Depending on your personality, working out before the sun rises is either invigorating or torturous. It’s especially challenging in the winter, when it’s dark until after 7AM – boo! However, I always get jolt of energy when I can knock out a solid sweat sash before heading to school (or work!)
One thing I want to address is what to eat prior to working out in the morning. It’s really important to eat in order to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar.) Symptoms of hypoglycemia include dizziness, headache, shakiness, inability to concentrate, and sweating.
When we’re exercising, our bodies use two forms of fuel: glucose and fat. Glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. During the first ~15 minutes of physical activity, the body uses glucose from the blood and muscle glycogen. After ~15 minutes of physical activity, the body uses the glycogen stores from the liver. After ~30 minutes of physical activity, the body starts to use fat for energy (in the form of free fatty acids.) If your blood sugar is low before exercising, you won’t be able to provide your body with the energy it needs. The best thing you can do is fuel before starting exercise and after to replenish the lost glycogen stores and to aid in muscle recovery. Here are my favorite quick breakfast recommendations:
Oh, bananas. Probably my favorite food of all time (except for macaroni and cheese.) Bananas are not only carbohydrate heavy (which is a GOOD thing! The body needs carbs!), they are packed with potassium, which is essential for muscle recovery. By eating a banana before your workout, you will boost your potassium levels. The extra storage of potassium will help replenish the potassium that is lost when you sweat. Low potassium levels can lead to muscle cramping and fatigue – not fun!
2. nut butter
I love grabbing a 1.5 oz packet of Justin’s Almond Butter for a quick snack. With 7g of protein and 7g of carbs in one packet, this keeps me satiated for just the right amount of time.
3. dry cereal in a baggie
A few years ago when I was marathon training, (← it’s been a hot second!) I learned that my body responded well to dry cereal on my long runs. Since then, when I’m in a pinch, I’ll prep a small baggie of Kashi’s GoLean Cereal to munch on in the car.
4. hard-boiled eggs
Eggs are easy to prep the night before. Simply boil the eggs (remembering to immediately place them in cold water after they’re done – you want to stop the cooking process so they don’t get super hard.) Once cool, peel and throw the eggs in a baggie with some salt/pepper and…violá! A typical medium-sized egg has about 6g of protein in it.
5. oatmeal bar
There are tons of recipes all over the internet for DIY oatmeal bars. I recommend trying to make your own and skipping the store-bought options for two reasons. First, it’s fun! You get to choose what you want to add to your bars. If you’re like me and don’t like raisins – skip ’em! Plus, you’re likely to add a lot less sugar if you make them yourself.
Second, when you choose what to add to your bars, you know exactly what you’re eating. Making our own food is the best strategy for getting a handle on what we’re putting in to our bodies.
I suggest looking for any recipes that have oats, nutbutters, chopped nuts, etc. The nuts/nutbutters are full of healthy fats/protein and the oats are a great source of fiber.