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Early morning workout and breakfast

loki's picture

By loki - Posted on 03 January 2011

I know you are supposed to have breakfast when you wake up - to kick start your metabolism into action again and to provide energy.
However what if you are going to do an early morning workout such as a 1 hour ride to work?
Do you eat breakfast before or after?

If you eat before should you wait x minutes before starting exercising or get stuck straight into it?
If you don't eat before will you be lacking in energy as in theory you should be hungry in the morning?
Without breakfast where will the energy for your workout come from? I believe your glycogen stores will be low having not eaten for 10 hours or more. Will you start burning fat or muscle instead?

This is assuming a diet and exercise routine to improve fitness and lose weight, so I'm aiming for a calorie deficit each day.


Brian's picture

I'm no expert but I would think its better to eat before. The problem you have have is how long before you ride you can eat something and keep it down on the ride. If you don't have enough time in the morning then at least have something like a banana or muesli bar as soon as you wake and then have breakfast at work.

Weight loss is simply calories burned versus calories consumed. The minute you start fasting is when your metabolism slows and your body will go in protection mode. The last thing you want to do is burn muscle. To burn fat you need carbs to break the fat down. As your brain (and probably other organs) needs carbs for energy your body will always keep some in reserve for vital functions and look elsewhere (muscle) for its energy.

PS. I'm using the word carbs as a generic term instead of referencing the actual substance Eye-wink

loki's picture

Thanks Brian.

That's what I was thinking. I guess I'll have to get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and scoff down a couple of Weet Bix Eye-wink
(Now that I'm back to work and on restricted time in the morning Sad


HeezaGeeza's picture

Go for something light like a banana - it will give you enough carbs to fuel your ride and reduce your body using muscle for energy. On waking grab a glass of chilled water (the termic effect will increase calories burnt if weight loss is the aim) and have the banana. Then get ready so you have at least 20 mins before setting off.

There is a lot more complexity to the subject of where does your body get energy from (the old 65% Heart Rate for max fat burn is still not really proven) and there are a number of factors that come into play. Your body also does not get energy from one source over another, more a case of a larger % from one source over another at any one time.

Without getting a long scientific discussion, I'd say having something light before exercise is a good idea. If you want to gain muscle, go for something with more protein in, maybe even a protein shake beforehand.

ADtheglorious's picture

The last few issues of MTB Aust mag, had some interesting training tips from preparation to hydration and food strategies, so with some trial and error i have tried a couple different angles for my couple of times a week early rode ride, so firstly i'd ride without breakfast, but eating a muesli bar about halfway into my 1 1/2 hour ride, i felt fine but was starving by the time i got home! The other option i've tried is eating about half of what i normally would for breakfast and still having a muesli bar on the ride, which when i'm done leaves me not so starving!

Try a couple of different types of breakfasts and eating options and if you ring in and speak to Dr Karl on Triple J and tell him your experiment he'll probably give you one of his books!


Logan's picture

If I am doing my 2 hour training ride to work I tend to throw a banana or two in the jersey pocket and eat them on the bike, I have worked out I can function up to about 2 hours without eating and just water to rehydrate, however will be really hungry once I get into the office and just have a decent size bowl of museli.

Anything more than that I have a decent breakfast, so if I know I am going to be going on a 4 hour + road ride which is likely to develop into a smashfest with the boys that I ride with then I tend to get up and have a decent breakfast, normally a 3 or 4 egg omelette and maybe some museli and then I also use Infinit in my bottles for my food and hydration on the ride as well.

I always have a protein shake when I have finished riding as its crucial to help the muscles rebuild, so I have protein powder at home and in the office.

If I am racing, I tend to have a breakfast again of museli and then function on Infinit only and maybe a banana or two with gels as a back up.

hawkeye's picture

... for me. Can't function properly without it, as I tend not to eat a lot of carbs in the final meal the night before. 5 Weetbix + soymilk I've found to be the most digestible and least likely to repeat, with some dried fruit and nuts or half a sliced banana.

My morning commute is usually 75 minutes and about 29km.

On the bike I have about half a bidon of Hi5 isotonic. Postride recovery is 600ml of skim milk and a couple of tablespoons of Milo - an adaptation of what Joe Friel recommends in The Mountan Biker's Training Bible. Besides being cheaper, I've actually found that to be more effective than the recovery products out there I've tried. Recovery drink must be within 30 minutes of stepping off the bike. Sometimes I'll throw in a piece of fruit like a banana or nectarine.

On the way home I'll have a piece of fruit or 2 before I depart, run through pretty much a whole bidon of Hi5 and sometimes have a gel halfway depending on how much I've eaten after midday. Same distance home, but a few extra hills and usually a bloody headwind for whole the 90 minute ride. Same recovery drink before the evening meal proper, which I'll have after I've changed and put the bike away.

The above regime seems to give me sustained energy for the whole ride and allows me to use the commute as training.

Logan's picture

I do tend to eat 5-6 meals a day though so that probably helps me from a carbs point of view and I function on a high carb and protein diet with lots of pasta and chicken so yeah I tend to find I have a lot of energy throughout the day!

garyinoz's picture

I guess everyone is different but I find having breakfast before riding to work doesn't work for me (mabe it just the crappy vita brits) so I eat when I get to work. On long rides at the weekend 2-3.5hrs I normally have an enegy bar + banana plus rehydration + water. I can probably get away with this as I eat too many carbs!
Good luck.

anke13's picture

I have a banana before training during the week and plenty of water during the ride.
If I exercise more than 2.5 hours (i.e. weekends) I'll have a banana and a slide of Sourdough with Nutella or Honey before training and a gel halfway through. I also have 2 drink bottles, 1 with water and 1 with diluted Powerade or similar.

If you want to loose weight, just lower your overall food intake, especially during the second half of the day.

It can't be good to starve yourself during exercise.

I hope this helps.

Happy riding Smiling

Rob's picture

Yeah, eat before you ride, I recommend this...



hawkeye's picture

... NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs. Eye-wink

Just don't light the BBQ near him or the afterburner will kick in and we'll never see him again Sticking out tongue

flubberghusted's picture

Enforced Trail-maker or as a double entendre, ET as he is seen propelled into the path of a moon on a lefty!

Keep away from the Dam ET...illegal trail making is a no no! Sticking out tongue

The Brown Hornet's picture

I have a 1 1/2 hour commute to work in the morning and always drink a large glass of water and scoff down a banana before setting sail. when i get to work it's shower, shave and big brekky time!

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