Early morning workout fuel & Healthy Cookie Recipe

I used to be one of those people who had to eat immediately upon waking and could barely workout without my normal breakfast but a couple years ago I started getting up and on the bike trainer at home for 30-60 minutes at 430am and it went okay, easy but it woke me up. Running was a different story, I rarely ran in the morning because somehow the treadmill nearly kills me before 7am more than usual and getting outside before 5am is short lived around here. When I did run I made it about 30 minutes and was without energy and starving. Last Spring I started the regular morning spin, then boot camp and some running and it has gotten easier but I always wonder if I could have a better, stronger workout with some fuel.

I first want to note I am not talking about long workouts here which is is much different issue. Instead these are the early morning crawl out of bed and go workouts of maybe 60-90 minutes at most.

Sometimes I find myself grabbing a small handful of GF pretzels or granola on my way out the door or at most a small breakfast cookie if I have one but nothing more. Barely enough to do more than calm the acid in my stomach. I decided to research this topic and surprise there is a lack of evidence to support either fasting morning workouts or fueling and what that fuel should be. I did find the following recommendations:

-Eat your regular morning meal of ~400 calories with a combination of protein and carbs. (This is my long run plan, but I am not waking up at 4am for a 5:30 spin class!)

-Eat a small snack: banana, protein shake, glass of milk, handful of nuts. (My common practice)

-Grab water for the workout and go, no eating before hand just refuel afterwards. (Or sometimes this)

So what is the answer? Once again another fitness decision one needs to experiment with. Then trying to find that happy balance between enough to fuel but not too much to cause sloshing in the belly or feeling too full. 

Do you eat before an early morning workout? Does it matter cardio vs strength? Do you feel sluggish if you don't eat?

Since I mentioned my breakfast cookies I figured I could share the latest recipe O and I made last week, this is my 3 year old’s idea of a cookie! Also the perfect sweet snack for those taking on the sugar free challenge next week J

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 

2 bananas mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup Nut Butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup Oats

1/2 cup buckwheat or WW flour if not gluten free
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins

Mix wet ingredients together, then add dry. Drop by spoonfulls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 350 for 10-12 minutes Makes 2 dozen small cookies


  1. For shorter runs I usually grab a banana. And sometimes I don't eat anything at all. For longer runs I always eat a waffle with peanut butter or some kind of protein bar. Those cookies look amazing! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. I do feel sluggish if I don't eat and usually wake up starving. I probably would be fine doing some strength work before eating, but my runs usually suffer. I imagine it would just take some getting used to:)

  3. Well I have yet to master getting up early early and working out (really need to I would benefit from it vs waiting until nighttime). But when I have early morning races if they are a short distance I usually don't eat anything my nerves are all out of whack. My half marathon I ate a half a bagel and was ok until we got done.

  4. Yum... I think I need to make those cookies to replace my Clif bars before a run!

  5. I get up at 4:45 and out for my run at 5. Nothing to eat. I run 3 miles or so and then come home and do some sort or strength video. Then coffee. By then the kids are up and maybe around lunch I find time to eat. Long runs I eat as soon as I get home. Anything longer than 6 miles and I take a bar with me.

  6. Thanks for the recipe. At least once I week I go run with a group at 5 am and I am always sluggish because I don't have any fuel in my body. I am thinking if I have these cookies on hand and eat one before I go out, it might help make the early runs better.

  7. My understanding is that simple carbohydrates have a quick energy release and are good right before your run as long as they have time to digest. The energy in complex carbohydrates is slow release, and if you have eaten plenty of them the day before you should have enough stored energy to tide you over an average early morning run. I don't run early though so haven't tested this!
    All I know is I wake up hungry and need to eat immediately make my stomach happy - and those cookies would make it very happy!

  8. I used to go on an empty stomach and I was fine, but that changed when I was pregnant, and now I'm in the habit of eating half a banana with pb, even if it's just 15 minutes before I'm out the door, and feel strong on that. Yummy recipe!

  9. I used to work out all the time on an empty stomach but now that I am running, I just don't feel that I'm able to perform as well without it. I may start making my smoothies and take it with me. Perhaps a little will get me going and I can finish the rest when I'm done.

    I saw a similar recipe on Facebook last night. I was going to try it until I noticed someone had bought sweetened apple sauce. Grr!

  10. I actually wait to eat when I get back from running. (it forces the body to burn the fat calories more, and this works for me since I am working on weightloss). But then the key is to eat 200-300 calories within 20 min of my run (otherwise it can do the reverse effect on the body). I got the idea from Runners World last year and spoke to my Dr. It's really hard on longer runs, but you get used to it. Then when I do eat before a run (like a race) it's kind of amazing at the additional energy it produces. I like it! - Thanks for the cookie recipe!!!

  11. The only time I have to eat before working out seems to be long runs. Otherwise it doesn't feel necessary which works well considering I don't have time to eat before working out in the morning before work.

    I'm going to try your cookie recipe this weekend minus the coconut :)

  12. i totally have to eat a light snack that is rich in protein and carbs in order for me to do a good workout otherwise i get so dizzy and tired. i tried not eating once just to see if it made a difference and i almost quit halfway through my workout.

  13. Your cookie look great! Thanks for linking up at Gluten Free Fridays. I find that if I get up and have a small drink of water and work out asap I am okay and have energy, however if I wait an hour or so without eating anything and workout, I don't have as much energy :)

  14. I definitely need to make some of those cookies - looks delicious!

    Pre-pregnancy, I would run without eating in the morning, usually for 60 to 80 minutes, and it didn't bother me to eat afterwards. Now I try to sneak out the door at 5 am before my 2 month old son and husband are up, but I'm STARVING in the morning! Breastfeeding has made me just more hungry in general, but I haven't found that "perfect fuel" for morning runs now. Quick oats with some raisins and 1/2 of an apple sliced up has been my best option so far...

    Thanks for sharing the recipe - maybe I could eat one of those cookies in the morning before my run ;)

    1. I remember those days of breastfeeding and marathon training, yikes I was nonstop hungry!


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