Is breakfast prior to morning workout necessary? It can be confusing to parse the information and many of the studies on this topic were conducted on men and obese people, but none solely on women.
One study showed that eating breakfast prior to a workout helped the participants burn more carbs, as they were eating an oat-based meal. Most studies show that sessions without breakfast burned more fat, which can be advantageous to women, but that doesn’t mean you should always forego food prior to morning sessions since the science does not definitively state which approach is better.
A pre-exercise breakfast of approximately 118cal improved mood & appetite control post-exercise in one study, although further research is needed before this can be considered a recommendation (Veasey et al., 2015).
Another study showed participants who had exercised before breakfast burned two times as much fat as those who exercised after eating the same meal. This is because they had lower insulin levels during exercise thanks to the hours of sleep, allowing their body to utilize more fat. Though the participants didn’t lose more weight than those who ate prior to exercise, their other health markers, such as blood sugar levels, did improve (Sharkey, 2019).
The takeaway: If you’re hungry in the morning, please eat! But if you’re well-fed from the night before and planning to do a cardio-based session, such as Jabs & Abs, or a workout that is only moderately challenging, you may choose to go without food. On days where you’re doing a more challenging session, especially the Advanced workouts, some fuel is necessary to meet the energy demands.
All carbs can help you refuel, but some carbs work faster than others. For recovery purposes, simple carbs like white rice and sugars can help deliver glucose to your muscles more quickly. Whereas complex carbs provide more long-lasting energy.
Some of the best post-workout carbs for good nutrition and faster replenishment include:
- Brown rice, a slower carb, or white for fast replenishment of sugars
The best proteins for our body typically come from animal-based foods and seafood & some plant-based options like quinoa. Dairy may have some unique benefits due to its high levels of complete protein, simple carbs and hormones positively associated with muscle gain.
- Grass-fed beef
- Cottage cheese
- Full-fat Greek yogurt
These fats, especially omega-3s, are powerful anti-inflammatories in our diets. Some research suggests they may also benefit performance recovery & provide heart health benefits.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Nuts and nut butters
Here’s an easy calorie calculator if you want to track calories
Macronutrients are based on
- Carbs: 1 gram is equal to 4 calories
- Protein: 1 gram is equal to 4 calories
- Fat: 1 gram is equal to 9 calories
An example of macro division would be
As a comparison, someone on a keto diet would aim for more fat and fewer carbs. An endurance athlete would aim for more carbs because they need the fuel to keep them moving & vegans may see a ratio of 25-30% protein, 40-45% carbs, and 30-35% fat works for them.
It’s a bit of a nuisance to track everything in the beginning, but within a few days, it becomes a habit, making it a valuable tool.
Here are suggestions for pre & post-workout nutrition.
Choose larger meals 2-3 hours prior to the session, smaller bites 30 minutes prior
Pre-workout – all macros
- Fruit smoothies with almond milk, almond butter & protein powder (optional)
- Yogurt parfait with granola and fruit
- Banana & a few almonds
- Whole grain bread with a couple of slices of turkey & slice of avocado
- Chicken with rice and vegetables
- Apples with almond butter or slice of avocado
- Hard-boiled whole egg with cheese or white rice
- Strawberries with cottage cheese
Post-workout – limit the fat here
- Eggs & bread
- Protein shake with granola & almond milk
- Cottage cheese with banana
- Scrambled whole eggs and toast
- Chicken & sweet potato
- Salmon and brown rice
- Beef and quinoa
These are the basics of nutrition. Keep in mind that everything is a process, be patient & the results will come!
Veasey, R. C., Haskell-Ramsay, C. F., Kennedy, D. O., Tiplady, B., & Stevenson, E. J. (2015). The Effect of Breakfast Prior to Morning Exercise on Cognitive Performance, Mood and Appetite Later in the Day in Habitually Active Women. Nutrients, 7(7), 5712–5732. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7075250. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517027/
Sharkey, L. (2019). Exercising before breakfast may be most healthful choice. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326811#Future-focus