A study says breakfast before exercise helps burn carbs plus it could also help you metabolise food better afterwards.
Many of us grew up with the idea that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. However, in recent years this conventional wisdom has increasingly been called into question.
Is breakfast really necessary, especially if you’re working out? Some people think exercising on an empty stomach will help you burn fat and diet plans like intermittent fasting have been growing in popularity.
However, a new study is turning things on its head yet again – apparently, your mum was right and you might not want to skip breakfast.
Scientists at the University of Bath studied the effect of eating breakfast versus fasting overnight, before an hour’s cycling in 12 healthy male volunteers. They found that eating breakfast made the body burn carbs quicker during exercise, as well as increasing the rate the body digested and metabolised food afterward.
Unfortunately, a bowl of sugary cereal probably won’t do the trick. Most experts agree you need to eat a couple of hours before exercising to give your body time to digest, so here are some breakfast ideas to help you get the most out of your workout.
1. Banana and peanut butter
If you’re not the kind of person who enjoys eating anything the moment you wake up, something small like a banana with peanut butter should be easy enough to stomach, especially if you don’t have tonnes of time before you hit the gym.
This is a great option because bananas are low-fibre and digest quickly, so you won’t feel like you have a big meal sitting in your stomach when you hop on the treadmill. Not only this, but your potassium levels drop when you get sweaty so the banana will help keep them up.
You shouldn’t go too heavy on the peanut butter though because it’s a fat so it’s slow-digesting, but a little bit could help with energy and nutrient-absorption. It’s also good because it contains protein – this is particularly good if you’re weight training because it helps protect the muscles and is also full of amino acids which is necessary if you want to build up muscle mass.
2. Porridge oats
Oats gradually release sugar into your bloodstream, keeping your energy levels topped up throughout your workout – unlike that sugary bowl of cereal, which will give you a spike energy for the first five minutes and then leave you feeling knackered. Carbs are necessary for you to smash your workout because it breaks down into glucose, which is fuel for your body.
The best thing about porridge is you can customise it to how you’re feeling that day – add nuts for a bit of protein, or fruit for bursts of energy.
3. Hard-boiled egg and avocado on toast
Sadly, not all carbs were created equal. You’re much better off choosing whole grain bread over its white counterpart – it will release energy more slowly and you’ll reap the benefits throughout your workout. Adding an egg, which contains around 6g of protein, is a no-brainer,
The fat in the avocado helps fuel your body, particularly if you’re doing longer and less intense workouts – this breakfast is perhaps one more for your LISS (low intensity steady) sessions than a HIIT class.
4. Spinach omelette
If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands you could make a tasty omelette. The eggs are packed full of – you guessed it – protein and the spinach is a great source of nutrients. Need we remind you how Popeye got all his muscles?
Of course, you can have an egg white omelette if that’s what you fancy. The whites have more protein, but the yolks also contain some of the good stuff so there’s no need to ignore them completely, especially as they contain other nutrients like potassium.
5. Chicken, rice and veg
Not everyone works out in the morning, instead opting for an afternoon or evening session. So what kind of meal should you eat beforehand, considering porridge is socially unacceptable after 11am?
Go for a lean protein with lots of veggies and a grain – something easy like chicken breast or tofu with brown rice and any veg you like should do the trick.
Definitely try to add some chickpeas in there as well – these small powerhouses contain healthy amounts of protein and carbs, providing your body with lots of energy and amino acids for your muscles.