Yesterday as I was enjoying my daily lunch of a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich I came across an article on Triathlete Magazine by Pip Taylor titled What Should I Eat Before A Morning Workout. Since I do 90% of my workouts before the sun comes up I was interested in what this article had to say. I read the article multiple times but came away confused. I even posted it to Facebook and Twitter and got some similarly confused reactions. Most of them agreed with me but there were some that agreed with the article and that led me to the conclusion that the article may not be incorrect but it does not have the list of caveats needed to draw a distinction between eating breakfast before a morning workout or not.
The other conclusions I drew were:
- How does one define breakfast? Is it defined as a meal that included bacon and eggs? Pancakes? Waffles?
- Do we need all the caveats listed so that an article reads the way a pharma commercial on TV sounds? Those commercials are 60 to 90 seconds long with 75% of the commercial telling you what may or may not happen and that covers everything you can imagine.
Since I do train very early in the morning the idea of a breakfast filled with eggs, pancakes and waffles would not make any sense. I would be bloated and within the first 20 minutes of the workout I would be throwing everything up. Not really what you want from a morning workout unless it called for pure core work and a strong nap within 30 minutes.
For me I have three rules for what I eat prior to a morning workout:
- Under an hour: Drink 10 oz of water and get out the door and moving.
- 1 hour to 2 hours: Drink 10 oz of water, maybe some coffee and eat a banana.
- 2 hours plus: Drink 10 oz of water, drink coffee, eat two slices of toast with nut butter and sliced banana with a bit of cinnamon.
This is not a large breakfast regardless of the length or intensity of the workout but it gets my glycogen levels topped off and gives me a confidence boost to know that I can get out the door and get the workout done to satisfaction.
The article points out that when you are going long and slow that you should skip breakfast because you will be eating while out training. Pip Taylor suggests a rice cake with PB&J amongst other things. I do not know about you but taking a rice cake covered in PB&J out on a ride is not practical nor will it be easy to consume while our training. Carrying that in a jersey pocket in the 100* temps of Texas will make for a rather mushy ziploc bag that will not be appealing when it came time to eat.
My water bottles provide me with the calories, electrolytes and protein that I need to get through long rides and runs but even then it is not enough and I need to grab something at the gas stations we stop at. Had I not consumed any calories prior to the workout I would not make it to the gas stations to refuel. For me, this advice is completely backwards. Having had 7 years of experience in the endurance sports lifestyle I know this. I know my body and how it reacts to food and workout at various temperatures and humidity. I can weave my way through this article and not be concerned that I am doing it ‘wrong’, whatever that means.
Each person will have different reactions to food prior to a workout based on their duration and intensity and the only way to know what works for you is to test on a constant basis. The type of food you eat and when may be different in summer than it is in winter. It may be different depending on whether you are going out for 1 hour or for 6 hours. The only way to know for yourself is to test it. This article provides some advice but it does not dive deep enough, for me, into the various situations that a person may face and I can understand why. If the conditions were to be laid out that short article could turn into War and Peace. This is one of the reasons that writing a blanket statement about what to eat and when does not help since we are all created differently. Test out what Pip Taylor has to say and if it works for you that is great but if is doesn’t then test out something else.
Post Workout Eats – Greens & Egg Sandwich with Roasted Brussels Sprouts