A commonly asked question amongst the early rising gym-goers is should I eat before my morning weights session and if so, what should I eat?
With the vast amount of information surrounding pre and post-workout nutrition, it can be time-consuming sorting through the hundreds of forums, articles and “expert recommendations” to find the answer that suits you, your goals and your lifestyle. The best answer is that everybody has different nutritional needs dependent on a variety of factors, so we have tried to simplify the answer this question, by separating it for those seeking to lose weight, build muscle or enhance performance during their training sessions.
If you’re training first thing in the morning with the goal to increase your lean muscle mass, or to perform at your best, you should absolutely aim to get a meal in prior to your training session. As you sleep and your body rests, it utilises the stored glycogen in your liver and muscles to repair and recover your body. This glycogen ideally needs to be replenished before your next workout to ensure you have adequate fuel to provide energy to the muscles being worked. This will ensure you have a good quality training session, allowing you to train for longer and harder, and hopefully achieve some PB’s along the way.
So what should you be eating? As your glycogen stores have been depleted as you sleep, you will need to intake an adequate quantity of complex carbohydrates accompanied by a lean source of protein before your workout. A good number to aim for is 25% of your daily intake of carbohydrates, but if that is too much too early, start with something smaller, and add the additional carbohydrates to your post workout meal. A great example of an easy, quick and delicious meal before hitting the gym is a bowl of oats with a scoop of protein powder, or a piece of fruit with some boiled eggs if you’re in a rush. These meals will provide your body with long-lasting energy and amino acids to ensure you can perform at your peak, activate the maximum amount of muscle fibres and consequently make some lean muscle gains!
Intra-workout supplementation is another way you can replenish energy reserves while helping to improve your performance, which can be taken at the time of your exercise. If you want to keep adequately fueled during your session try adding some Amino Acids (namely BCAAs, which describe three key components of protein once broken down) and quick digesting, liquid carbohydrates into your drink bottle. This way, you will continually fuel yourself through the entirety of your training, which will reduce muscle catabolism (breakdown), allowing you to preserve your muscle mass and pull up less sore the following day. Our favourite BCAAs are 1st Phorm BCAAs or Core Nutritionals ABC, which has added Beta-Alanine which reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles. For Intra-workout carbohydrates, you want something that will digest quickly, but provide sustained energy. Our favourite sources are Core Nutritionals Core INTRA or 1st Phorm Intra-Formance.
There is however, one situation where eating before your morning weight session might not be as crucial as previously described. Much like when performing fasted cardio, performing a weight training session without having consumed any food beforehand is a fantastic way to promote the breakdown of stored body-fat to be used as energy, resulting in weight loss. If this is the predominant goal of your training, it is recommended to consume a high-quality intra-workout BCAA supplement such as 1st Phorm BCAAs or Core Nutritionals ABC to ensure your lean muscle is protected from being broken down while in this fasted state. In combination with a high quality fat burning supplement such as Core Burn PR or Ghost Burn V2, you will notice an increase of energy during you training session, an increase in body temperature and perspiration and an elevated heart rate, resulting in an increase in your daily calories burned which will inevitably lead to a reduction in stored body-fat. Pair these products with some high-quality Acetyl L-Carnitine such as AlcaPure, which transports broken down body fats into muscle cells where they can be used as energy.
Whether you should eat or not before your morning training session therefore is largely dependent on your personal goals. It is highly recommended to intake some calories when you are trying to build muscle or perform at your best, but it isn’t as necessary when weight loss if your goal. If you are trying to lose weight however, and find yourself feeling faint or hungry when you omit a pre workout meal from your regime, we strongly recommend consuming something small such as a banana or a protein shake prior to getting into the gym. You can simply add some additional cardio after your weight training session if you are concerned about missing out on the opportunity to exercise in a fasted state. After your weights session, you will have utilised the glucose supplied from your pre-workout meal, so can relinquish the opportunity.