Some Tips For Those Who Train Early in the Morning


gsp_280x390_417940a1Training first thing in the morning is never going to be ideal. In a perfect world you’d be up for a few hours so that you give your body temperature a chance to get elevated and get the fluid moving that has settled in your discs overnight.

But we don’t live in a perfect world and a lot of people have to train first thing in the morning or they’ll never get their workouts done. If that describes you I have some advice that could help you out.

First of all you really need to be awake for an hour before squatting or deadlifting heavy. Let’s assume you’re going to train at 6am. You get up at five, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom and take a hot shower.

A hot shower is a must before heavy early morning sessions. Even though you’re going to have to shower again before going to work you should still go for the double. It will make for a better, safer workout.

To Eat or Not to Eat

With only an hour to spare eating is a toss up. As long as you feasted and replenished your glycogen stores with a decent amount of carbs the night before you should be fine with no food. But don’t train completely fasted.

After you finish your coffee have ten grams of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). This will prevent any potential muscle loss during the workout.

THIS is the brand I use and recommend.

By the time you brush your teeth, shower, make coffee and drive to the gym you should be closing in on an hour. If not you will be by the time you get half way through your warm up.

Safety Considerations

For early morning training I’d recommend an extra long warm up. Jump rope or even walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike for 3-5 minutes just to get some blood flowing then progress into your dynamic warm up.

When it comes to training I’d like to share one idea that I use with some of my clients who have to train at the crack of dawn but are also slightly beat up guys who are north of 35. Normally I recommend doing glute hams or some type of bodyweight leg curl variation before squatting. This was something I picked up from Louie Simmons years ago.

Something you can consider doing if you are injury prone and training at the crack of dawn is not only doing hamstring work before your squats or deadlift variations but also doing your single leg squatting movements or heavy sled pushing before the big barbell lifts like squats or deads.

So you might do a couple sets of glute hams then move on to a few sets of rear foot elevated split squats and THEN squat. Your quads and hamstrings will be pre-fatigued from the previous two exercises, which will necessitate a reduction in weight. Since you are trying to stay safe that’s a good thing. And remember that it’s all relative.

If you would normally squat 225 for ten but that goes down to 185 for ten because you’re doing them third instead of first all that matters is that you get that 185 up. If you increase that to 205 it would be the same as increasing the 225, when done first, to 245. You’ll adapt and get used to it over time.

Post Workout Nutrition

After training I’d go with some protein powder and fruit or a jar of sweet potato baby food. As I’ve been saying for over a decade, it’s not essential that you have the fastest acting carbs or protein right after training. It doesn’t matter. You just want something to stop the catabolic (muscle loss) effects of training and to prevent any possible immune system suppression. Increased protein synthesis or anabolism (muscle building) at this time aren’t huge concerns; it’s just supplement company marketing hype.

So you can go with straight whey, a blend or even hemp protein. It won’t make any difference.

As far as carbs and glycogen replenishment go that’s over hyped as well. Some fruit or sweet potato baby food will be fine. As long as you feast at night as per Renegade Diet rules you’ll have all the fuel you need for your next workout. Glycogen replenishment is a long process and doesn’t happen immediately in two hours after you train.

I wouldn’t have starchy carbs in the morning because of the detrimental effects they have on energy levels and mental focus. A few hours after your post workout meal you could have another similar meal and continue to do so until your night time Renegade Diet feast.

Summary

To recap, if you’re training first thing in the morning:

1)    You should ideally be awake for an hour before your workout starts.
2)    A hot shower is a must
3)    A hot beverage like organic, mycotoxin-free black coffee or green tea is also a must
4)    Eating is not necessary
5)    Taking ten grams of BCAA before your workout is
6)    Do an extra long warm up
7)    Consider placing big lifts later in your routine for safety purposes
8)    Have some protein and fruit after
9)    Continue with similar meals throughout the day
10)     Feast at night

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46 Responses to Some Tips For Those Who Train Early in the Morning

  1. Dani June 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Wish I had known some of this when I used to train heavy in the morning! So if I were to eat 1st thing what would be some of the best things to eat? because like you said, I’ve found from personal experience carbs like oats are no good!

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:09 am #

      @Dani- something really easy to digest like eggs.

  2. Tony June 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Great article, and I typically train in the morning. One question though. I am following the RD Diet and if the day before my morning training is a non training day, I am not eating any carbs other than a large salad and vegis. Would this be a problem if I trained fasted (with coffee and BCAAs)?

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      @Tony- I’d still hit some carbs in that meal the night before.

  3. Tom F June 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Jason,

    What if I’m a really hard gainer that must train early AM? I took your hard gainer advice. I take 10g BCAA 30m prior and I sip a whey/dextrose/waxy maize shake with carb:protein amounts and ratio you suggested. Then I continue my fast until early afternoon and move into other phases per Renegade Diet. Is all this optimal, or should I be doing some things differently?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      @Tom F- have protein and rilose (rice dextose) during training and some more after. Then eat a big meal within an hour or two. Do not fast. “Really hardgainer” and “fast” do not belong in the same sentence.

      • Tom F June 14, 2013 at 10:42 am #

        Jason,

        Thanks for response. Currently I sip an 80g/40g carb/protein shake during workout (I am 5’9″ 160 lb soccer player). So apparently I should eat/drink more protein/carbs after workout and eat meal with P/F/C somewhat soon afterward too.

        The reason I was fasting is because my goal is fully visible ripped six pack and zero obvious fat (a straight “V”) by Aug 1st. Currently abs are visible but still have tiny amount bf at the absurdly difficult suprailiac area (I’m at 6-8% bf per BIA and it’s still there.) Too many years of wearing jocks maybe.

        I am I correct in assuming that the bodyfat goal will not be an issue if I drop the fasts because I’m doing your MGS workouts (w/2-3 days of hardcore HIIT) so I’m burning plenty of calories & fat?

        Thanks,
        Tom

        Ps. Friggin love your stuff Jason. I was floundering around with poor results before I found them (doing different, wrong-headed programs). Now I feel phenomenal and have it all dialed in. I eat lightnin’ and crap thunder. You are the GOAT bro.

  4. Koosh June 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Thanks bro- look at you looking out for me!

  5. Matt June 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Great article – as I have to be at work at 7am and my body feels stiff and I’m also not very hungry when waking up at 445 in the morning. I find it near impossible to feel warm enough to lift heavy amounts of weight that early in the morning (thank God I only have to work three days a week). You’re spot on about the prolonged warm ups. I usually use these days to get my circuits in only going at 85% of my max weight.

  6. John Smith June 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    What is up with that guy at the trap bar? Who photo shopped that picture? Look at his shorts on his waist line.

  7. Travis June 13, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    Hey Jason why does everyone recommend 10 grams of BCAA’S. Where did that number come from? I’ve always wondered that. Why 10 why not 5 or 15. Just curious

    • Dani June 17, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      I wonder too as I am sure most products say take it in 5g instalments

  8. Kaptin Kirk June 14, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    Thanks for this mate. The only time I’ve been able to train for the past 9 months is 5:30am and I absolutely love being up this time in the morning -such a brilliant start to the day! But I have noticed some mornings I’m much more limited than others and this explains why very well. I think I’m going to need to train later in the day if I want to take it to the next level though… Your articles are always so concise and direct – I love it! Thanks for all your efforts it’s very much appreciated!

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      @Kaptin Kirk- Thanks man

    • P. June 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      I noticed the same thing when training this early in the morning. I felt weak during the workout too many times, so I moved my workouts to the evenings whenever I could.

  9. Kees June 14, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    My estrogene levels are too high. I haven’t taken hemp protein and hemp seeds after your tweet in March: ‘Some evidence linking hemp protein to increased estrogen levels. To be safe I’d limit it’s consumption.’

    I hope you will share your knowledge on hemp with me. Could I still take it? Which evidence are you referring to?

    Thank you Jason.

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      @Kees- this has proven to be untrue. Or at least inconclusive.

      • Kees June 14, 2013 at 8:42 am #

        Thank you Jason! Good news. I really like high fiber hemp protein in my diet.

  10. Luís Nabais June 14, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    Hello.

    I don’t like suplements of any kind. Do you have any advice for any kind of substitute for BCAAs in the morning?

    I usually fast and workout in the morning without eating anything (or a very light meal), or workout at the end of the day, after ending fast.

    Thanks a lot

    • Jason Ferruggia June 14, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      @Luis- There’s really no substitute for BCAA’s

  11. George June 14, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Thanks for the informative posting. I pretty much already follow this, and works well. I tend to just not eat on my non-lifting days, so that is essentially a 20-24 hour fast starting after dinner the night before. What’s your view of this type of fast as it relates to maintaining muscle during a cut and as it relates to building muscle during a slow-bulk? I’m a 42 yo male in good shape, eat 1-2 grams of protein/pound of body weight on all days, and trying to cut down to a good set of abs. Thanks!

  12. Jocelyn June 14, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    Looks like your recommendations are primarily for heavy lifting in the morning. What are your thoughts and suggestions on splitting workouts where cardio is done in the morning and weight training later in the afternoon/early evening, especially for women?

  13. Jav June 14, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for the info on post-workout nutrition. It’s pretty refreshing to read you don’t necessarily have to eat tons of carbs afterwards. I always slammed the carbs after training based on the nutrition advice you hear EVERYWHERE, in order to replenish glycogen levels blah blah blah. I was never even hungry when I did this and in a weird way kind of took away from that intense feeling I had after finishing a workout, if that makes sense. I hate feeling weighed down in my gut. I’ve always had digestive problems as well.

    Recently, I’ve just decided to eat instinctively and listen to my body, and I don’t eat post-workout until I start feeling a slight hunger pang. Usually this happens about one hour later, so I then have a light meal of kefir and fruit or something, and hunger disappears. Then a couple of hours later, same thing I eat light, and keep going until I’m real hungry and craving a complete meal. So in essence I’ve been eating this way, which resembles the Warrior Diet and what you just described. I love eating instinctively and not according to someone else’s rules!

    • Dani June 17, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      I haven’t been having carb for years post workout really (unless its in my shake) I don’t know what Jason. Thinks of this bit I tend to eat lots of protein post workout for my muscles. Usually eggs or a lean shake, i not both within the hour window.

  14. Colt June 14, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I sprint in the morning either with a sled or in the sand or uphill and usually I just have coffee before. Do you think I should include the bcaas too because I thought that would put a stop to fat burning. However I don’t want to burn off any muscle and I sprint all out as fast as I can. What you think?

  15. Ala Hunter June 14, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I do cardio in the morning, I lift in the evening, is that a problem? What should I replenish with afterwards? I understand I’m still “fasting” during that time.

  16. colt June 14, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    also, would a tablespoon of coconut milk and a scoop of protein mixed to the coffee be pretty much the same as taking bcaas?

  17. Wilco June 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for the great advice Jason, i will be doing things differently from tomorrow morning.

  18. Ala Hunter June 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I do Insanity in the mornings, I am clearly awake by 5, and train by 6am.. then start work right afterwards, Wheatgrass, and start on my gallon of water (I work at the Air Force Mortuary so I only have 1 day off, and I may not be able to workout in the evening so I try to get that in to burn fat) and weight train in the evenings if possible and not too late after work.. would you consider me doing to much, as I am doing my best to follow the diet? My goal is to lose the excess fat, I see my abs, I’m just tightening. I read about the BCAA, and coffee in your book, so I’m buying after this post.

  19. Steven June 15, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    The morning is the only real time I get to train and have got into my own habits, but, is good to see your recommendations and I think I will try to build some of these into my regime.

  20. Scott Nelson June 15, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks Jay, This answers a whole bunch of nagging questions all in one shot! I would love to work out later in the day, but bottom line, early morning is the only time I can control my schedule and make sure I get my workouts in. I took up your pre workout Mobility and Stability routines about 9 months ago and that has keep me injury free, plus I alway throw in 3 or 4 minutes of movement to make sure I am sweating (takes me about 20 minutes to get ready to lift but at 50 I have found it critical to staying injury free) .

    I love the hot shower advise! And that answers all but one of my nutrition questions.

    I am still guilty of listening to others, so one question I have is my Fatty Coffee, I have a Gaggia Extresso machine that makes a fantasic cup of Americano orgainc coffee then I warm up and add add a spoon full of coconut oil, pad of organic cultured butter and a splash of organic cream to my coffee. Other then at twist I follow Renegade Diet pretty well, it seem to be working as I am getting leaner, but I would love your thoughts on the fatty coffee. Should I stick with it, use it on non workout days, or just foget it?

    Thanks again!
    Scott Nelson

  21. Kevin Striker June 15, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Unfortunately, I fall into the camp of having to train early. Don’t train nearly as heavy as the old days, but heavy enough to make it worth it. Former training partner suggested moving around leg routine like you mentioned so hams and quads get some good blood in them before getting under squat rack. That was a great move as I’d always headed straight to squats. I was stretching lots, just not really warmed up enough.
    Haven’t tried the shower thing though as I’ve always done that after the workout, but gonna give that a try. Thanks for the solid advice – especially on nutrition side.

  22. Rachel T June 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I am a workout on a cup of coffee type person. I know I can get better results but never thought of eating eggs as you suggested to one of the other commenters – thanks for the tip.

  23. Eric Firestone June 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I also have to train in the morning for the next few months. I follow the renegade diet and am currently trying to drop some body fat. Would you still recommend some fruit after I workout and if so what kind?

  24. Dave Pell June 17, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Cheers for the tips Jason. I always head out to the gym straight after waking up in the mornings – never occurred to me to take a hot shower first!

  25. Chris June 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Is there a specific green tea you would recommend pre- workout? Do you prefer the green tea capsules and what brand if you do?

  26. Matt Wilson June 19, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    Awesome tips! You’re right about not eating or drinking much before working out in the morning. I had that mistake in the past and threw up at the gym. I never knew that taking a shower was necessary but since you recommend this , will do this as well. Everything seems accurate and helpful. Good job on this post!

  27. Rich June 24, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    I just feel to weighed down and sluggish if I eat before I train in the morning.

    • Jason Ferruggia June 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      @Rich- You’re not alone. So just go with black coffee and BCAA

  28. Andrew June 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I too fall into the camp of having to train early in the morning. I just get so busy during the day with work and stuff that if I don’t do it then I don’t do it.
    I do spend a lot of time doing warm up though. never considered the pre-workout shower though.

  29. Adam June 30, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Hi Jay,
    You mentioned here training for example at 6am. Is there any difference if I would train at 10 am? I mean in thing such as taking BCAAs, etc.
    Thanks for a great article ;) Greetings from the Czech Republic.

  30. Ricardo July 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    Excellent post and very timely.

    summary was excellent. I’d recommend ending all your posts with a quick summary.

  31. Raas December 14, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Hey Jason thanks for the great article.

    I have got the book and gone through it. My goal is maximal fat loss as I am 19.5% bf. What I couldn’t find an answer to so far was what you recommend meal wise for someone doing some HIIT cardio in the early morning, around 5:30 am, then lifting later on in the day at about 1pm, sometimes at 10am? Should I grab the minimal simple carb meal after the first and the undereating protein and veggie meal after the second workout ? Or do you recommend something else?

    Much appreciated

  32. Gabriel December 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Is there a food option that one can use instead of BCAA? Perhaps a handful of nuts or a boiled egg? My spending priorities are elsewhere right now and I’m not using any supplements at all.