VO2Max workouts first thing in the morning

Hello, I have been a trainerroad user since august 2017. I began the SSB I and II in october, then General build and now I am on Century specialty phase. I struggled to complete the VO2max workouts and almost always I did not finished them. Now that I am about to enter the second half of the century phase and I see that again I had to do VO2Max workouts. Normally I do my workouts first thing in the morning without eating. Many times I start before 5 am so I do not have time to eat before doing the workouts. In the last podcast I understood that this can affect my performance in the VO2Max workouts. What nutrition strategies do they recommend me to carry out? I usually do not eat much at night, and what I eat are mainly high protein foods (scrambled eggs and beans). What changes do I think I should do?


This thread has what you are probably looking to learn:


My schedule is quite similar. Wake at 4:30 am to be on the bike by 5:00 am. I can typically manage with a glass of water but no other any pre-ride nutrition. The trainer sessions tend to be only 60 minutes. Anything longer and I’d need some gels on the bike. I’m usually able to physically push through 2-3 minute VO2 Max intervals (Mills, Spencer, etc) but mentally struggle after 6-7 intervals. If motivation, is low I tend to dial back the intensity 3-5% for the last few intervals.

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Man, I bombed my 5am VO2 workout this morning (Baird +2). Couldn’t even hold the power numbers in the warm up. So, packed it in in 5minutes and went back to bed. LOL!

I often find it hard to get going at 5a.

my blog: ex-prosays.blogspot.com


I’m in the same position with early morning workouts.

I noticed an improvement in my RPE and performance by drinking an energy drink before (instead of a glass of water) and during any hard morning workouts.

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I do real early morning trainer rides once or twice a week, between 30 minutes to 1 hour in duration. Depending on my training plan and HRV (that’s another story…), I may do hard intervals on those rides. If I do have intervals, I generally:

  1. drink water - hydration and also helps get a bowel movement
  2. have a Nespresso with maple syrup - caffeine obviously and simple sugars to get blood sugar up
  3. make a bottle of SIS GO - hydration and electrolytes apparently help with blood plasma volume (so I’ve read)
  4. grab a banana - might take a bite between sets or scarf in down during cool down so I can get out the door quicker.

All that doesn’t take a lot of time and I’m able to get on the bike quickly. I keep my fingers crossed as well that my 22 month old daughter doesn’t wake up in the middle of an interval!


To keep things simple, quick, and easy to digest I drink a big glass of Mountain Dew (covers the caffeine to wake up and lower RPE as well as gets carbs into the system to break your fast). I also have a bottle of Gatorade during the ride provides carbs to burn and let’s your body know it can use some more of it’s energy stores since more are coming in on a regular basis.

I’d also recommend looking at your dinners the night before your hard training sessions. Paying attention to nutrient timing has made a big difference for me this year. Having a higher carb dinner the night before hard training sessions helps ensure you have the energy stores you need but then I do lighter carbs the nights before easier training sessions.


Coffee and muesli about 30-45min before I get on the bike. Water or electrolyte in the bottle. A GU gel on standby. I tried taking the caffeinated gel at the start, did not think it made a difference. The first interval always sucks. The 2nd interval always feels better than the first. The gel is if I start getting negative thoughts at half-way or later. Then I pop the gel for the sugar and caffeine. Who knows if it really helps or if it is placebo only, but I think it helps. Also, if I feel like quitting after I pop the gel, I tell myself I am wasting a gel for nothing. So, the gel also gives me the guilt trip if I even think to pack it in :sweat_smile:

Lastly, depending on the interval duration 30s vs 5min, I have different preferences for altering the workout toward the end. Short intervals (e.g., 30s - 1min) I might skip one. Longer intervals (e.g., 3-5min), I might drop the intensity a bit.


I do a lot of my workouts early and generally just have corn thins with Jam (jelly for those in the US). I stay high GI and have them 15minutes before and then fruit juice mixed with water on the bike. I think the key is to time it so that you don’t get that drop in blood sugar just before the intervals which I found would happen if I ate 40mins to an hour before

Workout and nutrition timing can be an absolute nightmare. To fit in workouts I either have to get up and get on the bike within 15 minutes before shooting off to work, or do them in the evenings at a time where I know that more intensive efforts will have an impact on my sleep.
My body just takes to long to get going to cope with really hard efforts first thing, so I try to keep the morning sessions as either endurance or sweet spot. I get up, go to the bathroom, have an espresso and an energy gel. That carries me through sessions of an hour - essentially just giving that bit of an initial boost and then letting my body fall back on its reserves.
Basically, I’m trying to move towards making sure that my workouts are fuelled well enough. If I’m going to go to the effort of indoor training and putting myself through intervals, then I want to get the absolute most out of them and not be held back and have my performance and gains limited by any fuelling issues. I’d rather not have to have gels or other similar big sugar hits, but with very limited time it’s simply easier to fall back on something that I know will work quickly with no GI distress (especially not during the workouts).
I don’t seem to derive any proper benefit from fasted riding - the rest of my life gets in the way too much so I just can’t absorb the benefit or it makes the other parts of my life a bit miserable. I’ll try and target my intake of simple sugars so that they are restricted as much as possible to fuelling workouts (so not having any sugary snacks, drinks etc during the rest of the day).

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I’ve never really struggled with VO2max first thing (5am) without eating. Keys are making sure I eat well the night before so that my stores are topped up. Maybe if its a really crazy workout I’ll have a sports drink during.

Most of those workouts are max 6x3min…thats only 18min worth of work. I can generally get through that without eating.

Is my performance the best it could be though? Not sure…maybe if I fuelled more before the workout I could do 123% instead of 120% for example.


Finally managed to finish a VO2Max workout without any issues (Old Rag +6). What I did this time is to take a liquid gel (Dextro Energy) during the first 20 minutes, also I did it in the afternoon 4 hours after lunch. Don’t know exactly if it was the gel or the change in schedule or both, but worked this time. Will try to make it the same way next time. It felt great not to bale out!

I did a lot of my SSB 12 weeks fasted with very little issue after a week or so as I was doing the majority at 5AM. When I got to my build phase and started hitting VO2max, they were definitely harder to complete fasted. Honestly, it took my body a couple of VO2max workouts to adjust to the higher output after such a long time sitting in SSB. I made sure that I was properly fueled the night before and would wake up and eat a banana during my warmup. That was quick and easy for me to process.

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A lot of info here. I too am on the bike between 5-5:30 am. I have never had to fuel a workout in order to complete it. 2-4 min VO2 max workouts are very difficult regardless. Certain people are predisposed to being better at them and some of us have to work on them to get better.

My guess is that this isn’t a fuel/glycogen issue, but just a matter of physiological limiters that you have to train.

Top your glycogen stores off the night prior with a bowl of oatmeal or a good carb before bed. Also don’t be worried about dialing back the intensity a couple percent. Make the 120%ers 115% and see if you find better repeatability.

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To break your fast, try a banana and a coffee before your ride. It doesn’t have to be a banana, it can be fruit cake or whatever your choice of food is. Just something small to get things going. It is endorsed by Stacey Sims.

+1 for the banana. I’ve found them to be a great boost for longer/tougher early morning sessions. I just take a bite or two between interval sets. I also think it helps to do fasted rides throughout SSB if that’s what you’re going to be doing in build. I save the bananas for the 90+ minute sessions.

All that said, I’ve had to turn down the intensity for some VO2max sessions in build. I could complete them in SSBMV2 at 120%, but as my FTP has risen (up 10% from starting SSB1), VO2max work has been more realistic at 117% or so. I’ve just assumed that it’s because different energy systems adapt/train more quickly than others. (Not sure that’s true— it’s just what I’ve told myself.)

I like most people struggle with early AM VO2Max I do find (and maybe its psychological) that a gel during warm up and finishing one bottle per hr with nutrition (tailwind, INFINITE, Roctane, etc) helps me. And by “helps” I mean it 97%ish of the targets vs well worse!

Honestly these would be best for me in the am - different strokes I suppose.

These don’t need a ton of food in the tank loaded up but you can get but with gels and whatnot- just start early and don’t stop.

I’d suggest maurten drink and cliff gels or blocks with caffeine. Extend the warmup by 5 min. Have half the botttle and one gel before you start. Repeat a gel after each set and see if you can make it.

Someone could correct me if I am wrong but these are more glucose vs glycogen burning. Quick fuel in quick fuel out.

I just started the SPB plan and trying to switch to training in the morning and I was shocked at how hard they feel compared to evening workouts. After listening to the podcast and knowing what guys are eating before/during their workouts I started to fuel the workout before going to sleep and changed what I eat in the morning and it definitely made it easier!

4:00 AM trainer here.
Step 1: Coffee. usually like 6oz
Step 2: Pre workout shake prepped the night before
Step 3: Stretch routine
Step 4: Poop, and not some rabbit turd but a legit poop. Hard to focus if your poo is prairie doggin at 7w/kg
Step 5: Warm up outside of the TR w/o for around 10 mins. After 3-4 years of TR workouts, I really feel like the entry points to most workouts are too rough.

Step 6: do the workout 100%