6 BEST Early Morning Workout Meals
By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD
Picture this (or maybe this was your morning today):
Your alarm goes off at 4:30 am, waking you from a nice dream. You get up before shutting it off, in case you don’t stay awake, since you have bootcamp class in about 45 minutes and need to rush. The warm pillow just feels so good pressed against your face though, but you know that exercise feels so much better.
Sleeping is great, but working out is better
Some people think you’re crazy for working out at 5:15 am, but this is really the only time you can get your sweat on, since the rest of your day is filled with meetings, assignments, and family time in the evening.
Every time you say you’ll workout at night, you end up missing it because something else gets in the way. But, at 4:30 am, the only thing that might hold you back is your comfy pillow.
You rub the sleep out of your eyes and drag your body out of bed. For a moment it seems impossible that in less than an hour you’re going to be working your muscles and building up a good sweat. But it’s what you’ve committed to do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and so far have been loving it.
Once you finally get dressed, you wander in the kitchen try to figure out what to eat.
It feels way too early to eat right now, but you know that if you don’t put something in your stomach, you’re going to feel the lack of energy during class.
Or, if you eat the wrong thing, you’ll feel even worse – shaky, irritable, and unable to exercise; and that’s not what you want.
So, what do you eat? What’s going to give you the right kind of energy without making you feel nauseous or too full?
First, let’s look at what not to eat:
If you eat a food consisting entirely of carbohydrates, like a fruit (banana or apple), or a typical sport drink (something-ade), or plain toast, your blood sugars will skyrocket immediately and then plummet during your workout, leaving you feeling weak and sick.So, avoid eating just a quick banana or a glass of fruit juice because you won’t make it through your entire workout without feeling that sickening energy drop that we’ve all experienced at least once in our lives.
Instead, you want to fuel your body with “slow-digesting” energy.
Ideally a food consisting of protein, fiber, and/or fat is best so that you’ll have just a slight elevation in your blood sugar levels, but not so much that you’ll crash hard later.
First, protein, consisting of an array of amino acids, is important to provide your working muscles with the building blocks for growth and repair.
Although you may not want to look like a bodybuilder and grow huge muscles, muscle growth (no matter how big or small) is important to help you work harder, burn more body fat, and prevent injuries.
Protein is also ideal to take before and after your workout as researchers have shown that it helps promote the best protein balance scenario versus taking it just after your workout alone.
This protein can come from whey protein powder, hemp protein powder or hemp seed butter, natural peanut butter, plain organic yogurt, or eggs and egg whites, to name a few examples.
Second, fiber, which isn’t necessarily an energy source at all, but helps your stomach feel fuller, so that hunger pains don’t stop your workout in its tracks.
Fiber in the morning will also promote a healthy digestive system and regular bowel movements, so that you don’t feel bloated and constipated throughout the day. Some examples of fiber to eat in the morning include ground flax seeds, sprouted grain bread, beans, and fibers found naturally in nut butters.
Experiment with which fiber works best for you to ensure you don’t feel too full or become gassy (no one likes a stinky bootcamper).
Finally, small amounts of healthy fats, like those found in flax oils, flax seeds, nut butters, egg yolks, and olive oils can be a good addition to your pre-workout meal to give you “slow” energy that will last you until you get home from your class.
One last item that some people find essential for their early morning workouts is caffeine: this jolt of energy from coffee or green tea helps them work harder and, in turn, helps them burn more fat. But, for others, caffeine that early might make your workout too energetic and a complete mess. See what works best for you.
Remember: No single morning pre-workout meal is going to work for everyone, so try a few and find out what works best for your stomach and your scenario.
Here are a few easy and quick ideas that have worked great for bootcampers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Try them out and let us know what you think. Let us know what your favorite pre-workout meals are too!
NOTE: these meals will also be great pre-workout fuel at other times of the day
Flaxy Whey Pudding
Take 1 scoop of whey protein and mix in a small container with 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds and water or unsweetened almond milk. Mix up the night before and let soak in the refrigerator. When you eat it in the morning, the flax seeds will “thicken” up the whey, making it taste like a fiber-rich pudding.
Ezekiel Toast with Natural PB
Toast one slice of Ezekiel Sprouted Grain bread (bread made without flour, found in the freezer section of some grocery stores) and top with 1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
Rye Cracker with Hemp Seed Butter
Take 1 hard rye cracker (like Ryvita) and top with 1 Tbsp Natural Hemp Seed Butter
Mix one scoop Fusion (with naturally-added fiber) with water or almond milk and drink right away.
Banana or Organic Apple with Natural Almond Butter
Top ½ or whole organic apple or banana with 1 Tbsp natural almond butter
Mix 1 scoop whey protein with 1 cup water or almond milk in a small bowl container. Then, add ½ cup low-sugar breakfast cereal like Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, or Rice Squares.
Banana Walnut Protein Bar
Try this great, easy, recipe which contains mostly just whey, walnuts, banana, butter, and eggs. It’s the perfect mix of fiber, protein, and healthy fats to keep your workout strong! Make it the day before and enjoy it all week long! Click here for the recipe >>