What to Eat Before a Morning Workout? (18 Energizing Foods)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 8, 2023
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As a fitness coach, I've been giving my clients tips and advice on what to eat before a morning workout to help them get good nutrition and fuel their training routines.

I always try to point my clients and readers toward foods that are high in complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and complete proteins for faster muscle gains.

Recently, I met with a dietician to refresh my knowledge and add new pre-workout meals to my recommended list.

Here’s what we’ve prepared for you.

Quick Summary

  • Before a morning workout, eat foods like bananas, whole-grain toast, Greek yogurt, and whey protein shakes for energy and muscle support.
  • Pre-workout meals should balance carbohydrates and proteins, avoiding high-fiber foods to prevent bloating and ensure efficient nutrient absorption.
  • Research in Scientific Reports highlights that apples, rich in water and vitamin C, not only hydrate but also boost the immune system, making them an excellent choice for pre-workout nutrition.
  • I believe that a well-planned pre-workout meal is crucial for maximizing workout results and maintaining consistent energy levels.

18 Pre-Workout Meal Ideas to Boost Your Performance

A scoop of healthy fruity breakfast

Working out in the morning on an empty stomach may not be the best idea, depending on your goals. Your body needs nutrients to energize you and provide vitamins and nutrients to your brain and working muscles.

Considering the intensity and type of your morning exercise, whether it's cardio or strength training, can significantly influence your pre-workout meal choices, highlighting the importance of personalized nutrition advice for enhanced workout efficiency.

The psychological impact of what you eat before a morning workout is often underestimated; choosing foods that not only energize your body but also positively influence your mood and mental readiness can make a significant difference in your overall workout experience.

The following are some pre-workout breakfast ideas to help you get your morning routine started.

1. Banana

Eating a banana before starting your workout can help you improve your performance because it is high in carbohydrates and minerals, particularly potassium.

I've found that a banana before my morning runs gives me a quick energy boost without feeling heavy.

Research has found that carbohydrates in bananas fuel your exercise, while their potassium content can support muscle contractions and help prevent cramps [1].

Thus, eating one large banana 30 to 60 minutes before exercise can help your muscles sustain weight and endure a longer training time, enabling you to level up your performance.

2. Apple and Peanut Butter

Apples and peanut butter make an excellent pre-workout snack in the morning because they provide good carbs, protein, hydration, and a tasty treat.

According to research published in Scientific Reports, apples are high in water and vitamin C, which can hydrate and boost your immune system [2]. On the other hand, peanut butter has carbs and proteins that can fuel your exercise routine and help with muscle recovery [3].

Most bodybuilders eat protein and carbohydrates before working out, which an apple and peanut butter sandwich on the go can provide.

3. Plain Bagel With Low-Fat Cream Cheese

Plain Bagel with low fat cream cheese on top of a white board

Plain bagels with low-fat cream cheese can be a healthy pre-workout fuel to boost exercise performance because they offer several nutrients while being low in fat.

I often have a plain bagel with low-fat cream cheese for sustained energy during longer training sessions.

Research suggests that cream cheese may be a better substitute for butter because it is lower in fat and higher in protein [4].

Eating a bagel with cream cheese provides you with enough complex carbohydrates to boost energy and proteins to help you train for more extended periods.

4. Whole-Grain Toast

Whole-grain toast with healthy nut butter spread can be an excellent meal before a morning exercise because it is high in carbs and proteins for active energy and muscle gains.

According to research published in Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Science, consuming whole grains like toast can help jumpstart your day by boosting your metabolism, and nuts can help build muscles by stimulating muscle repair [5].

Eating a few slices of whole-grain toast with nut butter spreads can supply you with energy and essential amino acids, allowing you to perform better in your morning workouts.

5. Trail Mix

Trail Mix close up image

Trail mix can be a great option for a salty-sweet grab-and-go snack before a strength training session because it contains carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats, and proteins.

Trail mix is my favorite quick snack before hitting the gym, offering a great balance of nutrients.

Researchers found that trail mix contains a good amount of sugar to boost energy levels, as well as protein and healthy fat to help your muscle work better, maximizing your workouts [6].

With almonds, seeds, and dried fruit bits in your trail mix, you can kickstart your day with extra energy and nutrients without straining your digestive system.

6.Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt can power up your training routine because it contains easy-to-digest carbs and high protein content that can help energize your day and supply your muscles with nutrients.

"Protein is the building block of muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood."

- Brittany Modell, Registered Dietician

According to research published in Frontiers in Nutrition, Greek yogurt contains more proteins than milk and basically the same nutrients that help enhance muscle building and strength [7].

Adding some frozen berries and unsalted nuts to your yogurt can add flavor and nutrients that can further charge your exercise performance.

7. Overnight Oats

Overnight oats inside a jar

Overnight oats can fuel your early morning workouts because they are high in carbs, fiber, proteins, and healthy fats, providing a steady source of energy for longer training sessions.

Overnight oats have been a game-changer for me, offering sustained energy for my early workouts.

According to research, whole-grain oats also contain micronutrients such as zinc, iron, and betaine, which help the body build muscle, become stronger, and have more endurance [8].

For a tasty, nutrient-dense pre-workout meal, add fresh fruit chunks, seeds, and almond milk, but consume it an hour or two before exercising to avoid feeling bloated.

8. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is almost the same as overnight oats in that your primary source of carbs is whole-grain oats, but they differ in how you prepare and serve them.

Overnight oats are nutrient-dense snacks that are served cold, whereas oatmeal is a cooked breakfast that is served hot [9]. This distinction may have an impact on your digestion.

Topping your oatmeal with raisins, mashed banana, and honey can turn it into a tasty breakfast treat while giving your body nutrients that can fuel your exercise routine.

9. Whey Protein Shake

Protein shake ingredients preparation

Whey protein shakes can also be great morning meals because they can jumpstart your metabolism and keep you going by providing a good source of nutrients.

A whey protein shake is my quick solution for a high-protein boost before intense training sessions.

Research shows that whey proteins digest more rapidly, providing a quick energy source. They are also high in leucine, an amino acid that promotes energy production in cells [10].

However, you should consume protein pre-workout between an hour and two hours before exercising to avoid feeling heavy on the stomach.

10. Natural fruit smoothie

Natural fruit smoothies are an excellent choice for a pre-workout meal because they are easy to consume, and you can mix and match the ingredients.

According to research published in PubMed, increasing your intake of dietary nitrates may help improve blood flow throughout the body, resulting in increased oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the muscles [11].

Pomegranate, beetroot, and carrot juices, which are high in nitrates, can help you strengthen your muscles and endure longer workouts.

You can check out our guide on the best pre-workout smoothie recipes to give you energy before your workout.

11. Eggs

Eggs on a brown sack

Eggs, whether hard-boiled or cooked as an omelet with chopped veggies, provide a good source of all essential amino acids before working out.

Hard-boiled eggs are my go-to for a quick, protein-rich snack before morning exercises.

According to research, consuming complete protein sources before workouts helps your body produce new muscle fibers [12].

Thus, eating eggs before your workout can help you build muscle mass and strength while also repairing micro-damages in your muscles.

12. Black Coffee

Caffeine, found in many multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements to boost performance, is abundant in black coffee.

According to research, caffeine consumption can promote thermogenesis, which increases the metabolic rate in the body, allowing you to gain more energy during workouts [13].

Having a cup of black coffee before your morning workout can help your body use fat stores for energy, boosting your performance and hastening your body’s fat-burning ability.

Thus, coffee is a good pre-workout to have because of its benefits.

13. Baked Potatoes / Sweet Potatoes

Baked potatoes on top of an oven tray

Eating baked root crops like potatoes and sweet potatoes before starting your training is a great way to get long-lasting, sustainable energy throughout your workout.

Baked sweet potatoes are my favorite for long-lasting energy, especially before endurance training.

Research published in Molecules suggests that sweet potatoes contain micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron, and copper, which can help maintain healthy muscle tissue fibers and sustain energy levels [14].

Using baked potato cubes, low-sodium turkey bacon, and Greek yogurt, you can make a healthy potato salad that provides muscle-building carbs and proteins before a workout.

14. Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Low-fat chocolate milk can help you boost your workout performance by providing nutrients like sugar carbs, milk proteins, and theobromine.

According to research, the combination of carbs and proteins provides muscle energy and strength, while theobromine acts as a brain stimulant to improve mood and motivation to work out [15] [16].

Thus, drinking chocolate milk before a workout can help you build endurance for longer training sessions, resulting in greater muscle mass gains and fat loss.

15. Protein Cookies

Protein cookie being dipped in oatmilk

Protein cookies are ideal for muscle-building because they contain whey protein powder in addition to popular ingredients such as oatmeal and nut butters.

I sometimes snack on a protein cookie when I need a quick and tasty energy boost.

It has been shown that whey protein intake can help balance the body's daily protein requirements, assisting muscle repair and growth during and after exercise [17].

Eating a protein-enriched cookie is one of the ways to get energized before a workout due to its glucose content and essential amino acids required for better muscle performance.

16. Protein Bars

Protein bars, also called pre-workout energy bars, are beneficial for early-morning exercisers since they contain carbohydrates to fuel your workout and protein powder to repair your muscles.

Research published in Nutrients suggests that pre-workout nutrition that includes proteins reduces blood sugar spikes, which is possibly due to the presence of amino acids, arginine, and leucine [18].

Thus, consuming a protein bar before your morning workout can enhance your performance by providing a consistent energy source and increasing muscle strength and endurance.

17. Coconut Water

Coconut water in a jar

Adding a sports drink like coconut water to your morning workout routine can help you stay hydrated and provide the fluid electrolytes your body needs to perform better.

Coconut water is my hydration hero for early morning workouts, keeping me energized and refreshed.

Coconut water has been shown to contain carbohydrates and essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, and chloride, which are needed for normal muscle activity, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [19].

Drinking coconut water first thing in the morning before your workout can help hydrate your body, boost energy, and supply the minerals your muscles need during and after exercise.

Related: Is Coconut Water a Good Pre-Workout?

18. Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is one of many pre-workout ingredients found in sports drinks to boost energy, so taking it before a workout may help your body function better.

"If you're an athlete looking for a competitive edge, creatine may be able to help you."

- Autumn Bates, Certified Sports Nutritionist

In 2000, a clinical trial concluded that six weeks of oral creatine supplementation increased muscle strength and power, resulting in improved body composition [20].

When taken in the morning with water or mixed into a low-fat protein shake, creatine can help you kickstart your morning workout and provide you with energy for the rest of the day.

If you want to maximize workout performance, you can check out our guide on the best creatine supplements on the market.

Other Health Benefits of Pre-Workout Breakfast

Couple exercising outdoors

Aside from helping you perform better during your workout, taking recommended pre-workout meals has other health benefits, such as preventing fatigue and muscle loss.

As an alternative to using stored carbohydrates and fat for fuel, pre-workout meals can keep your glycogen stores replenished and provide nutrients to keep your body going for the rest of the day.

To optimize your workout performance, it's crucial to understand how different macronutrients - carbohydrates, proteins, and fats - uniquely contribute to energy levels, muscle building, and recovery, tailoring your pre-workout meal to your body's specific needs.

Also, you can retain lean muscles if you eat before exercising since your body will have enough amino acids to repair your muscles after breaking them down.

Are There Risks to Consider?

There are some risks you should consider when eating pre-workout meals in the morning, mainly bloating, heartburn, and upset stomach.

These can sometimes be caused by intolerances and allergies, as well as by consuming foods that shouldn't be taken on an empty stomach or right before working out.

I've noticed in some of my clients that the wrong pre-workout meal can lead to bloating or discomfort, so it's important to choose wisely.

Before you start a fitness plan, you need to know what foods to eat and when to eat them to avoid side effects that could put your health at risk.

FAQs

What Not to Eat Before a Workout?

You should not eat high-fiber foods before a workout so you won't feel full or bloated. Also, avoiding alcoholic and carbonated beverages would be best because they can dehydrate your body, jeopardizing your exercise performance.

When Should You Eat Before a Workout?

You should eat a small snack 30 minutes before a workout to get the instant energy that simple sugars can give your body. But you should wait an hour to two hours after a protein snack or full meal before working out.

Do I Need Carbs Before Morning Workouts?

You need carbs before starting your morning workouts because your body requires enough fuel to energize your brain and muscle activities. A pre-workout carb snack taken 30 minutes before your workout can power up any exercise, including intense cardio and strength training.

Do Fasted Workouts Help Burn Fat?

A fasted workout can help burn fat because your body will rely on glycogen stores and stored fat for energy during exercise. This is because your body has no extra calories from food to burn when you work out on an empty stomach.

Is It Good to Work Out on an Empty Stomach in the Morning?

It is probably not a good idea to work out on an empty stomach in the morning because your body needs the energy to fuel your performance. Depending on their goals and fitness level, though, some bodybuilders may need to train without eating.

Can I Take Nootropics Before Workout?

Yes, you can take nootropics before workout as they can help you overcome mental barriers to starting a workout and then staying focused on achieving the best results during your workout.


References: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28212804/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-88270-z
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323781
  4. https://foodsguy.com/cream-cheese-vs-butter/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609487/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-foods-for-workout
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6503736/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325078/
  9. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/oats/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5697397/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29380952/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16076989/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8156662/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/health-benefits-exercise
  16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/theobromine
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537849/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4042570/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3293068/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10731009/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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