assuming you refuel and rehydrate adequately during exercise.
Pre exercise food choices Fruit with eggs - eggs are loaded with protein and easily digested by most people. You can boil eggs the night before or you can scramble eggs. Combine this with fresh fruit especially fruit that is low in fibre, such as bananas, peaches and watermelon.
Liquid meals - if you don't want to eat something too heavy before training then why not try blending foods. Blended foods produce a liquid you can more easily digest. Blend low fibre fruit such as those listed above with fruit juice and a serving of protein powder.
Sport bar with protein - probably not the best option but if needs must. Protein bars sometimes referred to as meal replacement bars are a quick and easy option that can be eaten on the run. While primarily a carbohydrate based food source they contain just enough protein to slow the glycaemic reaction and add some BCAA to the meals. Be sure to drink lots of water with these because they are dry and might drain fluids from your body into your gut to assist with digestion leaving you dehydrated.
Drink fluids including water - you can use coffee or tea which have the benefits of caffeine, or fruit and vegetables juices may also be taken. Good choices are tomato, apple, and orange. Tomato juice often has added sodium, which may be beneficial if your workout is long.
But what if you're one of those people who just can't eat first thing in the morning...?
Taking in carbohydrate within the last hour or so not including the final 10 minutes before starting, may cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) during the first several minutes of exercise especially in some people who are sensitive to sugar. Many people may well experience light headed ness or dizziness in the ensuing exercise because of this reaction.
However this doesn't happen when high glycaemic index carbohydrate (sports drink or gel) is taken 10 minutes before starting because there is not enough time for the body to respond by pumping out insulin. So taking in 100 to 200 calories from a few ounces of sports drinks or gel, followed by 6 to 8 ounces water, may well give you the energy boost needed right before starting without any of the negative effects. This may prove very helpful to someone who just can't eat first thing in the morning.