24 May 2015

Early Morning Pre-Workout Nutrition

Sometimes athletes ask me what I like do nutrition-wise before I train, especially early in the morning. Sometimes I do the workout in a "fasted" state if the training is an hour or so but I avoid a fasted workout if I plan on doing some higher intensity work. If part of the workout includes strength training then I definitely avoid a "fasted" workout. I don't want the quality of the workout to be compromised and I especially don't want recovery from the workout to be delayed or negatively impacted since I normally have another workout between 4 and 9 hours later that same day.

What do I eat? Well, at 4:30 am, especially prior to a stacked workout of swimming and strength training, I go with a blended smoothie of some sort. The recipe that follows is not followed precisely every time. In fact, I would like to be adding more greens (maybe something like kale or spinach) to it but haven't taken the time to experiment with that yet. I have added small doses of beet juice at times. Everyone is different and any particular ingredient may not sit well with you. Here's what I currently make, followed by a bit of explanation.

  • 8 oz cold water
  • 8 oz unsweetened coconut milk (I use Trader Joe's)
  • OR substitute unsweetened Almond milk for the coconut milk
  • 1/8 to 1/4 c. blueberries, frozen (I often use T Joe's Wild Boreal but any will do)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I usually use Hammer Nutrition Vegan - chocolate, but there a lot's of choices)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder (optional - I sometimes use T Joe's brand)
  • 1/2 scoop (5 g.) Super Green Drink powder (T Joe's brand)
  • 1/2 scoop (5 g.) Super Red Drink powder (T Joe's brand)
  • 1 tsp. ground chia seed (optional)
  • 1 tsp. ground flax seed (optional)
  • 2 grams L-Glutamine (optional) (I use "L-Glutamine 325" from MRM available at Sprout's)
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered green matcha tea (optional) (I currently use "matcha DNA")
  • ice - optional
Put water and coconut milk in blender and begin blending on low or medium speed. Add remaining ingredients
one at a time and blend until smooth. 

Explanations/justifications: I use vegan protein because I avoid cow's milk products. Substituting whey protein isolate is a good option if dairy isn't an issue for you. I use coconut milk for the quality fat that it contains. Blueberries are an excellent, dark fruit that has a good nutrient profile (especially as compared to a banana or strawberry). I'll use other berries, especially blackberries, if I happen to have them on hand. Cocoa powder has nearly no calories. The super green and red drink powders contain antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics, etc. Chia seeds are a source of Omega-3 fats and are a plant-based protein that also can help thicken the smoothie, especially when whole seeds are used. Given my digestive system abnormalities I prefer ground seeds for this. Ground flax seeds are a source of Omega-3 fats, a good thing, and a plant protein. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that's anti-catabolic, is helpful in recovery, and supposedly helps with intestinal health. Finally, green tea matcha powder is loaded with antioxidants and a bit of a stimulant effect. 

Overall, not counting flax or chia seeds, this has about 16-18g of carbohydrates, 7-8g of fat, 21g of protein, and around 220 calories. (1 tsp ground flax has 1g fat, 1g carb, 1g protein, 20 cal; 1/2 Tbsp ground chia has 1g fat, 1g carb, 1/2g protein, 15 cal) I drink half prior to the workout and then add ice and cold water to keep it cold for after when I drink another 1/4 after the swim and then the remaining 1/4 after strength training to begin recovery. If I want fewer carbs before the workout then I'll leave out the green and red drink powder and/or the blueberries. If I want more fat then I eliminate the water and use all coconut milk.

What do you do?


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  2. Thanks a ton for the post regarding Early Morning Pre-Workout Nutrition. I also think that Pre-Workout Nutrition is very important for good performance. You don’t need to buy expensive products as you can make the natural Green energy drinks at your home.