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Eating before a workout can be challenging as a firefighter, especially on duty. You can have the best intentions, until the tones drop during your first set. Having a snack before your workout can boost the intensity and duration of the workout. This article will break down quick ideas for eating before morning and evening workouts.
Early Morning Workouts
Eating before a 6am or earlier-than-usual workout can be a challenge. Many firefighters do not feel like eating within an hour of waking. Contrary to popular belief, exercising fasted or skipping a snack pre-workout does not increase fat burn. However, skipping out on food can impact the intensity of your workout. Eating before may help you push harder and longer, improving your results.
If you’re exercising within an hour of waking up, aim for 300-400 calories with an emphasis on carbohydrates. These also work during lineup if your shift tends to workout after engine check outs. This can include:
If you cannot stomach solid food first thing in the morning, consider 6-8 ounces of orange juice or sports drink. Avoid too much fat, fiber, or protein pre-workout. This can cause stomach discomfort.
As for hydration, don’t forget to drink at least 8-16 oz of water prior to your workout. Sports drink or juice count towards this fluid goal.
Note that pre-workout energy supplements are not recommended due to the high level of caffeine and potential side effects. Coffee or tea is the preferred caffeine source. If you must do a pre-workout drink, try to keep the caffeine under 200 mg in a sitting. If your energy levels are still low, consider eating before or working on your sleep habits.
How to Know if Your Breakfast is Not Working for You
If you feel hungry or have low energy during your workout, consider working with a sports dietitian to schedule out your meals to optimize your energy levels during your workout.
The pre-workout nutrition composition for evening workouts doesn’t change much. The focus is still on carbohydrates. If you had a meal within 2-3 hours of your workout, you may not need to eat before. If it has been over 3 hours, consider adding a carbohydrate based snack within 30 minutes. This can include:
Any of the breakfast options mentioned above work as well. Stay tuned next month for ideas on what to eat post-workout!
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F
Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.