Contrary to what you may have heard, working out without fuel is not a good strategy for weight loss. Exercise after fasting (essentially the several hour period after sleep) only serves to encourage muscle breakdown and reduce performance. Both work against your goal. You need muscle to look lean and boost metabolism. You want to perform well to improve your fitness and stamina, as well as burn more calories. So how should you fuel your morning workout. Try these tips for results.
Watch your calories
Your morning fuel should not add significantly to your total calorie count for the day. Ideally, you’ll want to reach for carbs and protein in the range of 100 to 200 calories. Think Greek yogurt and a banana or a protein shake. If you are planning a longer workout, say 90 minutes or more, you can increase the calories and add a little fat. Try something like two-slices of whole grain bread with nut-butter, avocado toast with an egg or even left-overs (if dinner wasn’t burgers and fries).
Know your goal
How you fuel will depend on what you want to accomplish. As a rule, go for carbs and protein if your goal is performance. Carbs give you the energy you need to push yourself harder. If your primary goal is weight loss, stick with protein. Try a whey protein or BCAA (branched chain amino acid) supplement so your body more readily burns fat rather than muscle.
When to fuel
Reach for easily digestible pre-workout snacks about 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to workout. Don’t forget to fuel up after your workout. Eat breakfast as you normally would. That means choosing with your health and fitness goals in mind. A good workout is not an excuse to indulge yourself with donuts or bagels and cream cheese. Instead, think oatmeal and fruit or scrambled eggs in a whole-wheat tortilla with spinach or salsa. Choose water instead of sugary drinks, like juice and soda, to stay hydrated during exercise and all day long.
There are advantages to early morning exercise. These include lower blood pressure and more restful sleep. One study even found that women who exercised for at least 45 minutes in the morning ate less during the day and were more physically active. Men improved insulin resistance and held off weight gain. Fuel your daily jumpstart with foods that support your goals and help you feel your best.