Morning training / breakfast / blood sugar

I like to train before work during the week, usually I’ll start my ride around 6-630am. I finish eating breakfast around 30min prior to the ride. Breakfast is green tea w/honey, oats with banana, honey, almondmilk almondbutter.

I notice that as the ride starts I feel like i’m having low blood sugar or a general light headedness for maybe the first hour and then things settle out and i feel better and can execute the workout no problem. I do drink about 40g carb/hour of drink mix for rides 2hr and less. 2hr or more i’ll try to consume 60-90g of carb / hour.

Any ideas how to eliminate this feeling of sugar drop on early morning rides that you dont have time to allow your breakfast to digest?

I’m not willing to take up at 4am just so my food has more digestion time.

You can try:

  • Have breakfast earlier
  • eat less
    Both options are to prevent blood going to your stomach instead of your legs and head.

For a long slow ride these options should be fine. For hitt, stick to the first option.

I would actually eliminate the larger, more complex breakfast and consume some simple carbohydrate 10min before starting. You may find that you avoid that sinking feeling for the first hour!

From what I’ve read, finishing your meal 30 minutes before starting the workout falls in that area where you are more likely to experience that blood sugar drop.

Anecdotally, as a morning exerciser, I typically eat 2 bagels in the morning (80-100g of carbs total depending on brand) then start drinking my carb drink mix as soon as I get on the bike. Typically my bagels and coffee are consumed about 45 minutes before I start my ride.

As already mentioned, I would try changing the composition of the carbs you consume to a faster carb source, and if you don’t want to wake up earlier, try consuming right before starting. Maybe try a gel within 10 minutes of getting on the bike, and try upping the carbs in the bottle to make up for the carbs not ingested through breakfast.

It was mentioned on another podcast that eating and exercise both trigger a response to start using energy stores. In simple terms it’s triggering a double response and putting you in that hole quicker than just doing one of the two.

Will try find the link. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts over the year while driving to the real office, and back.

For me, eating that many carbs including a lot of glucose & fructose (honey) is guaranteed me a slump in 30 minutes, and beyond. The insulin produced to deal with the honey not only forces glucose from blood into fat stores, but actively prevents fat being used as a fuel source for some time (hours). That means you might be riding on your drinks for a while before the complex carbs (oats, banana) are usable (and you could still have high circulating insulin which continues its work of putting excess glucose from the oats and banana into fat stores).

I would try dropping the honey but keeping everything else the same, and see how that goes.

That should have read ‘The insulin produced to deal with the honey not only forces glucose from blood into tissues, but actively prevents fat being used as a fuel source for some time (hours).’

Hi @Marco_Stefano , welcome to the forum.
A question about your post: ‘force glucose into tissues’ and ‘prevent fat from being used as fuel’ seem to be in contrast with each other. Can you elaborate on how that works?
My interpretation of your statement is that it is ‘double bad’ to consume suger right before exercising.

Hi kjeldbontenbal, thanks for the welcome.
It’s two sides of the same coin, really. Insulin is produced to maintain blood glucose levels at a certain level (by getting excess glucose out of the blood into tissues, including muscles and fat). Since producing more glucose from fat stores would then be a bad thing, it also suppresses the use of fat as an energy source. And since you have plenty of glucose available (as you have just stored loads for quick use), it suppresses the use of fat for a while.
Individuals are more or less sensitive to insulin; more insulin-resistant individuals need to produce more insulin to effect the same drop in blood glucose, and that insulin circulates at a higher level for longer. Whether consuming sugar right before exercising is bad depends on you. Personally, I appear to be relatively insulin-resistant, so simple sugars (like a can of Coke) make me crash in 30 mins, and put on weight (through storage as fat and suppression of fat use), so I eat lower carbs / higher fat & protein. I currently scull or row in the mornings for 1 - 1.5 hours fasted (doing steady state, HR 140-ish, or intervals) and refuel at lunchtime, and seem to have no problem doing this, but then I’m not a roadie…
I wondered if Mtwinste had a similar experience, and whether just eating more complex carbs (oats) and fat (almond milk & butter) would improve things early in his ride, running on fats and glycogen to keep blood glucose (and insulin levels) more stable from breakfast to early in the ride. Does that make sense?

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Thanks for elaborating. I understand now what you mean.
I recognise the 30 min dip and can prevent it by taking less sugar. So raising blood sugar a little bit seems beneficial if you start a HIT training. It seems counter productive for an endurance workout where fat utilisation is required (i experience the same: taking sugar does not lead to fat loss / fat oxydation) they way it should do.

this morning i only had oats, banana, almond butter and tea with no honey and had steady energy levels so thanks for all the tips. I’m cutting out all honey except for AFTER big rides in the carb window

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Glad it worked for you, Mtwinste; it’s a very individual thing so you have to work out what is right for you and your training.

START rowers (young potential GB rowers) based at our club did the same after outings, eating within 15-20 minutes of landing to push carbs back into depleted glycogen stores (as they would probably have another session that day, possibly in a couple of hours). They used to eat things like Mars bars before going to the local supermarket cafe for their second breakfast as otherwise it would be difficult to get enough calories in…