Morning & Pre-Race Nutrition

I was hanging out having breakfast after swim practice the other day with Chris McCormack  & swim pals when our mutual friend Aaron ‘Azza’ Franklin — the internet & marketing genius behind the MaccaX12 video series & online membership community — snapped a couple short videos I thought I would share because I get these questions alot:

“What should I eat in the morning before a workout?”

…and…..

“What should I eat on race day morning?”

Although hopefully helpful, the clips are super short and thus don’t go into much detail.  I have more (comprehensive) videos currently in the cutting bay (stay tuned) but in the interim I thought I would share below a little more detail about my perspective on this issue.

To recap: race day & a.m. training day nutrition is very personal.  What works for me may very well not work for you.  Use your training to do your own research and experimentation.  It took me quite a while to determine what works best for me.  That being said — and in my opinion — you want to eat something nutrient dense; something with some complex carbs; something with healthy fats, Omega-3’s & antioxidants.  Whole foods.  Real foods.

Many people love oatmeal and/or granola first thing.  Not me.  Personally, I find it too heavy, leaving me feeling a bit more lethargic than I would like.  My morning nutrition is generally mostly liquid based — a glass of blended greens and fruit/berries with some almonds, ground flax seed and maybe a small amount of coconut oil.  It’s quickly and easily assimilated, leaving me energized without having to wait out any post-meal slump that comes with your body redirecting resources to break down more difficult foods to digest.

If I am super hungry, I will supplement with some cold quinoa with almond milk, berries, flax seeds (ground) and EFA Oil ( Udo’s is good, and no they don’t sponsor me).  Maybe some gluten free toast with almond butter.  I leave the protein and any protein supplementation to post workout (sorry slow carb folks).

I’m not a big fan of big breakfasts.  If I’m just headed to the pool for a swim, I’ll eat heavier post-swim.  If a long bike is on tap, then I will fuel as I go.  The morning of an Ultraman I’ll obviously eat more, but I don’t stuff myself — GI problems abound when I’m on the rivet and I don’t want to taste that breakfast coming up after it’s gone down the chute.

Then again, I am fairly well “fat adapted”.  What does that mean?  It means that over the course of the season and the years prior, I have done so much aerobic zone 2 training, that my body has become extremely efficient at burning fat for fuel.  Not dietary fat — this does not mean I eat a ton of fat for purposes of burning it — but the fat that is stored throughout my body, which makes for a very efficient source of fuel on a long day when the body is properly trained to make maximum use of it.  And when it’s a long day that means most of the training will be in the aerobic zone.  In other words, the more fat adapted you become (via training, not diet), the more “efficient” you become in your training & racing.  This doesn’t happen overnight.  And it’s far less a function of what you eat than a result of putting in a ridiculous amount of training time over many years – it’s about patience.  A couple years ago, I couldn’t run more than an hour without bringing nutrition with me.  Now I can easily run over two hours before my body feels the need for additional calories.  The point is that fat adaptation, over time, renders you less dependent upon the pre-workout meal for purposes of performance, particularly in training.

It’s not a license to not eat – it just means you are harder pressed to bonk should you under-fuel.

In any event, here is a typical morning routine for me:

  • PRE-WORKOUT VITAMIX BLEND: drink 12-16 oz. & thermos the remainder for later in the day
  • 2-3 kale leaves
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 beet & beet greens
  • 2 tbspns hemp seeds
  • 1 tbspn ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbspn coconut oil
  • 16 ounces filtered water or coconut water

This blend is not the “be-all-end-all” — more often than not my smoothie will be dictated by what we have in the fridge and pantry.  I try not to be too rigid.  But I always begin with dark leafy greens – that’s a must for me.  Second up is beets, mostly for their endurance boosting properties.  Then comes fruit.  Last up are the superfoods — stuff like chia seeds, hemp seeds, acai, cordyceps, maca powder, camu, etc.  All that stuff is great — and I use a lot of it — but I consider it the icing on the cake.  Let’s get the food right first and use the superfoods to put the cap on a proper pyramid.  Why?  because superfoods aren’t going to do much for you if you are subsisting on a poor diet.  But when everything else is dialed in, then it’s like a turbocharger.

Most days, the above is plenty.  But If I am feeling overly fatigued, particularly hungry or heading out for a huge day (a race or a very long bike or run), I’ll add a slice or two of gluten free (or sprouted grain) toast with almond butter and/or a bowl of cold quinoa with blackberries, blueberries and/or strawberries.  For an added caloric punch, a teaspoon of Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil on top.

For those interested in learning more about the specifics of what I eat and why, check the appendices of Finding Ultra* — copious amounts of information there on the hows and whys of eating PlantPowered.  For recipes, check out our Jai Seed eCookbook– a 77+ page download chocked full of the recipes & blends that fuel my training and feed my family.  Don’t have a Vitamix yet but want one? Click the banner ad on the homepage of this site for free shipping or simply click HERE.

By the way, if you haven’t checked it out already, check out Macca’s MX12 site & program.  It’s great stuff — Chris & Azza are building a really cool online community with some excellent premium content.  case in point – Macca & crew was over at our house today to film a segment on yoga for athletes — one of my favorite subjects.  I’m in the early phases of putting together a similar online membership program, so stay tuned for details.  I want to continue to provide great premium content to you beyond the free podcast, so let me know in the comments below what you would like me to focus on.

What do you guys eat before a big day?  What is your favorite morning blended smoothie?  Leave a comment below!

Postscript: thanks so much for the continued support for the podcast .  We’re barely 4 months into this little half-baked experiment and already inching up on half a million downloads already, which blows my mind.  It’s been a bit since the last episode but I have some great guests coming up soon and it will be back on track with 2 episodes per week going forward.  If you have been enjoying it, we’d love it if you would take a moment to leave a nice review on the iTunes page — means a lot!  Haven’t listened yet?  What are you waiting for?  Subscribe Now!

Final plug: Very excited to announce that the paperback version of Finding Ultra* drops on May 21, but you can pre-order now.  So for those of you who have been waiting, or who didn’t want to pay for the hardcover, you can get your paws on the paperback for just a little over $10 on Amazon.  Pre-orders help me a lot with Amazon rankings, which influence bookseller orders, so if you are thinking of picking it up — Father’s Day is coming up! — pulling the trigger now would be a huge support to to the PlantPower Revolution!

For those of you overseas, the book will be soon translated into Polish, Slovenian and Chinese.  Why these languages and not spanish, german and french?  Who knows. Anyway, pretty cool.

In gratitude,

Rich

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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