Training 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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