5 Simple Breakfast Foods to Fuel an Early Morning Workout

Simple morning workout foods

For some, the thought of eating a full breakfast before a 6am workout is too much to stomach. And as someone whose appetite has always been a little slow to wake up, I get it.

On a normal workout day, say a casual 3-4 mile run or 30 minutes of cardio at the gym, holding off on breakfast until after doesn’t phase me a bit. But for these longer, more intense marathon training runs, I know I’ll be in trouble if I take the same approach.

When thinking about fuel for those more aggressive early morning workouts, small portions and simple carbs are best. Aim to get in 100-200 calories within 30-60 minutes of starting. Adding a little protein and/or fat is great but keep in mind that, because these are slower to digest, overdoing it can lead to cramps, or worse…

That reminds me. Hold off on any high fiber foods until after too.

To help wrap my head around the idea of eating a mini-breakfast at 5:30am tomorrow, I put together a quick list of super simple foods to fuel an early morning workout.

All of these baby-sized breakfasts take less than 5 minutes to assemble, and probably even less than that to eat.

A whole wheat English muffin with nut butter. Toast, smear, eat and enjoy. Eat half or have it all depending on what you feel you’re going to need.

Avocado toast with sea salt. Mash the avocado while your bread is toasting and top it off with some flaky sea salt. YUM.

A 1/2 cup of yogurt and some yummy granola. Skip the fat-free and low-calorie yogurt, mmmkay? A little fat and sugar is good before a morning workout! Go for regular, vanilla, or whatever flavor tickles your tastebuds’ fancy.

A 1/2 cup of Low-fat cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit. So simple but so good! Especially with pineapple.

Applesauce, a banana or even a packet of pureed baby food. You know, for when it’s a grab and go kinda morning. I’m not gonna lie, those packets of pureed sweet potato are pretty good.

Oh, and after your workout, don’t forget to follow up with plenty of fluids and a more substantial breakfast afterwards. A 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein within 30-60 minutes of finishing your workout is great for muscle recovery.

Over the next couple weeks I’ll be experimenting with some yummy whole food alternatives to power gels and blocks during my long runs. If you have any favorites I’d love some ideas!

Have a great day, friends!

How’s your pre-workout appetite? What’s your go-to fuel food?

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  • Avocado toast looks delish! I’ve never thought of that! My Kashi and almond milk gets old after a while… Can’t wait to try some of these!

  • These are simply wonderful breakfast ideas even for the busy student who doesn’t have a workout to get to but just has to survive her busy day! Thanks Elle!

  • I like a piece of toast or a whole grain waffle with nut butter before a long run. Depending on the length of the run, I’ll safety pin a ziplock bag with a peeled clementine or a handful of peanut M&M’s or a couple of Fig Newtons to myself (the bag doesn’t fit in my hydration belt pockets, hence the ghetto safety pinned look).

  • I can’t stand gu and gels so I stick to honey packets, pretzal sticks or my favorite- dates stuffed with almond butter and a sprinkle of sea salt for mid-run fuel! I usually just put ’em in a ziploc bag and stash them in a pocket somewhere!

  • How exciting that your marathon training is now in full-swing! During my long runs, I like to carry individual packets of honey instead of gels (a little easier on the stomach). If you want something with a little chew, pitted medjool dates are also another whole-food option for long run fuel. Good luck!

  • I workout in the evenings when I get home from work, which tends to be a little tricky since it’s right around dinner time and I’m usually starving when I get home from work. I’ll have a hardboiled egg, a piece of bread or fruit, or maybe some cottage cheese right before and it tends to hold me over until dinner.

  • Great suggestions.

    In the early mornings I usually have greek yogurt before teaching a strength class. However, when I work out in the afternoons (or teach a class), I always eat an apple and a handful of mixed nuts about one hour before arriving at the gym. That gives me plenty of time to digest, but feed off the energy from the food.

    Hope your run went well this morning!