The Best and Worst Breakfast Foods to Eat Before a Workout | (2024)

The Best and Worst Breakfast Foods to Eat Before a Workout | (1)

Oatmeal topped with a mix of carbs and protein can help fuel you for a workout and the day ahead.

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Eating a healthy breakfast before a morning workout can help you feel and perform at your best. But sitting down to the wrong meal can derail your fitness goals and potentially lead to stomach aches and pains and well as indigestion and bloating.


For the best pre-workout breakfast, you'll want to choose foods that contain beneficial carbohydrates, some protein and vitamins and minerals to support your body's energy levels and recovery post-workout. Conversely, foods high in fat and lower in carbs and protein don't make the best picks.

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Before your next a.m. workout, fill your plate with these best pre-workout breakfast foods and avoid the worst picks.


The Best Pre-Workout Breakfast Foods

The body primarily burns carbs during workouts. Carbs are then stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen, which provides energy for your workouts, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

That's why it's important to fuel up with carbs pre-workout to support an even stream of glucose to your muscles and brain. The following foods contain healthy carbs as well as other vital nutrients.


1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal contains slow-burning carbs to give you lasting energy for your workout and the rest of your day.

Plus, oatmeal's neutral flavor serves as a palette for whatever you're craving. You can dress it up with berries, banana and nut butter, or go the savory route (like with this Savory Oatmeal With Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach and Poached Eggs recipe). Just aim to get a good mix of carbs and protein for whatever toppings you choose.


Quick oats are considered faster-burning carbs, and they're easier to digest than rolled or steel-cut oats, per an October 2015 review in the British Journal of Nutrition. Quick oats also contain less fiber than its counterparts. While fiber is an important nutrient that helps with digestion, too much of it can cause discomfort and indigestion, which you certainly don't want during a workout.


If you have less than an hour between eating breakfast and your workout, consider quick oats instead of the slower-burning rolled or steel-cut oats.

2. Bananas

If you're not big on breakfast, or if you don't love having big meals before you exercise, a banana is the perfect pick. Bananas contain fast-burning carbs that provide energy that can help power you through a workout, and because they're quite portable, they make for a very simple pre-workout nosh.



Not only are bananas rich in beneficial carbs, they're also a natural source of B vitamins, which also support energy levels. One medium banana provides about a quarter of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6, according to the USDA.

Interestingly, green bananas contain a higher proportion of resistant starches. These resistant starches are slower-burning carbs and support a healthy gut, while riper bananas have quicker burning carbs.



If you're eating a few hours before your sweat session, consider eating a greener banana. Go riper if you're eating within one hour of your workout.

3. Toast

What kind of toast, you ask? It depends. Whole-wheat and sprouted bread contain more vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein compared to white bread. Sprouted grains have higher amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, folate and lysine, an essential amino acid in protein, compared to unsprouted grains.

The higher amounts of nutrients make whole-wheat and sprouted bread better for contributing to your daily nutritional needs. That said, sprouted grains take more time to digest and may cause bloating or indigestion during your workout.


On the other hand, white bread won't. A higher proportion of carbs in white bread come from sugar, which will provide a quicker fuel source.


Consider choosing sprouted or whole-grain bread if you're eating breakfast more than an hour before your workout and white bread if your breakfast is an hour or less before your workout.

The Worst Breakfast Foods to Eat Before a Workout

Because fat takes longer to digest compared to carbs and protein, you'll want to stay away from high-fat foods before a workout to avoid indigestion and other symptoms, like heartburn.


1. Sausage

Two breakfast sausage links have 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein, per the USDA. Because of its high-fat and low-carb content, sausage may feel more like a brick in your stomach than proper fuel when you eat it before a workout.


Ever felt like you didn't have that extra kick during a run or a high-intensity workout? This is likely due to low blood sugar or empty glycogen stores. Support your body's performance with higher-carb foods and stay away from fat-rich foods like sausage.

2. Bacon

Take the toast, skip the bacon. Like sausage, bacon is high in fat and can lead you to feel sluggish. It may even contribute to side stitches during your workout. Two slices of fried bacon pack 8 grams of fat and 0 grams of carbs, according to the USDA.

While the salt in the bacon may actually help you to meet your body's electrolyte needs during a hot and sweaty workout, that won't save you from potential indigestion and dips in energy levels.

3. Croissants and Pastries

For some, croissants and pastries like doughnuts are a breakfast staples, but these foods' high-fat content offers good reason to stay away — especially if you're eating them before a workout. One large croissant contains 14 grams of fat and 31 grams of carbohydrates, per the USDA.

Pastries are often low in beneficial nutrients and don't contribute much to your body's nutritional needs. While they are undoubtedly delicious, they're best reserved for a leisurely breakfast that doesn't precede a workout.

The Bottom Line

If you're eating before a morning workout, choose foods that are rich in energy-boosting carbs and lower in fat.

These food choices will not only help you to perform your best during your workout but will also contribute to better energy levels throughout the rest of your day.

Related Reading

The Best Pre-Workout Foods and the Science Behind Why They Work



To dive into the nutritional aspects of a pre-workout breakfast, it's crucial to understand the dynamics behind the choice of foods and their impact on exercise performance. My background in nutrition and exercise science has provided me with an in-depth understanding of how different nutrients affect the body during physical activity.

When considering a pre-workout meal, it's vital to address the composition that optimally supports both energy levels and post-exercise recovery. Carbohydrates stand as a primary fuel source during exercise, and the body stores these in the form of glycogen. This reserve helps sustain energy levels during workouts. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal; some release energy rapidly, while others offer a slower, sustained release.

Oatmeal, a slow-burning carbohydrate, provides lasting energy due to its moderate glycemic index. Its neutrality in taste allows for versatile additions like berries, bananas, or nut butter, offering a blend of carbohydrates and proteins. The distinction between quick oats, which digest faster, and rolled or steel-cut oats, which contain more fiber, is pivotal when considering the timing between eating and exercising. Quick oats may be preferred if the window between breakfast and workout is short.

Bananas, rich in fast-burning carbohydrates, are a convenient pre-workout snack. They also contain B vitamins crucial for energy metabolism. Interestingly, the ripeness of bananas determines the type of carbohydrates they offer; greener bananas have more resistant starches, promoting gut health, while riper bananas provide quicker-burning carbs.

The choice of toast varies based on the grain used. Whole-wheat and sprouted bread offer more nutrients and fiber compared to white bread. Sprouted grains, while rich in nutrients, take longer to digest and might cause discomfort during workouts. Conversely, white bread provides a quicker source of fuel due to its higher sugar content, making it suitable when closer to exercise time.

Conversely, high-fat foods like sausage, bacon, croissants, and pastries should be avoided before workouts. Their slow digestion can lead to discomfort, bloating, and decreased energy levels during exercise. These foods don't offer the necessary carbohydrates for sustained energy, potentially hindering workout performance.

Ultimately, the key lies in choosing a pre-workout breakfast rich in energy-boosting carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat. This ensures sustained energy levels, supports workout performance, and aids in post-exercise recovery, contributing to overall improved energy throughout the day.

The Best and Worst Breakfast Foods to Eat Before a Workout | (2024)
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