Have you ever wondered what to eat before a morning workout, especially early in the morning, like 5 am or 6 am?
I mean, should you even eat? If so, what should you choose? Carbs? Fats? What about protein? Whole-grain toast with peanut butter? Fruit? Protein shakes? The list goes on…
If you work out later in the day, the food choices tend to be a bit easier to discuss. But for those early morning workouts, well, the rules can change a bit.
What to Eat Before a Morning Workout
Below is an excerpt from a blog post we did on “The 5 am Workout.” – Click here to read the full post.
In an ideal world, to have the best morning workout, you’d want to fuel up about 90 minutes to two hours before your exercise. But let’s be real here, that might not be the best decision if you’re getting up at 4 or 4:30 to hit the gym.
So, you have a couple of options:
Option 1: Don’t eat before a workout; instead, have a big dinner.
Who is this best for? – Those who tend to get nauseous with anything in their stomach before a workout. If you feel better exercising on an empty stomach but need some fuel, consider having a substantial dinner.
What should you eat? – Your last meal of the day can be your largest. Aim for:
- 4+ oz of lean protein (e.g., lean steak, chicken, turkey, egg whites).
- 1/2 – 1 1/2 cups of cooked potatoes or rice (avoid pasta or bread before bed).
- 1 cup of cooked veggies (keep it simple).
Portion sizes may vary per person.
Option 2a: Eat something small as soon as you wake up.
Who is this best for? – If you get nauseous or don’t have a good workout on an empty stomach but don’t want to eat too much, a light, energy-boosting snack is a good choice.
What should you eat? – Keep it light and easy on the stomach. Consider a piece of fruit or a serving of nut butter. This provides enough energy without making you feel heavy.
A few things to note – Don’t overthink it; the goal is to have something light in your stomach. Experiment to find what works best for you.
Option 2b: Have a protein or intra-workout shake.
Who is this best for? – If food isn’t your best option in the early morning, consider a protein or intra-workout shake for quick energy.
What to eat? – Mix 15-25g of protein powder with about 25g of carb powder in a shaker cup for a convenient pre-workout drink.
A few things to note – Experiment with flavors to find what works best for you. Avoid high-stimulated pre-workouts if they make you feel nauseous.
What about Pre-workouts?
This one is a loaded question, and I won’t dive too deep into it but let me give you some pointers if you are looking at taking a pre-workout with your early am workouts.
-Be careful of high stimulate pre-workouts (anything over 180mg in caffeine I consider highish). They can make SOME people a bit nauseous and leave you feeling cracked out during the workout… or leaving you with an energy crash.
-Vasodilators can help. A vasodilator means opening the blood vessels to allow better oxygen transportation and allowing you to have a better ‘pump’ during the workout. I like this option because, especially in the am, the more blood you have pumping in your system, the better. (I personally use THIS from Eniva, Vascular Advantage. No stimulate, but great with the blood vessels and pump.)
-If you do a pre-workout, don’t mix with your workout shake – Drink that one separately; mix it in a small amount of water, and move on with your shake.
-Pre-workouts tend to do best with a small amount of food – This can be a trial and error process, but those pre-workouts with high stimulates (caffeine) can leave you feeling nauseous. So drink this with your small meal. Yes, you can TRY to do a pre-workout by itself with no food early in the morning, but be aware of the stimulating content.
Above are just some options, not to be taken as gospel. Everyone is different, so feel free to play around and see what feels best to your body. Once you get that down, you’ll notice that your early morning workouts are so much better 🙂
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