Pre-morning workout nutrition

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Pre-morning workout nutrition

Postby stevehollx » Thu May 27, 2010 6:37 am

So I understand that on race day, if you can't eat >3 hours before the start, to not eat until the race commences.

I assume this also holds true when training for long rides that are >2 hours.

I'm curious if the same holds true for <1.5 hour (higher intensity) training rides. Should I be eating something in the 15-20 minute window I have between when I awake and before I hop on the bike saddle for a morning workout? If so, what type of food should I be eating? Or should I not eat until I'm done and replenish post-workout?
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Re: Pre-morning workout nutrition

Postby steve-born » Thu May 27, 2010 4:06 pm

Hello Steve -

If you don't have a comfortable 3-hour window to finish a small pre-exercise meal - and yes, this applies to both workouts and races that are in the 60-minute range (perhaps up to 90 minutes) - you have two options:

1) Start on an empty stomach and begin refueling shortly after you begin. As an example, if I ride to work in the morning I won't eat anything until after I'm on the bike and when my stomach says "OK, I'm ready to take on some calories." For me, this is usually about 15-20 minutes into the ride.

2) If you absolutely have to have something to eat prior to the start of a 60-90+ minute workout or race, consume it as close to the start as possible... I'd suggest no more than 5-10 minutes prior. Obviously, you want to consume foods that are very easy to digest so a serving of Hammer Gel or a drink from your fuel bottle of HEED, Sustained Energy, or Perpetuem will work just fine.

In the article "15 Simple Ways to Improve Your Athletic Performance Now" ( ... ge-section), #13 reads as follows:

For workouts and races over 60 minutes in length, finish any pre-exercise food or fuel three hours prior to starting

Let's assume you've been really good, you've been training hard (yet wisely) and remembering to replenish your body with adequate amounts of high quality calories as soon as possible after each and every one of your workouts. Great! You've now built up a nice 60-90 minute reservoir of premium muscle glycogen, the first fuel your body will use when your long race begins. Don't blow it now by eating something an hour or two prior to the start of the race!

Do you know what happens when you eat within three hours of exercise? Your muscle glycogen stores get burned much more rapidly in long-duration events that's definitely not performance enhancing! For workouts and races lasting longer than 60 minutes (perhaps up to 90 minutes at the most), refraining from calorie consumption for the three-hour period prior to the start is crucial because you want to preserve your glycogen stores, not accelerate their depletion.

During shorter distance races, however, accelerated rates of glycogen depletion/utilization are not problematic so following the “three hour rule” isn't a necessity. You don't need the calories for energy (muscle glycogen stores will take care of the majority of that), but the presence of carbohydrates will elevate glycogen utilization. That's what you want for a short race. If you eat something 1-2 hours prior to the start of a short-duration race, thus causing the insulin "flood gates" to open, yes, you will be depleting your glycogen stores at maximum rates. However, at this distance it's a beneficial effect, as glycogen depletion is not an issue when the race is over within, at most, 90 minutes.

Bottom line: Fast three hours prior to the start of a longer-duration event (60-90+ minutes). For shorter events, consuming a small amount of fuel an hour to two prior to the start may enhance performance.

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I hope that helps explain this area of fueling, Steve. If you need more information or clarification, however, please let me know.
Steve Born
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