It’s 6 A.M., or 5 A.M., or (if you’re really ambitious) 4 A.M. Your alarm goes off and you crawl out of bed—it’s time for your workout. In these wee small hours, you might just have the wherewithal to slither into your leggings, tie up your sneakers, and cue up your playlist before you start your sweat session. Sitting down to a full breakfast is probably not part of your early morning routine.
For some, it’s truly not easy to stomach food before the sun rises. “Eating very early in the morning can be particularly jarring, ” Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., certified sports dietitian, and head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly, tells SELF. If you’re not hungry at the crack of dawn, there’s no need to force yourself to eat before your workout. In fact, some people may find that they perform better in a fasted state. On the other hand, Clark notes that carbohydrates can help offset fatigue, so even just a handful of granola or cereal on your way out the door can help wake you up, which can, in turn, make you more alert for your workout.
Alternately, you might be totally ravenous when you wake up and find that you just don’t have the time or energy to actually throw something together. That’s fine too—there are a lot of speedy breakfasts out there that you can either make ahead or throw together in a pinch.
Before you settle on a breakfast, think about how much time you’re going to have to digest it. Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles M.S., R.D.N., certified sports dietitian, tells SELF that, generally speaking, you should try to eat an hour to 90 minutes before a workout. Obviously, if you’re working out super early you’re not going to want to wake up extra super early just to eat (use that time to sleep!). Instead, Giles recommends just opting for smaller portion sizes than usual. “Since you don’t have a lot of time to digest, just decrease the quantity of food you’re eating,” she explains. So rather than having a bowl of Greek yogurt and a banana with peanut butter, just have that bowl of yogurt.
Now for those speedy breakfasts. Both Giles and Clark have provided us with some excellent options that we’ve divided into two sections: those that are better for super early workouts (think 4 or 5 A.M.) and those that are better when you have a moment in the morning (7 or 8 A.M.). Prep them before you go to bed, keep them in the fridge, and grab them just before you get going.
These are the best breakfasts to eat before a very early workout:
According to Giles, these breakfasts are as easy to eat as they are to make. She explains that chocolate milk is often thought of as a great recovery snack, but it’s also a great pre-workout breakfast because it has a nice balance of protein and carbs—AKA those two essential energy-boosting nutrients—and it’s easy on the stomach. If you’re super lazy in the morning (no judgment, I am too!) Clark recommends simply munching on a handful of cereal or dried fruit, or taking a swig of fresh fruit juice, as those options will provide you with lots of helpful carbs and take literally no time to prepare.
- Chocolate milk
- Half a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter
- Half a mini bagel with a teaspoon of cream cheese
- A hardboiled egg and a half slice of toast
- A handful of cereal
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
- A couple swigs of 100 percent fruit juice
And these are the best to eat a little later in the morning:
If your spin class isn’t until 7 A.M. and you actually do have a hot sec to eat and enjoy, Giles suggests pairing a larger breakfast with a cup of coffee. “A little caffeine will boost endurance,” she explains. Her favorite of these breakfasts include protein bars (which she can simply throw in her gym bag before leaving) or lentil soup, which is an excellent option if you happen to have leftovers from dinner the night before. Clark is a fan of toast with jam, because it’s easy to digest. She also loves oatmeal with low-fat milk, because it’s loaded with complex carbs and protein.
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk
- Protein bars (KIND or Clif)
- A smoothie made with a scoop of protein powder, milk (or almond milk), frozen fruit, and spinach
- A slice of toast with jam
- Lentil soup