Eating a healthy breakfast before a morning workout can help you feel and perform at your best. But sitting down to the wrong meal can derail your fitness goals and potentially lead to stomach aches and pains and well as indigestion and bloating.
For the best pre-workout breakfast, you'll want to choose foods that contain beneficial carbohydrates, some protein and vitamins and minerals to support your body's energy levels and recovery post-workout. Conversely, foods high in fat and lower in carbs and protein don't make the best picks.
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Before your next a.m. workout, fill your plate with these best pre-workout breakfast foods and avoid the worst picks.
The Best Pre-Workout Breakfast Foods
The body primarily burns carbs during workouts. Carbs are then stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen, which provides energy for your workouts, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
That's why it's important to fuel up with carbs pre-workout to support an even stream of glucose to your muscles and brain. The following foods contain healthy carbs as well as other vital nutrients.
Oatmeal contains slow-burning carbs to give you lasting energy for your workout and the rest of your day.
Plus, oatmeal's neutral flavor serves as a palette for whatever you're craving. You can dress it up with berries, banana and nut butter, or go the savory route (like with this Savory Oatmeal With Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach and Poached Eggs recipe). Just aim to get a good mix of carbs and protein for whatever toppings you choose.
Quick oats are considered faster-burning carbs, and they're easier to digest than rolled or steel-cut oats, per an October 2015 review in the British Journal of Nutrition. Quick oats also contain less fiber than its counterparts. While fiber is an important nutrient that helps with digestion, too much of it can cause discomfort and indigestion, which you certainly don't want during a workout.
If you have less than an hour between eating breakfast and your workout, consider quick oats instead of the slower-burning rolled or steel-cut oats.
If you're not big on breakfast, or if you don't love having big meals before you exercise, a banana is the perfect pick. Bananas contain fast-burning carbs that provide energy that can help power you through a workout, and because they're quite portable, they make for a very simple pre-workout nosh.
Not only are bananas rich in beneficial carbs, they're also a natural source of B vitamins, which also support energy levels. One medium banana provides about a quarter of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6, according to the USDA.
Interestingly, green bananas contain a higher proportion of resistant starches. These resistant starches are slower-burning carbs and support a healthy gut, while riper bananas have quicker burning carbs.
If you're eating a few hours before your sweat session, consider eating a greener banana. Go riper if you're eating within one hour of your workout.
What kind of toast, you ask? It depends. Whole-wheat and sprouted bread contain more vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein compared to white bread. Sprouted grains have higher amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, folate and lysine, an essential amino acid in protein, compared to unsprouted grains.
The higher amounts of nutrients make whole-wheat and sprouted bread better for contributing to your daily nutritional needs. That said, sprouted grains take more time to digest and may cause bloating or indigestion during your workout.
On the other hand, white bread won't. A higher proportion of carbs in white bread come from sugar, which will provide a quicker fuel source.
Consider choosing sprouted or whole-grain bread if you're eating breakfast more than an hour before your workout and white bread if your breakfast is an hour or less before your workout.
The Worst Breakfast Foods to Eat Before a Workout
Because fat takes longer to digest compared to carbs and protein, you'll want to stay away from high-fat foods before a workout to avoid indigestion and other symptoms, like heartburn.
Two breakfast sausage links have 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein, per the USDA. Because of its high-fat and low-carb content, sausage may feel more like a brick in your stomach than proper fuel when you eat it before a workout.
Ever felt like you didn't have that extra kick during a run or a high-intensity workout? This is likely due to low blood sugar or empty glycogen stores. Support your body's performance with higher-carb foods and stay away from fat-rich foods like sausage.
Take the toast, skip the bacon. Like sausage, bacon is high in fat and can lead you to feel sluggish. It may even contribute to side stitches during your workout. Two slices of fried bacon pack 8 grams of fat and 0 grams of carbs, according to the USDA.
While the salt in the bacon may actually help you to meet your body's electrolyte needs during a hot and sweaty workout, that won't save you from potential indigestion and dips in energy levels.
3. Croissants and Pastries
For some, croissants and pastries like doughnuts are a breakfast staples, but these foods' high-fat content offers good reason to stay away — especially if you're eating them before a workout. One large croissant contains 14 grams of fat and 31 grams of carbohydrates, per the USDA.
Pastries are often low in beneficial nutrients and don't contribute much to your body's nutritional needs. While they are undoubtedly delicious, they're best reserved for a leisurely breakfast that doesn't precede a workout.
The Bottom Line
If you're eating before a morning workout, choose foods that are rich in energy-boosting carbs and lower in fat.
These food choices will not only help you to perform your best during your workout but will also contribute to better energy levels throughout the rest of your day.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "How to Fuel Your Workout"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Systematic review of the effect of processing of whole-grain oat cereals on glycaemic response"
- USDA: "Bacon"
- USDA: "Sausage"
- USDA: "Croissant"
- USDA: "Bananas"
- The 5 Worst Breakfast Foods for Bloating and Indigestion, According to a Dietitian
- The Best Pre-Workout Foods and the Science of Why They Work
- Health Benefits of Green Bananas
- Nutritional Information on Steel-Cut Oats Vs. Other Oatmeal
- Why Dietitians Are So Obsessed With Sprouted Bread — and the Best Ones to Buy
- Whole-Grain Bread Vs. White Bread