You may not see yourself and your work through this light, or through the eyes of a champion, but I see you that way.
I believe we all, like any athlete, are wishing to be and aiming to be a champion in what we do. This ambition, whether it be to be the best mum or dad will be the best architect in our universe, is foundational to what we do and how we do what we do in the world.
If you take on board this possibility of being a champion in your field, then you will also recognise that food and nutrition plays a vital part of this ambition. Firstly, it is vital to the balance of your mind. Secondly, it is critical for the posture and centredness of your body. Third, it fuels the spirit.
The single, most complicated decision we make is what we put into our mouth. Many people do it blindly, and suddenly realise they are carrying kilos weigh more than they expected. The balance of calories in versus calories out is so easy to get wrong. For example, I went for a 5000 steps walk this morning with my client and burnt about 300 cal in an hour. That’s the equivalent of one glass of red wine if I wanted to have that breakfast.
To fuel or not to fuel prior to starting work in the morning, before or after your inspirational morning routine continues to be a hot topic.
In short, the answer is yes, you want to fuel your body upon awakening prior to working out and then again, prior to work. However, you need to understand that there is a big difference between feeding the body and fueling the body. These are two completely different animals.
For example, you can consume eggs and turkey bacon prior to a workout. This food will feed your body, but in no way will this fuel your body. This would be like putting water in the gas tank of your car. Water and gasoline are both liquids, but it does not mean they are both fuel sources.
The same holds true for the human body. You want to be sure that upon awakening (and every meal/snack all throughout the day) that you are fueling your body and eating with purpose and not just feeding your body. That is, of course, if you are looking for the best results possible in terms of performance, recovery, and body composition.
Replenish Glycogen Stores
One of the main keys to success when it comes to both work and sport performance, recovery, and body composition is to continually load and reload muscle/mind glycogen stores. This is a big reason why fueling the body properly right away upon awakening is a big key to success.
Upon awakening, you are dehydrated and your glycogen stores are sub-optimal. Why would you want to push your body and mind while in a sub-optimal state? Fueling properly will also help assist with hydrating/rehydrating your body upon awakening (along with drinking water of course). This alone will have a huge and positive impact on your work and wellbeing. If you go into a stressful environment under-fueled and dehydrated, this can result in a higher than normal heart rate. If you are working smart and developing your resilience by heart rate, and HRV, you understand the negative impact this will have on your work.
Hurdles in the Way
What keeps individuals from fueling their body properly upon awakening prior to work? Here are some typical responses from individuals:
- “I’m just not hungry when I wake up in the morning.”
- “I’m trying to lose weight and body fat and I felt that if I just get up and work out, I would burn more body fat and lose more weight.”
- “I just don’t have time; I wake up at 4:30AM and I start my workout by 5:00AM.”
- “My stomach can’t handle food before a workout.”
Prior to a workout and/or work, there are many great options in order to properly fuel the body. Solid and liquid fuel can both be very valuable, and I would recommend trying different options to see what works best for you. Liquid fuel (e.g., a smoothie) is a great go-to option for many reasons. It’s very easy on the system and it will get digested and absorbed quickly and it will also help with hydration.
In terms of macronutrient balance, you should aim for approximately 50% to 65% calories from carbohydrates, 15% to 25% from protein, and 15% to 25% from fat. It is this type of balance that will create a steady rise in blood sugar and insulin as opposed to a quick spike and a quick drop. It will also help assist in keeping energy levels high and stable.
Pre-Work Smoothie Recipe
Here is a smoothie recipe that will fuel your early workout and/or work correctly.
Blend the following together with water and ice:
- 1 banana
- ⅛ cup quick oats
- ¼ cup blueberries
- 1/3 scoop protein powder (approximately 40cals/10g)
- 1 TBSP peanut butter
This will provide you with the following high-octane fuel: 296 calories, 54% of your Vitamin C, 19% Potassium, and 27% Folic Acid. In terms of solid fuel, ‘energy bars’ of similar macronutrient makeup also make a great pre-work fuel choice. Also consume at least .5 litre of water right away upon awakening. If you are performing shorter workouts around 30 to 45 minutes, and/or sitting allot (2-3 hrs) in the morning at your desk, consume only half of this smoothie.
If you are new to pre-work fuel, no worries; let tomorrow be the start. If you are a pre-work fuel veteran, great; power up the body with this smoothie. Whether you have a 30-minute work day, a six-hour work day sitting, or something in between, this will be a great start to getting your body properly fuelled. If you have a longer work day, say eight hours or more, I would suggest one and a half or two times this smoothie.
Timing of Your Meal
Also, be sure to experiment with the timing of your pre-work fuel. For example, some individuals have no problem consuming this and starting their power hour workout within 15 minutes, whereas other individuals feel more comfortable consuming this fuel 30 to 90 minutes or more prior to their work day. Much of the timing, especially upon awakening, will depend on your available time frame. On really important travel days, since you will have more time to fuel with rubbish while waiting for flights, I would recommend consuming one and a half to two times the amount of the smoothie approximately two and a half to three hours before your flight. In other words, avoid food on the run.
Benefits of Pre-Work Fuel
While it takes some experimenting to find what works best for you, fuelling your body before any work day is a necessity. You will have more productive work by starting with a full tank of gas and optimal hydration, prevent weakness and fatigue due to low blood sugar and/or inadequate muscle glycogen stores, spare glycogen and be sharper mentally.