People train at different times of day, and thus can have anywhere between one and five meals prior to training. In this article, we will look at early morning preworkout nutrition, for those who train right after meal one.
When one trains first thing in the morning after only one meal, food intake can be tricky, as it can feel terrible to have a large meal, go to the gym right away and train with a full stomach. Precontest, by contrast, is usually a different story. When in prep mode, with limited carb intake, low glycemic carbs are optimal, as they help keep blood sugar steady during training. Oats are a great option, but depending on the quantity, coupled with one’s digestion/assimilation rate, one needs to time intake accordingly. If you find that the oats are sitting in your stomach on the way to the gym, make sure you eat them far enough in advance so you aren’t bogged down while training. Those with naturally fast metabolic rates can get away with a larger serving of oats, and eat closer to training time.
Another option is doing a smaller serving of oats, and compensate for the smaller serving a tablespoon of liquid coconut oil added to the oats. Coconut oil is high in MCT (medium chain triglycerides), or fats that provide a great energy source for the body. MCT’s do this by increasing ATP production in the mitochondria of the cell. Coconut oil and other MCTs are great to consume during certain stages of prep while on a conventional low carb or keto diet. Coconut oil is a very unique fat in this regard. (We will discuss the unique properties of other fats, like omega-9 rich olive oil and its unique properties, in a future article.)
While often beneficial, it’s not an absolute that slow-burning carbs have to be ingested before training. Even during prep, high glycemic carbs can be beneficial for several reasons. If one’s glucose tolerance levels are favorable with good insulin sensitivity, they can benefit more from a high glycemic carb like cream of rice. Its very easy to eat 50 grams of carbs from the granulated cream of rice, compared to the far denser oats. This is a great carb for those who prep on higher carb diets. Its also a great carb for the off season, when one would use a MUCH higher carb approach, as the higher glycemic carbs are much easier to eat preworkout compared to a huge bowl of oats. For those who are on lower carb plans because of lower sensitivity, the oats are a better option for obvious reasons.
Preworkout proteins should also vary based on time of year, be that prep mode or off season. Some people’s metabolism during prep will be so high that the person is starving a mere 20 minutes after eating, especially if they are already peeled to the bone. In that case, they are better off having more density in terms of protein amount and type. In terms of amount, if the assimilation rate is high, take advantage of a higher protein count than normal. In terms of density, whole eggs instead of just whites, or even perhaps having some chicken with egg whites. Realistically, the chicken and whole eggs are not going to be digested and “in your system” an hour later when you are driving to the gym, but can provide better satiety during the early morning punch of super-fast metabolism that can be almost catabolic in those who are super lean and have a blast-furnace for a metabolism. Others by contrast would benefit more from a light protein source like hydrolyzed whey, or egg whites, especially if metabolism is not cranking at overdrive speeds.
If you are working out later in the day, the general rule of thumb for lower carb dieters is to strategically spread your carbs out in the meals leading up to the workout, and they should be lower glycemic in nature to have more stable blood sugar in the lower carb environment. Essential fats can be used with these meals to compliment the situation. (I’m being intentionally vague here, as each situation is different and needs to be individualized.)
To contact me for off season prep, find Dave Kalick on Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org