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Published on November 27, 2020

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

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:

  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

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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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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Intermittent Fasting Schedules

There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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The 16/8 Method

This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

    The 5:2 Method

    This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

    5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

      Alternate-Day Fasting

      As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

      Alternate Day Fasting
        The Warrior Diet

        This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

        Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

        The Warrior Diet

          Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

          1. Drink Plenty of Water

          Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

          2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

          The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

          3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

          One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

          4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

          The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

          To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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          5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

          While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

          Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

          You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

          How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

          Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

          Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

          “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

          Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

          This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

          Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

          Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

          The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

          Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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          Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

          One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

          This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

          Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

          Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

          Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

          Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

          How Much Weight Will I Lose?

          The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

          One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

          Can I Work out While Fasting?

          Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

          If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

          The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

          You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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          Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

          Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

          Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

          First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

          If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

          Is Fasting Safe?

          As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

          I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

          Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

          As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

          For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

          The Bottom Line

          Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

          More About Intermittent Fasting

          Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

          Reference

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