This week’s question is about whether to eat before an early morning 5am workout. It comes from Anne in Newton, MA.
I’m a mom of 2 kids and work a full-time job in Boston, so 5am is the only time I get work out during the week. (At the weekend I can work out mid morning.) This means I do not have time to eat breakfast unless I get up at 4am (which is just not happening). What should I do?
Great question Anne, and congratulations for getting in your workouts with your busy schedule and time commitments!
Fasted workouts (working out on an empty stomach) can actually be a great tool for blood sugar regulation. They can also help you build metabolism-boosting muscle, if you use them in the right way.
Let’s say you exercise at 5am (or in the early morning) three times a week, on Monday Wednesday, and Friday. Workouts done while intermittent fasting should be no more than 35-40 minutes long, and of a medium intensity (how hard you work). Good choices for these workouts could be 30 minutes of running, spinning, or a lighter weights sessions.
At the weekend, when you have eaten breakfast before exercising, is the best time for your more intense workouts. These include heavier weight lifting sessions, Barry’s or Orange Theory, or a boxing workout. Just make sure you finishing eating at least an hour before working out!
There are lots of benefits of working out on an empty stomach (fasted). It allows your body to tap into its stored carbohydrates, and also your body fat as sources of energy. (Your body will use the following for fuel in this order 1: alcohol, 2: stored carbs, 3: your body fat). So your 5am intermittent fasting workouts will help balance your blood sugar and get your body using fat for fuel. Hormonally, you will also get a boost of growth hormone and testosterone, which is great for helping you build lean muscle.
However, fasted workouts—at 5am or anytime—can be challenging for your adrenal health and thyroid health. This is why I recommend only working out at a medium intensity when doing so on an empty stomach. For those struggling with hormonal issues (high cortisol, irregular periods, adrenal fatigue), a yoga flow or brisk walk is a better option than the options listed above.
My 8 Week Lean & Clean Program includes both strength training and HIIT workouts designed to help you build lean muscle, burn stored body fat and boost your metabolism. Find out more about this life changing program below:
In my weekly Ask Jenny column, I answer all of your health and nutrition questions. Have a well-being concern or question you’d like advice on? Submit your question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and have it answered by a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Celebrity Health Coach!