If you’re going to start off your day with a workout, you’re going to have to fuel yourself adequately before hand. However, workout nutrition isn’t the same for everyone. Different goals means different meals for different people.
How do you know what to eat?
Let’s start with a typical goal: Fat Loss
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If your goal is fat loss, you still want to eat a good quality meal before working out. Some people use the method of working out in the morning on an empty stomach thinking that they will only burn fat in their fasted state. You will burn some fat, but you’ll also burn muscle, not cool!
Maintaining muscle mass while trying to lose fat is one of the most important aspects of healthy fat loss. It keeps your metabolism high, while allowing yourself to lift heavier and more each workout which equals greater fat loss.
What do you eat before your workout?
Let’s face it, you’re more than likely to get out of bed no more than an hour or two before working out so you will want to eat something that is digested quickly.
Even more importantly you want to consume protein so you don’t burn off muscle while working out. You just went a full night without consuming protein so you want to start your day with a quickly digested form such as milk derived proteins, eggs, or a protein shake.
A super shake is your best friend if you roll out of bed and don’t want to cook. You can mix your favourite flavour of protein with greens, nuts or berries and top it with a bit of cinnamon or any other healthy flavour. Precision Nutrition has a great article on super shakes.
You also want to consume fat and fiber. Fiber will help the digestion of protein, while fat provides many qualities such as energy and improved hormone function for your workout.
But what about carbs?
For fat loss, one proven strategy is to have a low carb, high protein, high fat breakfast. This will shift your body into burning more fat for the day. If you feed yourself too many carbs in the morning, you will most likely fill your muscles glycogen stores, and then burn that off during the workout instead of fat. Granted, if you’ve had a high intensity or high volume workout, you will still burn fat for hours after the workout regardless.
One great breakfast alternative is a method I got from world renowned Strength Coach Charles Poliquin. He suggested trying a “meat and nuts breakfast”. While I was skeptical to try it for myself and my own clients, I sucked it up.
I gave it a shot and within a few days I had already gotten visibly leaner, AND had more energy then ever before in the mornings. Since the idea of cooking meat for breakfast is a bit unusual, I tried substituting it with eggs or beans with feta, and still felt the wonderful benefits and energy.
If your goal is to build muscle, you want to make sure your breakfast consists of balanced macronutrients. Protein, carbs and fat are all essential to the muscle building process.
Unlike fat loss, you want to make sure your muscle glycogen stores are filled so you have energy within the muscle to last multiple sets. It also increases the intramuscular pump (reason why you look bigger after a workout, and also a trigger of muscle growth).
It is preferred that you choose complex carbs so the energy is longer lasting, your blood sugar is balanced and your focus remains high. Simple sugars should be saved for the post workout window but, that will be saved for an article on its own.
Protein is of course necessary before hand to prevent muscle breakdown and fat to provide energy and again hormonal efficiency. Another overlooked component of a breakfast for someone trying to gain muscle is the amount and the timing.
Make sure you’ve given yourself enough fuel to work hard but not so much that you feel bloated and unable to complete a challenging workout. In terms of timing, you’re going to wanna get your food in 30mins-2hrs before hand, depending on how close you can workout after eating, and how much time you give yourself.
Try these breakfast tips before your next morning workout. You’ll have more energy and see better results than ever before!