7 healthy pre-workout breakfasts to fuel your body
Should you eat before a workout? If you’ve ever run out of energy in the middle of a morning training session after skipping breakfast, you already know the answer is yes. Whether you’re working out before or after breakfast can make a big difference to your performance and your results.
“For a workout where you’re pushing yourself for longer or at a higher intensity, you need to make sure you’ve eaten enough,” says Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton. “You might be able to work out at a lower intensity when you’re a little bit hungry, but don’t leave your body without any fuel when you’re trying to do your best.”
We won’t drop the old “most important meal of the day” cliche on you. Instead, breakfast should be a meal that keeps you fueled for your workout and the day ahead. Whatever your day holds, eating well in the morning sets you up to eat well throughout the day. (Helping you prevent those ravenous dashes to the vending machine.)
So what’s the best thing to eat before a workout? On Centr, we take a real food first approach to nutrition. To get you energized for your workouts and beyond, let’s take a look at what you should be eating, when you should be eating it, and show you how easy it is to whip up some of our best pre-workout breakfast recipes.
Fuel your goals with access to Chris Hemsworth’s team of nutrition experts on Centr – start any time with a free trial at Centr.com. (Kitchen stool to boost your height not included.)
Should I work out before or after breakfast?
To get the maximum benefit from your training, our dietitian’s advice is that you don’t go into a workout empty. But what should you eat, and when?
Ideally, your pre-workout breakfast or snack should be eaten 1-2 hours before working out. This gives your body time to process and use the food as fuel. Below, we’ll give you some of our favorite quick and easy snack options if you prefer a small bite (rather than a full meal) before working out.
If you don’t eat a full breakfast prior to training, you should aim to eat a larger meal with protein and carbohydrates in the 2-hour window after your workout. This will ensure your body has what it needs to restore energy, and repair and build muscle.
You may be curious about “pre-workouts” – drinks or supplements claiming to provide energy for training. As the primary ingredient in most pre-workout products is caffeine, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to just have a coffee instead.
Finding the right level of nutrition for your training can take a bit of trial and error, so monitor how you feel while working out. Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or nauseous during a workout are all potential signs that you need more fuel.
What should be included in a pre-workout breakfast?
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel. Those oats, slices of wholegrain toast, Greek yogurt, or apple slices that are your morning staples? They’re all delivering carbs that will help your body power through the workout ahead.
Including protein in your breakfast is important if you’re building muscle with strength training, but less crucial for cardio. As protein takes a lot of energy to digest, don’t overdo it – too much could make you sluggish and impact your workout performance.
Likewise, a good breakfast should be lower in fat, so you get the energy boost without it sitting too heavy in your stomach before exercise.
What about specific foods? Here are some of Lisa’s favorites for maxing your time on the workout mat.
Green leafy vegetables: “Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, rocket (arugula) and kale contain nitrate,” Lisa says. “Studies show that dietary nitrate can reduce oxygen demand and recent research indicates a positive impact on muscle force development – which has potential benefits for strength, speed and power.”
With two cups of spinach, our Pear & Lemon Green Smoothie makes for a refreshing and vitamin-rich start to the day.
Try adding a few leaves of spinach or kale for a super fresh breakfast smoothie, or quickly wilt spinach in a frypan to have on the side with your eggs.
Sweet potato: “Sweet potato is a terrific carbohydrate source for training and energy levels,” Lisa says. With a lower glycemic index than the white potato, sweet spuds provide longer-lasting energy.
Sweet potato hash browns make a great side for your breakfast plate, or you could make a bigger hash pattie the main attraction.
Banana: This may be nature’s ultimate pre-workout snack. “A banana has just enough carbs to fill that space in your tummy and give you an energy boost for the workout session ahead,” Lisa says.
Seafood: Considering some salmon with your avo toast? “Seafood provides protein that is easily digested compared to a heavy steak and will help you to feel energized for the afternoon,” Lisa explains.
The best pre-workout breakfasts
We’ve unlocked two of the most popular breakfast recipes from the Centr meal plan to show you just how easy (and tasty) it can be to fuel your workouts. Want more? Start your free trial on Centr today.
Blueberry & Almond Breakfast Muffins
Make a batch of our nutritious and delicious Blueberry & Almond Breakfast Muffins to get your grab-and-go pre-workout breakfasts ready for the week. Ingredients include banana for energy, protein powder to power your muscles, and maple syrup to keep your sweet tooth happy.
Smashed Avocado with Fried Egg & Dukkah
Our Smashed Avocado with Fried Egg & Dukkah is made for busy mornings. With healthy fats from the avocado, protein from the egg, carbs from the sourdough and bonus leafy greens, you’ve got everything you need to smash a workout.
The best pre-workout breakfast snacks
If you work out super early in the morning, don’t have time for a full meal, or don’t like working out after a big breakfast, these snacks combine carbohydrates and easily-digestible protein to deliver the energy you need, fast.
No-bake Oat & Cranberry Bar
Instead of reading through the fine print on a power bar wrapper to find all the hidden sugar, make our No-bake Oat & Cranberry Bar yourself at home. These bars get the sweet ‘n’ salty balance just right and take just minutes to prepare. We’ve got more simple and healthy power bars you can bake at home, too.
Quick Banana & Chia Toast
The banana and toast will fuel your workout, and the chia seeds will fill you up, but our favorite thing about the Quick Banana & Chia Toast is just how fast it is to whip together.
The best pre-workout breakfast smoothies
Blending your breakfast – AKA having a smoothie in a glass or bowl – can be a big time saver. It’s also a good option for those who don’t feel particularly hungry in the mornings.
Some tips before you officially become a breakfast smoothie convert:
Don’t use sugary yogurts, sorbets or ice cream – frozen bananas will even give you the thick shake creaminess you’ve been craving without all of the refined sugar and saturated fat.
Don’t mess up your fruit to protein ratio – all our smoothies on Centr are macro balanced and flavor balanced, so you’re getting all the nutrients and deliciousness in one hit.
Choc Mint Smoothie Bowl
The plant-based, super nutritious Choc Mint Smoothie Bowl is packed with the goodness of fruit, seeds and nuts. The secret is steamed and frozen cauliflower, which adds the creaminess you crave.
Coconut, Blueberry & Date Smoothie
The Coconut, Blueberry & Date Smoothie is an all-time classic Centr smoothie packed with antioxidants and energy. When you know your workout is going to be a hot one, it’s a great way to stay cool, too.
Start your free trial at Centr.com to unlock our full library of healthy, dietitian-approved recipes for every goal type.
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