What to eat for breakfast before workout

by Scenit Nutrition on Dec 27, 2022

Qué desayunar antes de hacer ejercicio

Before considering which foods are suitable for doing sports, another question should be asked: eat breakfast before workout, yes or no? We anticipate that there are disparate opinions on the matter, so we bring together all the points of view to help you make a decision.

To do this, we are going to review relevant information about the daily energy intake you need, what keys you should use to configure your menu and, of course, what to eat before doing sports . The best thing to feel good is to inform yourself and gradually implement the routines that feel best for you, and at Scenit Nutrition we try to help you to achieve it.

Is it good to eat breakfast before workout?

The question about whether or not it is good to have breakfast before exercising arises from the disparity of recommendations.

Some people avoid exercising on an empty stomach due to the risk of suffering a drop in blood sugar or blood pressure, as well as dizziness or even fainting. Other people, on the other hand, consider that the body burns many more calories if the exercise is done on an empty stomach.

Studies such as this one , published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition , shed light on this last question . In his conclusions, he specifies that those who specifically seek to lose weight with activity can choose between eating before or after according to their preferences, since the changes are not significant . Of course, the sample of the study was small and new research will have to be developed in the future.

But going back to the question we were asking ourselves: is it good to have breakfast before exercising? If your goal is to lose weight, there won't be a significant variance by eating or not eating breakfast, so stick to what you're most comfortable with.

Of course, if what you want is to improve performance, you could train on an empty stomach. In any case, there are no studies that indicate that eating before playing sports is generally counterproductive . The recommendations only aim to do it sufficiently in advance so that it gives time to digest.

Also, if you are going to practice some gentle discipline, such as yoga or pilates, you should opt for something light , such as bananas or fruit smoothies. To this must be added good hydration, but later we will expand information on what to eat before going to the gym.

Advantages of eating breakfast before exercising

If you have breakfast before doing your physical activity, you will get the necessary energy for the session . It should be something healthy and light, depending on the activity you are going to do. Low glycemic index carbohydrates are an excellent choice because they are metabolized more slowly.

To do a fasted workout, you need a progressive adaptation. Therefore, other advantages of having breakfast before exercising is that you can do your practice at any level and whatever your physical condition .

Food serves as a stimulus , so our brain interprets what we eat as a sign that there is energy to expend. If you do not get that stimulus, it will be difficult to exceed certain intensity limits within anaerobic exercise.

In addition, you will eliminate the risk of dizziness or even fainting , even more so if you do demanding sessions or if the body is not used to it. Depending on the activity, it can be something as light as a fruit juice.

What to eat before training

To know what to eat before training, it would be interesting to know how much energy is needed . This can be done by calculating the basal metabolic rate, that is, the amount of energy burned at rest and the amount needed by the body to function properly. This must be related to those that are usually needed in an exercise session.

To calculate the basal metabolism , you have to apply a different formula depending on whether you are a man or a woman. In both cases it is necessary to know the parameters of weight, height and age, so that the formula would look like this:

  • Calculation of basal metabolism in men. (10 x weight in kg) (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x years of age) 5.
  • Calculation of basal metabolism in women. (10 x weight in kg) (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161.

Let's see two examples:

Suppose that it is a 40-year-old woman who performs light exercise, weighs 70 kilos and is 1.70 m tall. The calculation would be as follows: (10 x 70) (6.25 x 170 cm) – (5 x 40) – 161 = 1401.5. That is the energy you need to cover your basic needs.

Another example is that of a 35-year-old man with a sedentary life who weighs 98 kilos and measures 1.75 m, then: (10 x 98) (6.25 x 175) – (5 x 35) 5 = 1903.74 .

As we said, we must add the variable of physical activity , since the previous one only corresponds to the calories that the body needs to function correctly. Look at the following table:

  • Sedentary or eminently inactive person who spends most of the day sitting down: 1.2.
  • Mild activity corresponding to walks or light exercise: 1.3.
  • Moderate activity consisting of exercise sessions two or three times a week: 1.4.
  • Fairly active person who exercises more than three times a week: 1.5.
  • Very active person who exercises every day: 1.7.

The previous figure must be multiplied by the basal metabolism, so that following the previous examples, the woman needs a daily energy requirement of 1821.95 calories (1401.5 times the basal metabolism x 1.3 corresponding to light activity). . The man will need 2284.48 (1903.74 basal metabolism x 1.2, corresponding to his lifestyle).

It may seem like a lot of numbers, but these calculations are not difficult and can give you enough information to know how you should distribute your meals and how many calories you should eat according to your goals. If you want to lose weight, the key is to keep the calories ingested below the necessary ones, counting both the energy consumed by the basal metabolism and the physical exercise you do. This is a parameter frequently taken into account by nutrition specialists.

A professional in this field or a specialized and reliable application can help you quickly calculate the number of calories you need to eat and, more specifically, what percentage should correspond to carbohydrates, proteins and fats. From there, it will help you develop a healthy menu that considers both breakfast and the rest of the day's meals.

In general, we can give you some keys to know how to have breakfast before exercising.

1. Respect the times

Remember that the ideal is to have breakfast well in advance . It will depend on the discipline that you are going to practice, but the ideal period of time can be between one hour, two hours or even four hours before the start of the activity.

What it is about is filling your glycogen reserves , that is, a substance present in the liver and muscles that can be transformed into glucose when the body requires it. It is essential to train at an optimal level and for longer.

2. Secure protein and carbohydrates

What you eat before exercise should contain protein that you will need for recovery afterwards. Carbohydrates, also essential, help maintain an adequate level of blood glucose.

If you usually do light or moderate exercise, a healthy and balanced diet may be enough to get the vitamins and minerals you need. But if you have any specific needs or are following strength or power training in the volume phase, aprotein shake may come in handy .




In fact, this supplement is useful to combat muscle catabolism , which occurs when the body begins to feed on its own reserves and consumes muscle mass. It is possible that the muscle has begun to catabolize after a whole night without food, so the shake helps to restore the glycogen level of the liver and the proteins that you eat go to the muscle. It is another of the advantages of having breakfast in the morning.

3. Avoid discomfort

Many of the people who prefer to exercise on an empty stomach allude to digestive problems. It is true that if breakfast is not well planned, discomfort and stomach pain may appear during the activity, which will greatly limit exercise and go against optimization.

In the next section we will tell you what to eat before doing sports to avoid situations like this, but we already anticipate that another key is to limit fat and fiber .

These tips, like others that we offer you throughout the article, can serve as a starting point, but it is important that you listen to yourself . When you acquire a new habit, such as playing sports in the morning, pay attention to the signs to adapt during the implementation process. You will know what suits you and what you should avoid.

Recommended foods to eat before playing sports

Knowing the advantages of having breakfast before exercising, useful information to find out the energy you need on a day-to-day basis, and some keys for configuring the menu, it is time to detail what to eat before the gym .

The general recommendation is to opt for easy-to-digest carbohydrates and some protein, as well as avoiding high-fiber and high-fat foods. It will depend on how far in advance you are going to have breakfast and the exercise you are going to do.

For example, half an hour before doing cardio exercises like a Zumba class, an elliptical session or a walk, a banana or a couple of pieces of another fruit will suffice . An alternative is a slice of bread with a bit of jam as natural as possible . Always avoid ultra-processed foods and excess sugars.

If instead of 30 minutes you can have breakfast an hour before exercising, you can incorporate other foods. One idea is to combine oatmeal with milk and fruit , or opt for yogurt and a banana.

If you are going to do strength or resistance exercises, you should incorporate a higher dose of protein. To make it light enough, a Greek yogurt, a couple of slices of bread with a few slices of turkey , or a fruit smoothie with milk will suffice. You can take any of these combinations 30 or 60 minutes before exercising.

We leave you an example of a healthy recipe that you can take an hour before exercising. Take oatmeal , a very nutritious food that provides vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins of plant origin, making it the perfect food before starting your session.

Pancakes with oatmeal

  • 60 grams of oatmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 60 ml of cow's or vegetable milk
  • Berries

Mix the flour, egg and milk well, making sure there are no lumps. In a greased frying pan, go making the pancakes. Pour a bit of the mixture, controlling the round shape and the right size, and let it cook for a few seconds. You should turn it over when you see the surface full of bubbles.

When you have them all, chop the fruit to accompany. You can use other toppings, such as peanut butter without additives, although you should not make a heavy breakfast.

In summary, eating breakfast before exercising seems more recommendable for people who are not used to doing it afterwards, and it has advantages such as preventing dizziness or avoiding catabolism. On the other hand, having breakfast before or after doing sports does not have significant differences to achieve objectives such as losing weight.

A light intake is enough with enough time to avoid causing discomfort, which can consist of one or two pieces of fruit, cereal with milk, a slice of bread with turkey or a fruit smoothie. In any case, when implementing a new habit it is essential that you listen to your body and put into practice what feels good to you.