As a powerlifter that loves to train first thing in the morning, I’m here to tell you that it is all down to personal preference. I know that many of us have heard statements such as ‘You shouldn’t train on an empty stomach’ or ‘Training fasted helps you lose weight’ – I can tell you for a fact that the last one is something you should ignore completely. You have to find what works best for you. I’ve gone through so much trials and errors in the last eight years to figure out what works for me. I used to wake up much earlier (4am) to have a bowl of oatmeal about two hours before my trainings sessions. I discovered after my first meet that lifting maximal weight with that much food in my stomach made me sick and didn’t optimise my performance. Now in 2021, I like to have something smaller without compromising my sleep and performance in the gym. Here I am going to share what I eat on a certain training and non-training days, how I discovered what works best for me, and give you tips so you can perform at your best.
Hypertrophy Training Days
I like to start my mornings with a glass of room temperature water about 500ml to 650 ml. Sometimes I might take that with my multivitamin. About ten minutes later, I like to grab an oat and honey breakfast bar. It tastes really good. I chose to go for a breakfast bar because I really don’t like training with a lot of food in my stomach. I need to be light and quick when I am lifting. Oatmeal and grains are complex carbs which gives us slow-releasing energy. This is extremely useful as my powerlifting sessions are roughly 2 to 3 hours. When I have a medium to heavy breakfast, it slows down my performance, I feel lethargic and it just adds extra weight to carry while I’m lifting. I always start my mornings with water to help flush out toxins from my body and help with the digestion process.
Power (SBD) Training Days
Power and SBD (squat, bench and deadlift) days take more energy out of me as I tend to lift much heavier weights than my hypertrophy days and they tend to be speed days. As my hypertrophy days, I like to start my mornings again with a glass of water, oat and honey breakfast bar and a piece of fruit. I usually opt for bananas as they are full of potassium that help with the functioning of the muscles and can prevent muscle cramps. I also take an intra-workout carb with me, usually a pack of a sour Haribos, to boost up my energy when fatigue hits and/or when I feel depleted and still have more training to do. Intra-workout carbs is something that I started this year and it has been a great addition as my body relies more on carbs for energy. The harder and more intense my training sessions are, the more my body needs carbs for immediate fuel. It also helps with the recovery process and reduces mental fatigue.
Rest & Recovery Days
On these days, I like to eat a lot of the same things that I would eat on power and SBD days. I still start my mornings with water but I’ll have oatmeal with chia seeds and mixed berries. If it is the weekends, I’ll switch out my oatmeal with some cereal (usually Special K- high in fibre) or I’ll have scrambled eggs mixed with mushrooms, spinach and bell peppers with avocado toast topped with salmon. I treat rest and recovery days with the same importance or even more importance than my training days because the recovery process ensures that I can perform better the following weeks. I really try to hit all the dietary things that I need such as carbs, protein, fat, and fibre for muscle building.
The best way to discover what works for you is by keeping a food journal. I track my meals on MyFitnessPal. I like to keep note of how specific type of food that I ate made me feel and how it affected my performance. I find that keeping a food journal is one the best tools to learn how your body operates, what foods gives you more energy and makes you feel good, what foods makes you feel lethargic or sick, and the amounts of foods. For example, some powerlifters feel great eating eating a bowl of oatmeal, a breakfast sandwich before they train or compete. I cannot do that as I feel sluggish and my body cannot handle that much food first thing in the morning. What you eat before you train for optimal performance is very individualised. There is no one-method-works-for-all because we are all different.
Tips To Perform At Your Best
I’m going to give you a bullet point version because who doesn’t love them:
- Get a food journal and experiment what works for you
- Always drink a glass of water before any other beverage when you first wake up in the mornings
- Have a good night’s rest
- Be open to change and redirection
What do you think about the idea of keeping a food journal? Is this something that you would try doing? Drop your thoughts below in the comments. Make sure to check out my Instagram page for more ‘What I Eat In A Day’ Reels! You can also check out more diet, health and nutrition posts under the ‘Health’ tab on the blog!
Until next time,