Your bag is packed and your boots are by the door. You grab a bar and head off to training. As you walk onto the field, your stomach starts to growl. Is it because of the bar? Did you eat too much? Or are you hungry? Did you not eat enough? Did you have to eat before training?
If you guessed the last two, you are correct!
You do not want all of the hard work at training to go to waste because you fueled incorrectly! For athletes like yourself with early morning training, eating before a training session may be challenging, but it is an easy way you can elevate your performance now.
Eating a balanced nutrient-rich breakfast before practice is ESSENTIAL to preventing a mid-training slump, ensuring high energy levels throughout training, preventing injury, and meeting your body composition goals.
What and when you should eat before training?
Aim for a meal of around 400-500 calories 1-2 hours before morning training. While these meals should be high in complex carbohydrates to fuel your workout, it should also be low in fiber. It takes your body longer to digest fiber which may cause bloating and discomfort during your workout. Additionally, you should prioritize plain foods to eat before training.
Here is a simple list of guidelines with example foods I recommmed following when choosing you pre-training meal!
Train Your Gut to Eat Before Training
But Reilly, I hate eating before my training! I feel sick!
I completely understand that. Many athletes feel sick when they eat before training and this shows me that you are eating the wrong things or too much in the beginning! But you will want to fuel with food ASAP after we wake up – we need to get fuel in our body!!
I highly recommend working your way up to eating breakfast with these quick tips.
- Start small. If you aren’t used to eating before training, you need to start small or you WILL get a stomach ache. I highly recommend starting with an applesauce packet, banana or some dried fruit
- Slowly work your way up! After you have played around with a small serving of fruit, try 1-2 of these cookie dough protein bites to fuel your workout.
- A nutrient-dense liquid may be best! Our body digests liquid quicker than solid food and would be a better option when you are short on time or for a player who has trouble eating in the morning. If this is you, check out my Blueberry Almond Smoothie or Green Smoothie to fuel your training.
My girls find fueling success when they work on fueling modifications during the off-season. I highly recommend taking some time during your off-season to find a fueling protocol or strategy that works for you before training.
Pre-Training Meal Examples
After you have tried some small options, here are some example meals to get you started
- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich + 1 cup grapes
- 2 cups honey nut cheerios + 1 cup almond milk + 1 banana + 2 tbsp peanut butter + 2 hard-boiled eggs + 1-2 cups water + 1 cup OJ
- 1 serving of Overnight Oats topped with berries + nut butter
- Greek Yogurt bowl topped with frozen fruit, granola and chia seeds
What about Hydration?
Hydration is also important! Aim for 16-32 oz of fluid a couple of hours before training. Then 1 hour before the start time, drink 8-12 oz of an electrolyte drink (ex. Nuun, Gatorade, Skratch Labs). This keeps core temperatures down and helps your body temperature to stabilize during the race.
Like I said before, fueling before training may be difficult for some but it is important! If you a weary to try, start small, and build your way up!
Just like your muscles, your gut can be trained. Start by adding a little liquid and continue to build up until you can tolerate solid food. Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions about what you should eat before training!
If you think you need help getting started with pre-training fueling, join the Performance Fueling Club (PFC)! PFC is an online sports nutrition coaching program that helps athletes with flexible on-demand content and live nutrition coaching with a sports dietitian. We currently have open enrollment, and I would love to help support you in getting to your goals!