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Published on November 27, 2020

What To Eat Before Morning Workout (10 Simple Breakfast Ideas)

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What To Eat Before Morning Workout (10 Simple Breakfast Ideas)

Early morning workouts are the norm for many. For some, it’s the only time they have; others may feel better working out first thing in the morning.

The morning can be a crazy rush. Figuring out what to eat before morning workout when you’re in a pinch may be difficult. Maybe you don’t get hungry in the mornings or feel you have the time to eat. However, there’s a good reason why you should care about what to eat before a morning workout.

What’s the Real Deal on Eating Before You Work Out?

Some people swear by working out on an empty stomach. Others believe you should have a full meal before doing anything. But what does science say about eating before you work out?

Studies mostly agree that you should eat before any exercise.[1]
However, you don’t want to head to the gym immediately after eating. You want to give your body at least an hour to digest.

You also might want to skip a hearty breakfast. Heavy foods lead to feeling bloated or you may even get sick during a workout. Light breakfasts or sports drinks are recommended instead. Large meals are recommended to be eaten around three hours before a workout and small meals or snacks about one hour prior. This ensures you don’t feel sluggish and gives you the necessary energy needed to complete your workout.

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Now, some people are crunched for time and can’t make breakfast and workout. Many don’t like eating breakfast or feel hungry. Each person is different and it’s true that you might be fine to workout without eating anything first thing in the morning. However, eating breakfast each morning isn’t only ideal for exercise but for healthy weight control and brain function as well.[2]

This doesn’t mean you are required to eat breakfast. In fact, there are benefits to not eating before you workout too. Studies show that workouts done on an empty stomach burn more fat because your body isn’t relying on carbohydrates for fuel.[3] It should be noted that there are limited studies on whether you burn more fat long-term with fasted workouts than “fed” workouts.

How Eating Can Change Your Workout

The research doesn’t just mention eating breakfast. There are studies that show eating before and after workouts fuel the body and aid in muscle recovery.[4] Drinking or eating carbohydrates before you exercise improves your performance overall. It may allow you to exercise at higher intensities and for a longer time.

Not eating might cause you to be sluggish or lightheaded. This depends on when you last slept and ate of course. For example, you may be someone who goes to bed late but rises early or you may eat a full meal before bed and not be hungry when you wake.

Breakfast

The studies on what to eat before morning workout suggest that you might want to stick to your morning breakfast routine. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can drink it and probably not feel any adverse effects.

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The same goes if you normally eat a specific food or food group for breakfast. Deviating from your normal foods has the potential to cause upset stomachs until your body gets used to it.

Snacks

Snacks before, and sometimes during a workout can help you reach your goals. However, there is a timeline for snacking. If your workout lasts longer than an hour, it’s worth it to eat a carbohydrate-rich food or drink.

On the other hand, eating a snack before a short workout of fewer than 30 minutes probably won’t do much to increase your energy.

Post-Workout

Post-workout meals or snacks are essential. After all the strain you put your body and muscles through with exercise, you want to help aid in recovery. Exercise depletes the body of glycogen. Glycogen is necessary for muscle repair, recovery, and your body’s overall functioning.

It’s recommended you eat a full meal that is rich in carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your last workout session. This helps replace glycogen stores (carbohydrates) and aid in muscle repair (protein).

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It’s Not Only About the Food!

Often, food is regarded as the most important part of maintaining a healthy weight. However, hydration is very important too. Fluid consumption before, during, and after a workout is key to preventing dehydration. The more you exercise, the more you’ll need.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the fluid recommendations for pre-workout should be around two to three cups and ½ cup to one cup per every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.[5] Your post-workout consumption guidelines are two to three cups after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during a workout.

Typically, drinking water is the best for fluid replenishment. However, if you are working out more intensely or longer than one hour, it’s recommended to use a sports drink. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates that give you energy and replace lost electrolytes.

Why Your Choice of Breakfast Matters?

When deciding what to eat before morning workout, there are a few factors to consider: the type of food, digestion, and time.

A quick sports drink or cereal provides the body with quick bursts of energy, but it may not last long during a longer workout. To ensure you get the sustained energy you need for those more intense workouts, combine simple carbohydrates with a small amount of fat and protein.

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The size of your meal has a lot to do with your workout longevity. The longer your workout lasts, the more energy-dense meal you’ll want to have. The same goes for shorter workouts. The potential drawback is your digestion time.

Big, energy-dense meals take around four hours to digest which doesn’t exactly align with a quick morning workout. Aim for smaller meals if you have about two hours to spare. If you don’t have two hours, which most people don’t, then a quick but healthy option is blended meals or a 200-calorie snack. Blended meals like smoothies or low-calorie snacks only take about an hour to digest but still provide adequate energy.

Don’t have time to make any meals at all? Maybe you just can’t stomach breakfast? Try a banana or a slice of toast. As time goes on, add on to this little snack until your body can tolerate a small meal.

Breakfast Ideas – Dos And Don’ts

Let’s take a look at the simple breakfast ideas you can have before your morning workout:

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast options are limitless. However, you want to start with the right foods, not ones that just taste good. I’ve compiled a list of tasty, yet healthy breakfast options that provide energy for your workouts and won’t weigh you down:

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  1. Fruit – Fruits are easily digestible, provide fuel, and are great for those that aren’t typically breakfast eaters.
  2. Smoothies – Smoothies are versatile. You can combine fruits and vegetables, yogurts, protein powders, nut butter, or seeds like chia.
  3. Energy Bowls – Energy bowls have a similar concept to a smoothie except you sit down to eat them. They can include nuts, seeds, and blended fruits or vegetables.
  4. Greek or plain yogurt – Yogurts, especially Greek or plain yogurts are high in protein, probiotics, and calcium.
  5. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a classic staple. It’s full of carbohydrates and fiber. Both will give a huge boost of energy. You can even add fruit, nuts, or milk for even more energy.
  6. Eggs – Eggs’ possibilities are limitless. You can have them as a standalone, add cheese, or veggies like peppers to add nutrition. Couple eggs with toast or an English muffin for a quick sandwich.
  7. Energy Bites – Energy bites are full of fiber, protein, and fats to keep you satisfied longer. You can make them with peanut butter, walnuts, flaxseeds, cashews, or almonds.
  8. Homemade muffins – Muffins may seem like an unhealthy, tasty snack but they’re actually great for long workouts. They have fiber and are high in carbs. You can even add fruit or nuts to them for an energy bonus.
  9. Homemade pancakes – Homemade pancakes are a great source of grains and carbs to fuel your workout. You can add fruit or nut butter for extra boosts. Make sure you don’t go overboard with your portion size as they can be a little on the heavy side.
  10. Toast – Toasts may seem boring or basic but it’s very versatile. Toast is easy on the stomach, quick, and you can add a ton of options like avocado, sweet potato, or jam.

Breakfast That Will Make You Sluggish

  1. Fast Food – Fast food doesn’t need much of an explanation as it’s unhealthy enough. it’s full of fat, grease, and may even upset your stomach.
  2. Sweetened Non-Fat Yogurts – These yogurts are full of sugar that can leave you to suffer a “high” but then “crash” later on. The lack of fat doesn’t keep you full as long.
  3. Energy drinks/fruit juices – While orange juice or a Red Bull might seem like a great idea for a boost of energy, they come with high sugar and the “crash.”
  4. Spicy foods – Spicy foods are satisfying but they aren’t great for a workout. Spicy foods can lead to indigestion, heartburn, or even stomach cramps.
  5. Sugary cereals – Cereals like Cheerios or Raisin Bran are healthy options but cereals like Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops are terrible pre-workout breakfast foods. They’re full of fat and sugars. The milk added could cause stomach issues as well.

The Bottom Line

Deciding what to eat before morning workout doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to sacrifice your time either. While you may not be hungry when you first wake up, it’s a good idea to try to eat at least a small meal before you exercise.

More Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Featured photo credit: Margarita Zueva via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Barcelon

Health & Fitness Editor of "Fitness for Non-Athletes"

15 Effective Workout Tips Backed by Scientific Research What To Eat Before Morning Workout (10 Simple Breakfast Ideas)

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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