We’ve heard it again and again and again—breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet for most runners, our pre-workout morning nutrition (a.k.a breakfast) takes a back seat to a few extra minutes of sleep each morning.
Most of us training for marathons are busy adults who sacrifice sleep to get our training in before getting on with our day. After hitting the snooze button one too many times we finally jump out of bed, panicked to get the day’s workout in before heading to work, dropping the kids off at school, walking the dog, etc. In a rush to squeeze the workout in, fueling ahead of time is often the thing that gets cut first from our morning ritual.
The good news is there are days where this will have a relatively minor impact on your workout. There are also days where a lack of proper fueling can be extremely detrimental to the effectiveness of your morning workout. When you are juggling to fit your workouts into your schedule, you want to maximize every moment out there and fueling is monumentally important to succeeding in that endeavor.
Having a specific purpose for every workout (e.g. tempo runs, long runs, glycogen depletion workouts, etc.) makes the most of the time and effort you are putting into training each and every day. If each workout has a specific purpose beyond just logging miles for the sake of logging miles, then it only makes sense that the fueling your body needs for each of those workouts is also different and specific to the goal for that day.
No matter what the workout is, heading out on an empty stomach, dehydrated and when glycogen stores are at their lowest after a restful night is never a good idea. Remembering to focus on the objective of each workout, here’s how to approach your morning pre-workout fueling based on the type of workout:
Rest is the core-focus of these workouts and spending a few extra minutes in bed supports that objective. Give yourself a little extra sleep before waking for breakfast and your workout. A quick, light breakfast is all you need before heading out for a short, easy run.
- Try a banana with almond butter or even a gel for a quick and easy snack before getting those miles in.
Speedwork, Tempo and Long Run Days
As tough as it is to get up even earlier than you already have to for these challenging workouts, it’s crucial to properly fuel and hydrate before the taxing workout ahead of you. This is particularly important on glycogen depletion workouts which are done carefully with the purpose of training the body to become most efficient at utilizing its own fat as fuel. When you need sustained energy through a long, challenging workout, aim to have about 60 percent of your calories come from carbs, 20 percent from protein and 20 percent from fat. This is a good balance to provide the energy you need over a longer period of time. The carbs will help you get that initial energy and the protein and fat will help as the workout gets longer and more physically demanding.
- Try whole wheat toast with almond butter and coffee or a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Make the smoothie the night before so it doesn’t become another project delaying you from your workout.
Everyone’s systems are so different and delicate, take the first few weeks of training to find what works best for your body when it comes to the types of food and exact timing of consumption before the workout. Unfortunately that part can really only come through trial and error. The sooner you can get that dialed in the more you will be able to benefit from training with the proper nutrition for your body.
Once you have completed your workout, don’t forget that post-workout nutrition is equally important as it is the optimal time for your body to absorb nutrients to help you recover and build strength. A great, hearty post-run option with lots of flavor is a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal with some brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and granola accompanied by a whole milk latte. And, as always, be sure you are drinking lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
With a little planning ahead of time to ensure proper fueling for each morning workout you will quickly see the benefits as you feel better and stronger during and after your workouts. You’ll not only see it as you continue with your normal routine, but also in each workout as you are able to demand more and more of your body.