If you love to work up a sweat in the gym while most people are still tucked up in bed, we salute your dedication — especially on those cold winter mornings! But should you wake up even earlier to eat before your morning workout? If so, what should be on your menu? And do you still need to refuel afterwards?
There are plenty of questions, but we have the answers. Let’s take a closer look at breakfast options for those who prefer to hit the gym while the sun is still rising.
Do you need to eat before a morning workout?
They say the early bird gets the worm, but sometimes the early bird can’t stand the prospect of eating at the crack of dawn. If you identify more with the latter, the general consensus is that if you’re not hungry, there’s no need to force yourself to eat. After all, the best way to build a morning routine is to look at what works for you as an individual. In fact, some people function better on an empty stomach, which has given rise to trends like fasted cardio.
The idea behind fasted cardio is that your body, depleted of glucose, burns stored fat for fuel instead. Although the science is still out, it does appear to have the potential to accelerate fat loss by improving metabolic performance. It also saves you from having to prepare, eat and digest a meal first thing in the morning.
Remember that prolonged aerobic activity may become more challenging if you don’t fuel your body beforehand. You may also become more likely to suffer the side effects of low blood sugar or dehydration, such as lightheadedness, dizziness and even passing out. A simple snack can go a long way to increase your energy and alertness — as long as it’s appropriate for the activity you’re about to do.
How large should your pre-workout meal be?
To effectively fuel your workout, you need to eat far enough ahead of time for it to be properly digested and made available as energy. In other words, your portion size should depend on how soon your workout is after you eat. Generally speaking, you should try to eat an hour to 90 minutes before exercising.
If you’re working out early, you don’t want to wake up hours before just to eat. If you don’t have a lot of time to digest, avoid a full meal and aim to eat a small snack at least 20 to 30 minutes before your workout.
What to eat pre-workout?
If you’re doing a short or low-intensity workout, simple carbohydrates should be enough to fuel you (for example, a banana or a few handfuls of cereal). However, if you’re doing a longer or more intense workout, you should pair energy-boosting carbohydrates with a small amount of fat and protein. This will help to gradually release energy throughout your workout and optimise muscle-building.
Take inspiration from the following ideas, which are all well-balanced, quick to make and easy to digest.
- Half a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter: Banana is an excellent source of carbs, while nut butter is packed with protein, antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.
- Half a mini bagel with a tablespoon of cream cheese: The bagel provides energy-rich carbs, while the cream cheese is full of protein to help build muscle and keep you full.
- Greek yoghurt: Greek yoghurt is a great source of protein, probiotics and bone-strengthening calcium. It’s an optimal pre-workout snack as it’s easy to digest.
- Rice cakes: Rice cakes topped with nut butter, banana and chia seeds are tasty and have a good balance of wholegrain carbohydrates, healthy fat and protein.
- Smoothies: Easy to make and quick to absorb, smoothies can be packed full of nutrients and energy for a longer workout. Blend a combination of fruit, vegetables, Greek yoghurt, nut butter, chia seeds and protein powder to cover all the food groups.
- A hardboiled egg and half a slice of toast: An excellent pairing of carbs and protein.
- Wholegrain toast, fat-free cheese spread and smoked salmon: Complex carbohydrates and proteins are a winning combination, and salmon is rich in omega-3 acids that have a positive effect on metabolism.
- Wholegrain tortilla with one scrambled egg and grated cheese: Keep it simple with a handheld balance of carbs, fat and protein.
If you’re short on time in the morning, you’ll find excellent pre-workout snack options at the David Lloyd Clubroom. Choose from coconut yoghurt with a range of toppings, artisan sourdough with peanut butter (or various preserves), fresh fruit salad and more.
What to eat post-workout?
Whether or not you ate before your workout, it’s important to refuel afterwards with a good breakfast (or a second breakfast!). Aim to eat a combination of healthy carbs and protein to aid muscle recovery and replenish your body’s carbohydrate stores.
- Oats: Packed with heart-friendly fibre, protein and antioxidants, oats are an excellent breakfast food. It not only provides a slow release of energy throughout the morning but helps protect your heart health and reduce blood pressure. There are endless tasty and healthy additions, including nuts and nut butter, fresh fruit, yoghurt and protein powder. Overnight oats are also the ideal breakfast on the go: simply soak oats in milk/yoghurt in a jar overnight and top with fruit, nuts and more in the morning.
- Eggs: A great source of muscle-building protein as well as choline (a nutrient vital to brain and liver health), eggs are great fuel after a workout. Enjoy eggs on whole-grain toast paired with avocado, smoked salmon or sautéed vegetables, or in an omelette.
- Avocado on toast: Avocado is packed with omega-3s, protein, fibre, vitamin E and potassium. Enjoy mashed avocado on wholegrain bread for long-lasting energy.
There are plenty of delicious breakfast options at the David Lloyd Clubroom perfect for a fast and easy post-workout meal. Enjoy everything from simple classics like eggs on grain multiseed to steak and eggs, a three-egg omelette and more. Alternatively, if you’re also interested in learning more about when to have a protein shake check this out.