15 Pre-Workout Breakfast Ideas to Eat Before a WorkoutPosted: May 11, 2023
One of the most common questions I get as a dietitian is what are the best pre workout breakfast ideas? So I've decided to compile a list of the 15 best pre-workout breakfast ideas that are sure to fuel your body, boost your energy levels and give you an optimal workout. From savory to sweet, there's something for everyone on this list. But first, let's cover some general recommendations around this topic.
- Is it Better to Exercise Before or After Breakfast?
- The Best Time to Eat Before a Workout
- Foods to Avoid Before a Workout
- What Should Be Included in a Pre-workout Breakfast
- The Best Breakfast Before a Strength Training Workout
- The Best Breakfast Before a Workout Heavy On Cardio
- The Best Breakfast to Enjoy On the Go
- 15 Pre-Workout Breakfast Ideas
- Bottom line
Is it Better to Exercise Before or After Breakfast?
When it comes to exercising before or after breakfast, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your personal preferences, fitness goals and training session. Exercising before breakfast, also known as fasted exercise, can help burn more fat as a source of energy which is ideal for weight loss. This is because when you're working out on empty, you are using up your glycogen stores fairly quickly and your body is forced to use stored fat.
However, there is a downside to morning workouts on an empty stomach. It may cause you to feel fatigued and perform poorly during your workout which ultimately leads to slower results.
On the other hand, exercising after breakfast can provide your body with the energy it needs to power through a workout. Incorporating a pre-workout snack or meal into your morning routine can provide numerous advantages. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, eating a small snack before a workout can help boost your energy levels, improve endurance, and enhance overall performance. Additionally, a pre-workout meal can help prevent low blood sugar levels, which can cause dizziness or weakness during exercise.
As we will discuss throughout this blog post, the best foods are easily digestible and provide a combination of carbohydrates and protein to avoid feeling sluggish during your exercise routine. Ultimately, the best approach is to experiment with different timing and types of pre-workout snacks to determine what works best for your body and fitness goals.
The Best Time to Eat Before a Workout
When it comes to eating before a workout, timing is key. Eating the right foods at the right time can help you optimize your performance during exercise. Timing will also depend on how much time you have before your workout.
Here's what you need to know about the best time to eat before a workout:
- Eat a small meal 1-2 hours or a quick snack 30 minutes before your workout: Eating a small meal or snack 30 minutes to 3 hours before your workout can help provide your body with the fuel it needs to power through your exercise routine. If you workout early in the morning and don’t have time to eat hours before, try a banana or crackers 30 minutes before.
- Eat a meal containing complex carbs and protein 3-4 hours before your workout: For a more substantial meal, aim to eat a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein 3-4 hours before your workout. This will give your body enough time to digest the food and convert it into energy for your workout.
- Avoid eating a large meal right before your workout: Eating a large meal first thing before your workout can lead to indigestion and discomfort during exercise. It's best to eat a smaller meal or snack before your workout and save your larger meal for after.
Foods to Avoid Before a Workout
If you want to make the most of your workout, it's essential to have enough fuel. However, it's just as important to know which foods to avoid before exercising.
Here are some foods that you should avoid adding to your pre workout meal.
- Fried and fatty foods: These foods are high in fat and take longer to digest, leading to indigestion and sluggishness during your workout.
- Spicy foods: Eating spicy foods before exercising can cause heartburn or an upset stomach during your workout, leading to discomfort and decreased performance.
- High-fiber foods: Although fiber is an important nutrient, consuming too much of it before exercise can cause bloating and discomfort.
- Sugary snacks: Foods high in sugar can cause a quick energy spike, but can also cause a crash later on. This leaves you feeling tired and unmotivated during your workout.
What Should Be Included in a Pre-workout Breakfast
A pre-workout breakfast should provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to fuel your workout. Here is how to build a pre-workout breakfast that is optimal for any workout:
- Rich in complex carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are a crucial food group. Carbs are an important source of energy for your body. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, oats, and fruits, provide a sustained release of energy and help keep you feeling full throughout your workout.
- Moderate in protein: Protein is essential for muscle recovery and weight training. Include a source of protein, such as eggs or Greek yogurt, in your pre-workout breakfast. However, focus on eating more protein to help muscle growth and recovery after your workout.
- Low in fats: Fats, especially healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and avocado, are great for you. However, you want a small amount of fat before a workout because they are slower to digest, therefore, it is best to eat less of them before a workout.
- Hydration: Don't forget to hydrate! Drinking water or sports drinks before your workout can help prevent dehydration and ensure optimal performance.
Remember, everyone's nutritional needs are different, so it's important to experiment with different pre-workout breakfast options to find what works best for you. Try to eat your pre-workout breakfast at least 30 minutes before your workout to allow for digestion, and don't forget to listen to your body and adjust your meal as needed.
The Best Breakfast Before a Strength Training Workout
To have the best breakfast before a strength training workout, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure to include a source of protein, such as eggs, Greek yogurt, or lean meats. This will help with building muscle and muscle recovery after your workout. Second, opt for complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread, oatmeal, or fruit, to keep your energy levels up during your workout. Finally, aim to eat your breakfast at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout to allow for digestion. If you’re susceptible to stomach discomfort, try to have your pre-workout meal or snack 1–3 hours before your workout. Alternatively, you can eat a light snack that is easy to digest 30 minutes before your workout.
The Best Breakfast Before a Workout Heavy On Cardio
To have the best pre-workout fuel, it is important to understand the type of exercise you plan to do.
High intensity, short duration (30–45 minutes or less): examples include cycling class or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Because this is a short duration, you do not need to have a full breakfast beforehand. A small snack rich in complex carbohydrates will do the trick. This includes toast, crackers with cheese, or a banana.
Moderate to high intensity, long duration (60–90 minutes or more): If you plan on doing a longer cardio session, then this is when I'd recommend eating something beforehand. Examples in this category include a morning run, cycling, and rowing. When you do a longer cardio session, your body will use a mix of carbohydrates and fat as fuel. However, your body burns fat much more slowly. This means you will feel sluggish if you do not fuel before the workout. Eat a mix of carbohydrates and lean protein at least 1-3 hours before the workout. This gives your body time to digest and maintain muscle mass.
Examples of meals include:
- Smoothies made with milk and fruit;
- Toast with turkey;
- Scrambled eggs with a side of banana.
Low to moderate intensity, long duration: Exercises in this category include a slow walk and yoga. Because this is low intensity, you could get away with not eating before the workout. This is because the body is using less energy. However, because it's longer duration, you may feel hungry during the workout. If this is you, then you can eat a protein-rich snack before starting the workout. Examples include cottage cheese with some fruit, eggs, protein bar or protein shake.
Of course in any of these categories, hydration is crucial. Make sure to drink plenty of water or workout drinks before your workout. This helps prevent dehydration and keep your body functioning properly.
The Best Breakfast to Enjoy On the Go
When you're short on time and need on-the-go option before a workout, choosing the right breakfast makes all the difference. Look for easy-to-prepare options that pack a nutritional punch.
Here are some pre-workout breakfast options that are easy to prepare and can be enjoyed on the go:
- Chocolate milk. My personal favorite. Chocolate milk is a great option as it contains both carbohydrates and protein. This makes it an excellent source of fuel for your workout.
- Banana with almond butter. Bananas with almond butter provide a quick source of carbohydrates and healthy fats, which can help sustain energy levels during your workout.
- Greek yogurt parfait with granola and fruit. Greek yogurt parfait with granola and fruit is another good option, as Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and the granola provides carbohydrates for energy.
- Protein shake made with berries and protein powder. Protein shakes made with berries and protein powder are also a convenient and nutritious option, as they contain a good balance of carbohydrates and protein, making them an excellent source of fuel for your workout.
- Whole-grain bagel with hard-boiled eggs. Whole-grain bagels with eggs can provide a good source of carbohydrates for energy, while the eggs provide protein to help sustain energy levels during your workout.
- Overnight oats or chia seed pudding. Overnight oats like my Healthy Overnight Oats Recipe or chia seed pudding are great meal prep options for those who like to prepare their breakfast the night before. They provide a good source of carbohydrates for energy, as well as some protein and healthy fats to help sustain energy levels during your workout.
Planning ahead can help you enjoy a quick and healthy pre-workout breakfast on the go. Consider prepping overnight oats or chia seed pudding the night before, or slicing up some veggies and hard-boiling eggs for a protein-packed breakfast that's ready to go. These quick and easy options allow you to fuel up before your workout without sacrificing nutrition or flavor.
15 Pre-Workout Breakfast Ideas
Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds
This is a great pre-workout breakfast option for those looking to fuel their body with protein and antioxidants. This pre-workout breakfast is high in protein, which helps to repair and build muscle tissue. Berries are a great source of antioxidants, which help to reduce inflammation in the body caused by exercise. Chia seeds are also packed with protein and amino acids which will help to keep you feeling full and energized throughout your workout. To make this recipe, simply spoon a serving of Greek yogurt into a bowl and top with a handful of your favorite berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries. Sprinkle chia seeds on top and mix everything together for a delicious and nutritious breakfast that's quick and easy to prepare.
Avocado toast with a hard-boiled egg
Avocado toast with a hard-boiled egg is a delicious and nutritious pre-workout breakfast option. The toast provides a source of complex carbs while the egg is a great source of protein. Try whole-grain bread instead of white bread for a great source of complex carbs. This combination will keep you feeling full and energized throughout your workout.
If you are short on time and you are looking for a quick breakfast, then try smoothies. However, it is important to keep them simple before a workout.
I like to add a banana (ripe bananas work best), either low-fat milk or almond milk, and protein powder. Adding protein powder to your fruit smoothie provides you with amino acids to build and repair muscles. This is especially important if you are strength training. Additionally, the liquid form of a smoothie can be easier to digest than solid food. This allows for quicker absorption of nutrients which is ideal for a longer workout.
Veggie omelet with whole-grain toast
Starting your day with a veggie omelet and toast can be a great way to fuel up before a workout with muscle-building protein. Eggs provide a high-quality source of protein which contains essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and growth. Whole-grain toast provides complex carbs to help sustain your energy levels throughout intense workouts. Plus, this morning meal can be customized to your liking with other delicious options. For example, using just egg whites or adding spinach, peppers, and mushrooms.
Steel-cut oatmeal with banana and almond butter
A great choice for endurance athletes is a bowl of oatmeal with banana and almond butter. Oatmeal is a complex carb that provides sustained energy for longer workouts. Whereas the banana adds potassium to prevent muscle cramping. This breakfast option is easy to digest and is a great way to fuel for a long higher intensity workout. Plus, it's delicious and can be customized with other toppings like berries or honey for added flavor.
Cottage cheese with sliced fruit and nuts
This is a delicious and nutritious pre-workout breakfast option. Cottage cheese is also an excellent protein source. The sliced fruit provides carbohydrates for an immediate energy boost, while the nuts add some crunch. Cottage cheese with fruit and nuts is also a great post-workout snack. It helps replenish the body's energy stores and aid in muscle recovery.
Banana with peanut butter
Banana with peanut butter (or any other nut butter) is a classic pre-workout breakfast that is both delicious and nutritious. Bananas are an excellent source of carbs, potassium, and vitamin C, providing the necessary energy for a workout. Peanut butter helps keep you full and provides sustained energy throughout your exercise routine. To make this simple yet tasty breakfast, all you need to do is spread a tablespoon of peanut butter over a sliced banana. You can even add a sprinkle of chia seeds or granola on top for some extra texture and nutrients. Don't forget to pair this meal with a bit of protein, such as a hard-boiled egg or a glass of milk, for a full meal.
Sweet potato bowl with veggies and a boiled egg
This option is a great pre-workout breakfast for muscle protein synthesis. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, providing sustained energy for a workout. The boiled egg adds high-quality protein, which helps repair and rebuild muscle tissues post-workout. Adding veggies such as spinach, peppers, and onions will provide extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals to support overall health. The best way to make this dish is to simply bake a sweet potato in the oven, sauté your favorite veggies, boil an egg, and combine all ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle with your favorite seasonings or spices for an extra flavor boost.
A protein bar can be a quick and convenient option for a pre-workout breakfast, especially if you're short on time. These bars are often high in simple carbs and provide a quick source of energy for your workout. Some bars also contain a good amount of protein to help with muscle recovery post-workout. When choosing a bar, look for one with whole food ingredients and minimal added sugars. It's important to note that a protein bar should not replace a well-rounded breakfast, but can be a good supplement if you're in a pinch.
Here are The Best Protein Bars for Weight Loss if you want a list of my favorite bars with better ingredients.
An English muffin is a great pre-workout breakfast option for those who need a quick and easy way to consume your needed carbohydrates. The muffin is typically made with enriched flour, which provides simple carbohydrates that are easily digested and utilized by the body for energy. It's also low in fat, making it a lighter option that won't weigh you down during your workout. For an added boost of protein, you can add a hard-boiled egg. My favorite way is to add sliced bananas or berries for a touch of sweetness.
Smoked salmon on whole-grain toast with avocado
This tasty breakfast is a great option for anyone looking to fuel up before a workout. Smoked salmon is a lean protein that provides the body with the nutrients it needs to build and repair muscles. When combined with whole-grain toast and avocado, it makes for a well-rounded meal that provides both complex carbohydrates and healthy dietary fat to keep you going. Whole-grain toast is a great source of complex carbs that will keep your energy levels up, while avocado is packed with vitamin B, which is essential for converting food into energy. To make this breakfast, simply toast a slice of whole-grain bread, top it with a few slices of smoked salmon, and add some mashed avocado on top. It's the perfect combination of flavor and nutrition, and the best thing is that it's quick and easy to prepare.
Chia seed pudding with fruit and nuts
Chia seed pudding with fruit and nuts is an excellent pre-workout breakfast option for those looking to fuel their workouts. Plus, the addition of fresh fruit and nuts provides a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to perform at its best. To make this delicious breakfast, mix chia seeds with your favorite type of milk and let them sit in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top with sliced fruit and nuts for added texture and flavor. This tasty and nutrient-dense meal will keep you fueled and energized throughout your workout.
Rice cake with ricotta cheese and smoked salmon
This breakfast idea is a good source of protein, with the smoked salmon providing around 20 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) serving. Rice cakes offer a source of carbohydrates for energy, while ricotta cheese provides a source of calcium and adds creaminess to the dish. Overall, this breakfast is a good idea for those looking to fuel up with protein before a workout. To make this tasty breakfast, simply spread a thin layer of ricotta onto a rice cake and top with a few slices of smoked salmon. It's quick, easy, and perfect for those who are looking for convenient workout foods. For more rice cake ideas, make sure to check out this blog post: Healthy Rice Cake Ideas: Toppings for Weight Loss.
Healthy Overnight Oats Recipe
Overnight oats are an easy and delicious pre-workout breakfast option that can keep you fueled throughout your workout. They are a great source of complex carbs, which provide sustained energy, as well as dietary fiber and a small amount of protein. Making them is simple - just combine rolled oats, milk, and your favorite mix-ins like fruits, nuts, and seeds in a jar or container, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The oats will absorb the liquid and become soft and creamy, ready to eat in the morning. This breakfast is perfect for busy people and is a great on-the-go breakfast. My favorite recipe for overnight oats can be found here: Healthy Overnight Oats Recipe for Weight Loss (Easy).
A smoothie bowl is a refreshing and nutritious breakfast that can fuel your workout. Made with a blend of frozen fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome ingredients, this bowl packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support optimal health and performance. The combination of fiber, protein, and healthy fats can also help to keep you feeling full and satisfied, which is especially important before a workout. To make a smoothie bowl, blend your favorite fruits and veggies with a liquid base such as almond milk or coconut water. Pour the mixture into a bowl, then top with your favorite toppings such as nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit. With endless flavor combinations, a smoothie bowl is a delicious and versatile choice for any workout day.
Eating breakfast before your workout plays a critical role in providing the necessary fuel and nutrients for optimal performance and muscle building. Incorporating a balanced combination of complex carbs, lean protein, and some healthy fats from whole food sources can maximize energy, support muscle recovery and growth, and improve overall workout performance. Some fitness enthusiasts will also add pre-workout supplements to help take their fitness goals to another level, but that is a topic for another time.
Let me know which of these pre-workout breakfast ideas you'll be trying in the comments below!
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