What’s the best thing to eat before a morning workout, or should you even eat beforehand? The truth is, there’s no better way to ensure you fit exercise into your day than by getting into the habit of starting your day with exercise. If you get into the habit of working out first thing in the morning, you remove the chances of procrastinating your workout, telling yourself you’ll work out later, and never actually doing it.
We know that working out first thing in the morning is a great habit to get into, but what should you eat before your morning workout, and should you eat at all?
First, we’ll go over the best foods to eat before a morning workout so that you have the energy to perform and last. After that, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of working out on an empty stomach, otherwise known as ‘fasted cardio’.
Best Foods To Eat Before A Morning Workout
The first tip to keep in mind when deciding what to eat before a morning workout is to keep it somewhat light. Your body is going to need time to digest whatever you put into it, and denser food takes longer to digest.
Furthermore, working out on a full stomach can cause cramping, bloating, give you hiccups and/or cause nausea. You can also feel lethargic after you eat too much, which will make you want to skip your workout or go into a food coma. None of these ailments are conducive to an effective workout.
So, eat something light before your workout that will still give you enough energy to complete a good workout. Slow-releasing, complex carbohydrates and protein will give you the energy you need to complete your workout. Some ideas include:
- Fruit Salad or Blended Fruit Smoothie
Whether you make a fruit salad or a smoothie in the morning, be sure to throw in a banana, as the potassium will help with muscle contraction and help prevent muscle cramps.
For smoothies, don’t use sugary juices. Just use chopped fruit with water or a tiny bit of plain greek yogurt. Consider adding some spinach to your smoothie for extra plant-based energy for your workout.
2. One Single Banana
It’s true that one banana can provide you with enough energy to work out for 60 - 90 minutes. In addition to its muscle cramp preventing potassium, bananas are also easy-to-digest carbohydrates that can provide you with physical energy while being light enough to not weigh you down.
3. Cup of Sugar-Free Muesli or Oatmeal
Eat a small cup of muesli, oatmeal or overnight oats in the morning, with some milk (either plant-based milk or dairy milk if you don’t have a lactose sensitivity) or with plain greek yogurt for the healthy fats and protein.
4. Whole Wheat Toast with Nut Butter
Even just one slice of whole wheat toast with 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter will be enough food to get you through a morning workout.
5. Hard-Boiled Eggs or an Omelette
This is another great, light breakfast that won’t make you feel too full or weighed down before your workout. Hard-boil your eggs or try one of these omelette recipes.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes might just be the perfect complex carb (a very healthy carb) to provide sustenance for a morning workout. Sweet potatoes pack a serious nutritional punch and will give you ample energy to complete a good morning workout, plus there are so many ways to prepare them in the morning.
Meal preppers can roast them with a bit of cayenne and honey or mash a big batch and drizzle some yogurt or tahini on top. Alternatively, slice them lengthwise and pop them into your toaster or air fryer. Top with nut butter for extra nutrition.
7. Sugar-Free Protein Bars
Sugar-free protein bars or granola bars can be the perfect pre-workout snack in the morning. You can even make your own to ensure they’re healthy. Add energy-boosting, healthy ingredients like organic oats, chia seeds, mashed banana, etc.
Now that we’ve gone over some ideas of what to eat before a morning workout, let’s dive into the concept of potentially eating nothing before your workout.
Pros and Cons of Fasted Cardio: Working Out On An Empty Stomach
You’ll notice there are very split reviews from health professionals on whether or not it’s a good idea to not eat before a morning workout.
Some think that fasted cardio helps you burn more fat, while others think that fasted cardio impacts your ability to perform or endure a workout.
The truth is that fasted vs. fed workouts are a decision that is very personal and tailored to your ability to work out on an empty stomach.
If you’re getting too lightheaded, you’re unable to perform or last long in a fasted state, or you’re feeling your workout performance is significantly less than it otherwise would be - eat something first.
This study, which compared the overall differences in body composition of 20 women, some of whom worked out in a fasted state and some in a fed state, did not change much after 4 weeks of experimentation. Importantly, all women were put on a 500-calorie deficit diet, the only thing that changed is when they consumed calories.
More studies are needed to draw a definitive conclusion, and while there is some evidence to support both theories of fasted vs. fed workouts, the choice of whether to exercise in a fasted or fed state will ultimately come down to your performance.
If you find that working out in a fasted state leaves you feeling light-headed, negatively affects your performance, or doesn’t work for you, then consider eating something beforehand.
If, however, you find that eating before a workout leads to cramping and other issues (since your body will need to digest the food you had for breakfast) you can give a fasted workout a go. Just be sure, as always, to clear any kind of change to your diet and fitness routine with a medical professional first, and bring a small snack like a piece of fruit with you to the gym in case your blood sugar gets too low.
Don’t Forget About What to Drink When Deciding What to Eat Before a Morning Workout
First of all, before anything else, it’s very important to start your day with plenty of water, whether you plan to work out or not. Your body has just gone over 6-8 hours without water while you were sleeping, so rehydrating is essential, especially before your workout
Always drink plenty of water before a morning workout. Don’t just bring a water bottle with you to your workout. It’s crucial to hydrate before and after exercising.
So, whether you’re doing a fasted workout or not, drink water. It of course won’t break your fast.
After an intense workout, you may need to replenish your electrolytes with some coconut water or electrolyte powder mixed into your water, especially if you sweat a lot.
What’s Your Most Optimal Diet Plan, Based on Your DNA?
Your DNA can tell you a lot about the types of foods you should be eating for best performance and function. Take a CircleDNA test to find out the optimal diet for you, based on your genetic makeup. The diet and nutrition reports from CircleDNA include nutrients you might need more of in your diet, based on your body’s genetic ability to absorb nutrients, as well as possible food sensitivities.
Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25429252/