18 Breakfasts to Eat Before a 6 a.m. Workout, According to Dietitians

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
by Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
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18 Breakfasts to Eat Before a 6 a.m. Workout, According to Dietitians

When you jump out of bed at the buzz of your 5:30 a.m. alarm for an early morning workout, eating breakfast might be the last thing on your mind. But after fasting all night, your energy stores are depleted — and the last thing you want to hear during a grueling workout is your stomach growl. Eating breakfast before your workout is important.

While simple carbohydrates found in sports drinks, energy gels and cereal provide a quick source of energy, they might not sustain you through a longer workout. Pairing these energy-boosting carbohydrates with a small amount of fat and protein is the best way to ensure sustained energy while working out. Adding in a dose of protein floods your bloodstream with amino acids right when you need them the most, allowing for muscle-building optimization. Healthy fats slow the digestion process, promoting a gradual release of energy throughout a longer workout.

The size of your pre-workout meal will vary depending on the length of your workout and your energy needs. Going for a long or high-intensity workout? Consider a more energy dense meal, but keep in mind it may take 3-4 hours to fully digest. A lower-intensity workout will require less energy. Aim for a small meal that can be digested in about 2–3 hours. But, if you’re working out early in the morning, you won’t have 2 hours to spare. Consider a blended option, such as a smoothie. They digest quickly because the blender has already done a lot of the work for your stomach. Another quick option is a 100–200 calorie snack (like many of the examples below); these will take you less than an hour to digest and won’t weigh you down.


Just can’t eat breakfast early in the morning? While you may be used to running on fumes, your performance may be suffering. Luckily, your gut can be trained to accept a light morning meal. Start small with a snack that will be easy on your stomach, such as a banana or a piece of toast. Gradually add onto this meal until your stomach can tolerate it. A little change in eating habits can make a huge difference in your performance!

If you’re ready to amp up your a.m. fuel, check out what dietitians eat before their morning workouts!

18 Breakfasts to Eat Before a 6 a.m. Workout, According to Dietitians


Fruit is a key RD go-to. (Are you surprised?) Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, the sports dietitian for the Orlando Magic eats a half or full banana before she heads out for a morning run. Fruit, whether it is fresh, frozen or dried, has quickly digestible carbohydrates that can fuel a morning workout, and it offers a light option if you’re not an early morning eater. For a more filling alternative, Ashley Munro, RD, of A Pinch of Grace, likes to stuff 1–2 dates with 1 tablespoon almond butter “because it’s quick and easy on the stomach.”


If you’re heading out for a longer workout, you need enough fuel to sustain you. Pair a hearty homemade muffin, such as these Almond Butter Banana Oat Muffins, with a small smoothie or a fresh piece of fruit. Freeze these muffins and heat in the microwave or defrost on the countertop overnight for a grab-and-go breakfast.


You can’t go wrong with a classic bowl of warm oatmeal. Packed full of carbohydrates and fiber, oats will give you sustained energy throughout your morning workout. There are endless possibilities for mix-ins, including nuts and nut butters, dried or fresh fruit, yogurt and protein powder. Angie Asche, MS, RD,owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition, uses overnight oats as her go-to early morning pre-workout meal. Simply add oats, milk and a handful of berries or sliced banana to a sealed Mason jar. Place the jar in the fridge overnight for a quick breakfast in the morning. Need some inspiration? Give this High Protein Chocolate Banana Overnight Oats recipe a try.


Smoothies are both easy to make and full of the nutrients necessary for an intense workout. This Tropical Superfood Smoothie provides a boost of antioxidants from superfoods that aid in recovery from the natural stress of exercise. Smoothies can be as simple as a blend of fruit or can include protein powder and vegetables to provide nutrients from all food groups. Try adding Greek yogurt, chia seeds or nut butter. There are endless combinations to experiment with.



These bowls are similar to a smoothie except you can sit down and enjoy them with a spoon. Energy bowls are the perfect combination of energy-dense carbohydrates blended for easy digestion prior to a long workout. The easy preparation is an added bonus at 6 a.m. This Green Energy Bowl blends energizing carbohydrates with walnuts and chia seeds for sustained energy that provides a punch of protein.


Greek yogurt is ideal for athletes; it provides less added sugar (if you opt for plain) and is higher in protein than traditional yogurt, while also providing a great source of probiotics and bone-strengthening calcium. Parfaits are an optimal pre-workout snack that’s easy to digest while providing key nutrients from a variety of food groups. Try this Peach Parfait to energize your next early workout.


Waffles are versatile and easy to prep ahead of time. Simply choose your favorite waffle base (such as bananas, protein powder or whole grains). You can even experiment with different types of flour, like coconut flour for a grain-free option. If you are gluten-free, check out these Gluten Free Blender Waffles. Freeze extras and pop them in the toaster on busy mornings.


This breakfast staple can be made with a variety of grains to provide the carbohydrates needed to fuel your workout. If you don’t have time to sit down and eat them, they are easy to eat on the go, either plain or topped with a little nut butter. Check out this recipe for a Tart Cherry Greek Yogurt pancake that combines the recovery power of tart cherry juice with the protein boost of Greek yogurt. Jessica Levings, MS, RD, of Balanced Pantry, agrees. Her favorite pre-workout fuel is one homemade buckwheat pancake. “I make a big batch and freeze them so I can defrost a few at a time,” she says. “One gives me just enough energy for an hourlong run, plus it’s portable so I can eat it in the car on the way to meet my running buddy!”


This may sound like too much to handle in the early hours of the morning, but breakfast sandwiches are easy to prepare ahead of time, wrap and freeze. Don’t forget to add the veggies; this is an easy way to sneak in a handful of leafy greens or bell peppers. In the morning, simply unwrap your sandwich and microwave for 60–90 seconds.


Avocados in the morning? Yes! They are perfect to combine with whole-grain bread for long-lasting energy that won’t leave you feeling overfull. This Avocado Toast with Kale Sprouts adds the powerful nutrient boost of kale sprouts.


Have you seen this trendy new breakfast? Simply cut a sweet potato (round ones work best) into thin slices, then toast on high for 2–3 cycles. The sweet potato will be soft but not soggy and ready for your choice of toppings. Go sweet and add peanut butter, raisins or cinnamon. Or, try a savory version and top with an egg, avocado or cheese. Sweet potatoes are a great pre-workout pick because they are rich in carbohydrates, high in fiber and provide a boost of vitamin A.


Pizza for breakfast? Why not! Pizza has a carbohydrate-rich crust, and adding eggs, cheese and vegetables can make it a satisfying and tasty way to energize in the morning. Breakfast pizza can be prepared at the beginning of the week and portions can be reheated daily.


Energy bites are tasty and easy to grab if you are not a morning person. “I love energy bites before a morning workout,” says Edwina Clark, MS, RD. “They provide a little bit of protein and carbohydrate to fuel working muscles, without leaving you heavy and uncomfortable.” Have a sweet tooth? Here’s one of our favorite recipes for Apple Pie Energy Bites.


Instead of swinging by the drive-thru for a fast breakfast option, why not make your own? Breakfast burritos are a quick and easy way to incorporate carbohydrates, protein and whatever else you would like into a hand-held, energy-packed option. They can also be prepared ahead of time and frozen, making them a convenient heat-and-go meal.


Make granola bars on the weekend then use all week. These Tart Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars are filled with lasting energy plus a recovery boost from the tart cherries. If you are a heavy sweater or do high-intensity workouts, you may benefit from the added sodium of these granola bars. To reduce your added sugar intake, try homemade granola. Grab a handful while running out the door, or add it on top of a yogurt parfait or an energy bowl.


Cookies for breakfast? Don’t worry, these aren’t your typical chocolate chip treat. Breakfast cookies are typically lower in sugar and made with ingredients like whole-grain flour, oats, nuts and dried fruit to make a condensed, energy-packed snack.


Rice cakes topped with nut butter, banana and chia seeds are a complete and easy breakfast. This option combines all the good stuff dietitians love: whole-grain carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and fruit. “I always have two rice cakes with peanut butter, banana and a sprinkle of chia seeds about 45 minutes before a workout,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, of Bucket List Tummy. “It’s a great balance of carbs, with a tiny bit of protein to help sustain me but is easy on the digestive system.” She also adds 16 ounces of water.


To switch up your usual hot cereal routine, try quinoa instead. Quinoa provides the benefits of a whole grain with the added bonus of extra protein. It can be prepared similarly to oatmeal with your favorite add-ins, or you can get creative and try these Roasted Quinoa Stuffed Pears.

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About the Author

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN

Kristina is a board certified sports dietitian located in Orlando, Florida where she specializes in intuitive and mindful eating. She is the author of the food and nutrition blog, Love & Zest where she shares {mostly} healthy recipes with simple ingredients that are meant for real life. As a new mom, she knows that eating well and living an active lifestyle isn’t always easy… but it’s always worth it!! Kristina loves spending time outdoors with her family, sweaty workouts, and a good cup of coffee. Get in touch with her for one-on-one nutrition coaching (virtually or in person), or connect with her on PinterestInstagramFacebook  and YouTube.


35 responses to “18 Breakfasts to Eat Before a 6 a.m. Workout, According to Dietitians”

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  5. Avatar PocketG says:

    JESUS…you are such an indoctrinated moron…
    It tickles me to watch you try so hard to sound credible…
    lol…. it’s enjoyable just to watch to try and convey a point.
    Your retarded ass doesn’t even feel comfortable mentioning FAT as a nutrient.
    You’re so scared…so shut the fuck up. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
    Your advice is laughable and you are disgusting.
    Stick a barbed dildo down your craw, do some research, and die…so the world can advance a bit.

  6. Avatar Kevin Reed says:

    intuitive and mindful eating?

  7. Avatar Don McCarty says:

    What does a diabetic do? I eat carbs and I go back to sleep…I have to be on a low carb diet, where do I get my energy?

    • Avatar Mary Anna Parker says:

      You get your energy from healthy fat. When your body is searching for an energy source it first reaches for carbs, then fat, and finally protein. Try a spoonful of a nut butter before heading to your workout or try a hard boiled egg and some avocado

    • Avatar Fred Jaeger says:

      Many thousands of us have completely reversed our diabetes and all markers for metabolic syndrome by adopting a ketogenic lifestyle. My HBA1c went from an 8.9 to a 4.7 within three months. Triglycerides, LDL, HDL all moved into normal/athletic ranges. This article is a formula for continued worsening of your diabetes and reflects the old-school bad-science that has fueled the obesity and diabetes epidemic propagated over the last thirty years. Drop the carbs, go Keto and you’ll save your life.

      • Avatar Michael Hilbe says:

        I’m glad you lost weight and got back to a healthier place. Keto has to work for that because your body ate itself. The carbohydrates were not your enemy that got you where you were before, that was your life choices and all the other crap you ate and continued to eat. Take responsibility and stop blaming that on Carbs! Many millions of us aren’t overweight and don’t have diabetes from eating carbs. You are not a nutritionist so stop giving out nutritional advice you heard from some podcast.

        • Avatar Fred Jaeger says:

          I’m not a nutritionist and not a pompous ass talking out of the same orifice.

        • Avatar Thales Nemo says:

          Google TOFI ! Just because you APPEAR THIN does not mean that you not FAT on the INSIDE ! See the works of Dr Robert Lustig! Plenty of YouTube talks where he goes through the biochemistry.

  8. Avatar TKDGuy says:

    My workouts start at 0530 – if you eat one of these snacks first, how long do you need to wait between eating and starting the workout?

  9. Avatar HollieG says:

    This was a disappointing article. I was hoping for some tips on what to eat before bed. I can’t stomach food first thing.
    I know a few early risers that swear by oatmeal as your final meal the night before an early workout. Sipping BCAAs and creatine intra workout seems to help as well.

  10. Avatar Dan Murray says:

    Here’s what I do at 6AM. I drink a half bottle of water and go work out for an hour. By 8AM I’m eating steel cut oats with nuts and fruit or eggs and bacon. I always have two cups of black coffee from beans that I grind and brew in a French Press.

  11. Avatar Johnny Love says:

    Surprised no mention of intermittent fasting. 12/16/ or 20 hours. I don’t even get hungry anymore until afternoon and in a state of Ketosis.

    • Avatar Michael Joseph Hilbe says:

      Think you’re missing the target audience here. Athletes can’t operate in a state of ketosis.

      • Avatar Fred Jaeger says:

        Wrong. Completely false. You can absolutely thrive and workout even better on ketones. It’s the carbs that won’t sustain your energy levels.

        • Avatar Michael Hilbe says:

          Well, I’m not wrong and it’s not false. I have seen some research that shows there might be a benefit for extreme endurance athletes but that’s all. Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is just silly. Ketosis works because your body is deprived of something it needs to operate and there for starts eating itself for energy to survive. The key is a proper balance based off activity levels. It’s such nonsense the amount of people that tell me they can eat pounds of bacon but no broccoli. Can’t be more out of touch with reality at this point.

          • Avatar Fred Jaeger says:

            I probably should give up on those who claim to have done the research but obviously have not….but the fact is that Olympic athletes, professional football players, on and on have discovered the sustaining benefits of a ketogenic diet. Carbs are short-lived and are exhausted relatively quickly as apposed to burning ketone bodies that provide a sustained and steady energy. Exogenous glucose requirement in humans is ZERO. Any needed glucose is produced by the liver via a metabolic process known as gluconeogenesis. Your assertion that athletes can’t operate in a state of ketosis is false (although understandable) reflecting an attachment to the same bad information we’ve all been given for decades. You don’t believe me, and you shouldn’t on it’s face, so do the research my friend. I rejected this information at first as well. We evolved to burn the fat we carry… that’s why it’s there. Lean protein burn only comes way after all fat/ketone reserves and/or loose skin have been exhausted, not before. As a matter of fact, ketosis has been proven to increase metabolic rate as well as generating an increase in lean mass over time…especially during fasting. I understand your point of view and sympathise with your reaction because it’s the stance I would have taken myself before I learned the facts about deploying a ketogenic lifestyle which I know, contradict the common convention. Humans don’t need carbohydrates; as a matter of fact carb intake combined with processed sugar is more than likely the cause of the world-wide obesity/diabetes epidemic…. all exacerbated by bad information and false assertions, propagated since the 1970s.

          • Avatar Thales Nemo says:


      • Avatar Thales Nemo says:

        Nonsensical comment ! Just Google Dr. Tim Noakes his testimony before the South African parliament and his articles easily debunkes your comment !

  12. Avatar Patricia DelGrosso says:

    As a trainer I wouldn’t advise someone to eat high fat/protein foods before a workout. You can’t digest that quick enough….stick to easy to digest carbs. Fruit, dry cereals etc….even oatmeal is too much. Unless of course you have an hour+ to digest. Disappointing- I WAS going to share this with clients…

    • Avatar Michael Joseph Hilbe says:

      So your saying if I have oats in the morning I need to wait over an hour before I gain any benefits from that during my workout?

    • Avatar Noemy Jorge, MS, RD, CDN says:

      I believe this depends on the individual. I know people who need to eat before workouts otherwise they pass out or can’t complete the workout and others who feel sluggish even after a light snack, listen to your body and determine how much time you need and if you even need to eat before working out. I agree, not everyone does.

  13. Avatar Fred Jaeger says:

    Many thousands of us have completely reversed our diabetes and all markers for metabolic syndrome by adopting a ketogenic lifestyle. My HBA1c went from an 8.9 to a 4.7 within three months. Triglycerides, LDL, HDL all moved into normal/athletic ranges. This article is a formula for continued worsening of your diabetes and reflects the old-school bad-science that has fueled the obesity and diabetes epidemic propagated over the last thirty years. Drop the carbs, do the research and go Keto. It will save your life.

  14. Avatar type2 says:

    Your breakfasts listed are extremely hurtful for this type 2 diabetic. a bowl of oatmeal will shoot my BG to way over 200… That is not anecdote, but objective reporting from my BG meter (postprandial). Any spike in BG means spike in insulin in a normal person. It is probably a lot better to eat more fat and little protein then let the liver provide stored glucose. It dismays me so much to see the “educated” continually go by the food pyramid provided, not by the Department of Health but, by the Department of Agriculture! Can we say, “conflict of interest?”

    • Avatar Noemy Jorge, MS, RD, CDN says:

      It all depends on your portion of oatmeal, a one cup may be too much but try half a cup or 1/3 cup. And yes adding protein and fat will help slow down blood sugar spikes like a hard boiled egg or a handful of nuts. No conflict of interest, just clarification.

  15. Avatar nbgiant25 says:

    Breakfast Cookies! “Don’t worry, these aren’t your typical chocolate chip treat.”

    ^ Doesn’t provide a recipe…

  16. Avatar No says:

    To all the ketone yards and the carbtards, you should all go eat s**t and stop trying to market unsubstantiated bs in order to sell your far diet products and ideologies to the masses.

  17. Avatar No says:

    To all the ketone tards and the carbtards, you should all go eat s**t and stop trying to market unsubstantiated bs in order to sell your fad diet products and ideologies to the masses.

  18. Avatar Thales Nemo says:

    Wow such outdated advise! Nearly all the recommendations in this article are high carbohydrates which are just sugars . There is absolutely no need for carbohydrates in the diet and I can do just fine without breakfast too! With 80%+ of the population in the US on the carbohydrate intolerant spectrum one needs to keep up with current RCT studies .

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