Today is for all the early birds who like to get their training sessions in before work…
The question is, what impact does skipping breakfast actually have on strength performance?
We know that carbohydrates drive exercise performance and overall work capacity, so you would expect going ‘carbohydrate free’ before your morning session would worsen your ability to perform.
Well, does it actually?
Naharudin et al (2020) recruited 22 trained men to investigate how this impacts squat and bench press performance.
Each of the 22 men completed a 4x10RM squat and bench press under three settings:
1) No breakfast, just water.
2) Carbohydrate drink (1.5g/kg = approx. 120g for an 80kg guy).
3) A placebo that had the same viscosity as the carb drink, but contained nearly zero calories (~29kcal).
Every participant consumed each ‘breakfast’ on 3 separate occasions, 2 hours before testing. As you would imagine, a carb rich breakfast/drink before testing would improve performance over water alone…which it did.
But what’s super interesting is that the viscous placebo drink that contained next to zero energy yielded the same back squat and bench press performance.
It’s worth noting that greater differences were seen in the back squat (1st exercise) when compared to bench press (2nd exercise).
This suggests that consuming something before your AM strength sessions are more psychological as opposed to physiological/metabolic.
When they measured subjective hunger and fullness, the water only ‘meal’ scored worst, where the zero calorie placebo and carb drink scored very similar (and better).
Therefore suggesting that feeling full and satiated as opposed to ‘empty’ could have an impact on strength. Or the fact that you know carbs improve performance, and you’ll automatically feel weak if you don’t eat before – a nocebo effect perhaps?
By all means, this is true for the first exercise and perhaps less so for the second, but what would happen if they did 5 or 6 exercises? Plus, if athletes had another session in the afternoon, how would reducing carbs in the AM impact PM performance? Badly I’d suspect.
From this study, It suggests having something (not necessarily carbs) is better than nothing for your early morning strength session – a case for personal preference.
But If I were you, I’d still stick with carbs if you can stomach food early in the morning to cover these uncertainties
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