We’ve all heard it before, whether from our mother, a teacher or a health specialist: breakfast is the most important meal of the day! And the reason for that of course is found right in the name: we’re breaking the fast imposed on our body while we sleep. This meal is even more important when physical activities are part of our morning routine, as it provides our body with the energy it needs both to exercise and to make sure we don’t conk out completely afterwards.
So what does a champion eat every morning before working out? First, before even thinking about eating, he or she rehydrates by drinking a glass of water. This part of waking up is really important and has a direct impact on your training as well as on how you’ll feel for the rest of the day. Dehydration can often bring on headaches and sometimes even muscle cramps.
In terms of food, not everyone agrees on whether or not you need to eat before working out. Certainly, what you should eat, how much and when all depend on the intensity and duration of your intended workout. Before taking to a treadmill for 30 minutes, a fruit can suffice and you can eat a complete breakfast afterwards. You can also replace 1/3 of the contents of your water bottle with fruit juice. On the other hand, before starting an intense workout that lasts an hour, like a cross-fit session, you’ll need to eat a snack rich in carbohydrates so you can keep up the pace. You’ll find examples and suggestions for pre-workout snacks in our article Sports and physical activities at meal times: to eat beforehand or not?
In the specific case where you are entering an endurance event, like a marathon or a long soccer game, you absolutely need to eat beforehand, even if the event starts early in the day. You’ll need a healthy dose of carbs, a bit of protein and as little fat and fibre as possible (to help avoid stomach discomfort). Also avoid anything spicy.
Here are some “breakfast” food examples that are high in carbs but low in fibre:
- White bread, bagels and breakfast cereal with no extra added fibre
- Homemade pancakes and waffles made with white flour
- Fruit juice
- Jam, maple syrup, honey
Add to that a protein rich food to help sustain you like a couple of slices of ham or an egg. Put together a breakfast you’ll love by combining a couple of carb-rich foods with one that’s high in protein.
Strapped for time and need to eat on the road? Try this cold homemade oatmeal recipe you can make the night before the big event.
COLD OATMEAL WITH DATES AND ALMONDS
(Thank you to Vivaï, a sports nutrition expert, for the recipe!)
1/2 cup oatmeal
6 small dried dates, pitted and diced
12 plain whole almonds
1 tbsp. (15 ml) honey
1/2 cup (125 ml) 1% milk
- Combine all dry ingredients in a sealable container (e.g.: a Mason jar).
- Pour the honey and milk over top. The milk should cover all the dry ingredients.
- Close and place jar in refrigerator over night
- In the morning, add a little more milk to adjust the consistency if needed.
There are an infinite number of variations on this recipe, like replacing the dates with mashed banana, the honey with maple syrup, and the milk with chocolate pea milk!
A word from Marie-Philip
The morning of an event, my breakfasts consists of a mix of carbs, proteins and healthy fats. For example, I like an egg, a turkey sausage, some berries and a few avocado slices. I also drink water enriched with electrolytes to help me stay well hydrated.