My experiment was more of an inspiration. After I read Bob’s most recent blog about his early morning run and the “big wait” for biological hunger cues during his long run, I was inspired to alter my pre-run nutrition for a day to see what would happen.
I’m actually on the other side from Bob when it comes to early morning training sessions. I LOVE ‘em. Okay, maybe I don’t LOVE them, but I really, really like them. I’m up at 5am most days of the week and am training between 6-6:30am. Because of the time gap between wake and train, I usually consume a UCAN SuperStarch powder mixed with 8 oz water about 45 minutes prior to a higher intensity or endurance training session.
I woke up at 5am and on this day, I had some speed work scheduled with my ladies’ group: after warmup, run 10 x 2 minutes of hard efforts with 1 minute recovery periods. Granted, this training session was much different in intensity and duration than what Bob did, but I wanted to test the same thing... what would my true biological hunger level be if I went out without any food? And how would I feel during my run?
I’ll be honest - I was nervous driving to the trailhead. I’m so used to my ‘special sauce’ as my friends call it. Was I feeling hungry though? There was a touch of something there, but it was not true hunger signs as I know them. I headed out at 6:30a for the warm up and then we hit the trail hard to begin our intervals. I started conservatively for fear I might bonk early on. Then I thought, why should I hold back? I’ve been eating metabolically efficient for quite some time. Let’s put this to the test. Interval after interval, my pace times improved. I wrapped up the workout with a 6:20 pace feeling strong. I was not immediately hungry, but felt more thirsty than anything. As I drove to the gym for a shower, I felt the biological hunger kick in. For me, that means loud gut noises! I did eat my breakfast (cottage cheese, blueberries, cinnamon) which was about 3.25 hours after I had gotten up.
So what does this mean to me? First, I think it’s a good idea to check in on the habitual eating we do, even if the habit surrounds our training. This training session consisted of harder efforts, but it was relatively short and I felt strong throughout. I didn’t have a second training session scheduled, so there was not really a performance need for me to fuel ahead of time. This was a good check in for me to reassess true morning hunger and pre-workout fueling needs. Secondly, I echo Bob’s comments...we can improve our metabolic efficiency through nutrition changes, once we first break free from what we have been historically told (i.e. “you gotta eat lots of carbs to keep your energy!”). It is amazing to see and feel the many ways in which this efficiency affects our abilities and goals.
Dina Griffin, MS, RD