It’s 6.00am, my brain feels muddled. I’ve got an hour and a half until I teach my first class and so i need to get my session in before then. Training early in the mornings is hard, though. How do you balance fuelling these workouts with sleep, my schedule, and life in general?
An introduction to supplements
Everyone has heard of training supplements; ones to get you ripped like a bodybuilder, ones to to strip away fat, ones to make you workout like Arnie, etc., etc. If you have even hinted at being into training and fitness on Facebook then I’m sure, like me, your feed becomes dominated with sponsored ads for whey protein this, and pre-workout that.
It can all be a bit confusing!
I was first introduced to supplements when I was training with Fitter London, a kettlebell group in London who first got me properly into fitness, nutrition and wanting to become a personal trainer. Fitter London has evolved into Fitter Food, an incredible online community and support group for top level but everyday nutrition and training.
It might seem odd that two people who are so psyched for nutrition and eating properly would be into supplements but it was through their knowledge and experience that I first started to understand the term supplement.
They believe, and taught me, the best nutrition comes from real foods and, if you can, you should always go down that route. However, this is not always possible and this is where supplements really excel. The secret is in the name, they are meant to supplement your daily food intake, not replace it.
My experience with supplements has been limited to pre- and post-training with BCAAs and protein powders as well as gels and energy foods for long runs and mountain days. I’m going to write a separate piece on eating for long runs and mountain days, watch this space!
Fasted training and the impact on my training
Since working in London, I’ve always preferred training early in the morning. I like to get up, get straight to training, then feel good all days as a result. I have found that a little harder out here in Chamonix, but have been getting back into the rhythm.
Training early has its problems, however. After a good night’s sleep, if you want to train at 6am it has been 10-12 hours since you last ate, that is a long time! I’ve tried eating in the morning, pre-workout, but anything less than 2 hours before and I just feel sick throughout the whole session. I once saw an article about Hugh Jackman training for Wolverine and, to allow him to train at the intensity he needed and to consume enough calories, he needed to wake up at 4am to eat, go back to sleep then wake at 6am to train. No thank you.
For a long time I just got on with it, I would maybe eat a banana and that was it. I would train as hard as my body would allow and it just was what it was. Down the line, though, I started looking into pre-workout supplements and was introduced to BCAAs – or branch chain amino acids. These are, in short, the building blocks to protein and muscles, feeding the muscles just what they need to not just grow but avoid any catabolic process in your muscles – making you lose mass – but help you gain muscle when maybe you aren’t getting the protein elsewhere.
I don’t believe in magic pills, and I don’t know how much of the impact was placebo, but I certainly noticed a difference and found that I could train at full intensity early in the morning when previously I would have crashed and burned.
Recently, I have been sent to review the new Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy to try out and see how it impacts and affects my training. This is slightly different to my normal pre-workout routine, that consists of a coffee and pure BCAAs, as it already has caffeine in it. I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine these days and so can’t do both. I’m not 100% decided on this as I do love a morning coffee but I have found Amino Energy to be really effective, giving me an early morning boost as well as the fuel I need to get through a tough, early morning strength session. With a whole host of fruity flavours, the watermelon is the nicest first thing, for me, but there is something for everyone!
I am, also, pretty keen to try it out in the mountains with running and on climbs as the combination of fuel and caffeine would work great. However, I’ve just not been out on any long days recently!
One of the most frequent questions I get from my clients is ‘Should I take a protein shake after training?’ I almost always simply say ‘Yes!’. When i am working with clients on a one-to-one basis, we track their eating using apps like MyFitnessPal (check it out, as it is very useful!) and what is always clear is, people aren’t eating enough protein.
I try to consume a little over 1g of protein per kilogram body weight per day – so about 80g-90g per day – for women this is a little lower, and I’ll be honest, I struggle. I eat eggs, I eat lean meats (I also eat not so lean meats but.. hey!), and I find natural sources of protein where I can. However, it can be tough and I think a protein shake is a great way to reach my daily goals.
On top of that, timing is very important to nutritional intake. The 45 minutes after your training session is sometimes called the Anabolic Window, your body has lots of energy and the muscles you have trained are all broken down, and now is the time to start rebuilding fast as well as replenishing glycogen stores. This means you need both protein – the key recovery and muscle building component – and carbohydrates – where glycogen, or muscle fuel derives.
I like to get my protein in fast with a shake and aim to drink a shake with 15 minutes of working out. After that, I give myself a maximum of 1 hour to eat a proper meal that continues to provide protein but now also carbohydrates and fat – I love scrambled eggs, avocado, and tomatoes on toast for this!
As with all nutritional products, there are hundreds out there and I have tried MyProtein, The Organic Protein Company, among others. Along with sampling the Amino Energy, I have been trying out ON’s Gold Standard Whey Protein powder too. They are not always very palatable but, in cookies and cream flavour, it might be sweet for some but it hits my sweet tooth perfectly!
Learning as I go
I still feel like I have a very long way to go in fully understanding how my body works and responds to training and nutrition but one thing is clear, when I do think about it and put the homework in, I train better, work harder, and see the results I’m working towards. I have come a long way but know I have far from got it all dialled.
What are you training nutrition routines?
Do you take supplements?
Thank you to Optimum Nutrition for sending me samples and letting me try out their awesome products!