Image Of A Fruit Smoothie Indicating What An Athlete Should Eat For Their Pre Workout Breakfast

Your Guide to Pre-Workout Breakfast

BY Dr. Rick Kattouf

Morning workouts are a staple for many endurance athletes. However, whether to fuel up before a workout remains a highly debated topic. Dr. Rick Kattouf gives his take on what endurance athletes should do to get the most from their morning workout.

To fuel or not to fuel prior to a morning workout continues to be a hot topic. In short, the answer is yes, you want to fuel your body upon awakening prior to working out. However, you need to understand that there is a big difference between feeding the body and fueling the body. These are two completely different animals.

For example, you can consume eggs and turkey bacon prior to a workout. This food will feed your body, but in no way will this fuel your body. This would be like putting water in the gas tank of your car. Water and gasoline are both liquids, but it does not mean they are both fuel sources.

The same holds true for the human body. You want to be sure that upon awakening (and every meal/snack all throughout the day) that you are fueling your body and eating with purpose and not just feeding your body. That is, of course, if you are looking for the best results possible in terms of performance, recovery, and body composition.

Replenish Glycogen Stores

One of the main keys to success when it comes to performance, recovery, and body composition is to continually load and reload muscle glycogen stores. This is a big reason why fueling the body properly right away upon awakening is a big key to success.

Upon awakening, you are dehydrated and your glycogen stores are sub-optimal. Why would you want to push your body and mind while in a sub-optimal state? Fueling properly will also help assist with hydrating/rehydrating your body upon awakening (along with drinking water of course). This alone will have a huge and positive impact on your workout. If you go into a workout under-fueled and dehydrated, this can result in a higher than normal heart rate. If you are working out smart and training by heart rate, you understand the negative impact this will have on your workout.

Hurdles in the Way

What keeps individuals from fueling their body properly upon awakening prior to a workout? Here are some typical responses from individuals:

  • “I’m just not hungry when I wake up in the morning.”
  • “I’m trying to lose weight and body fat and I felt that if I just get up and work out, I would burn more body fat and lose more weight.”
  • “I just don’t have time; I wake up at 4:30AM and I start my workout by 5:00AM.”
  • “My stomach can’t handle food before a workout.”

Prior to a workout, there are many great options in order to properly fuel the body. Solid and liquid fuel can both be very valuable, and I would recommend trying different options to see what works best for you. Liquid fuel (e.g., a smoothie) is a great go-to option for many reasons. It’s very easy on the system and it will get digested and absorbed quickly and it will also help with hydration.

In terms of macronutrient balance, you should aim for approximately 50% to 65% calories from carbohydrates, 15% to 25% from protein, and 15% to 25% from fat. It is this type of balance that will create a steady rise in blood sugar and insulin as opposed to a quick spike and a quick drop. It will also help assist in keeping energy levels high and stable.

Pre-Workout Smoothie Recipe

Here is a smoothie recipe that will fuel your early workout correctly.

Blend the following together with water and ice:

  • 1 banana
  • ⅛ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 1/3 scoop protein powder (approximately 40cals/10g)
  • 1 TBSP peanut butter

This will provide you with the following high-octane fuel: 296 calories, 54% of your Vitamin C, 19% Potassium, and 27% Folic Acid. In terms of solid fuel, ‘energy bars’ of similar macronutrient makeup also make a great pre-workout fuel choice. Also consume at least 16 ounces of water right away upon awakening. If you are performing shorter workouts, around 30 to 45 minutes, consume only half of this smoothie.

If you are new to pre-workout fuel, no worries; let tomorrow be the start. If you are a pre-workout fuel veteran, great; power up the body with this smoothie. Whether you have a 30-minute workout, a six-hour workout, or something in between, this will be a great start to getting your body properly fueled. If you have a longer workout, say two hours or more, I would suggest one and a half or two times this smoothie.

Timing of Your Meal

Also, be sure to experiment with the timing of your pre-workout fuel. For example, some individuals have no problem consuming this and starting their workout within 15 minutes, whereas other individuals feel more comfortable consuming this fuel 30 to 90 minutes or more prior to their workout. Much of the timing, especially upon awakening, will depend on your available time frame. On race day, since you will have more time to fuel, I would recommend consuming one and a half to two times the amount of the smoothie approximately two and a half to three hours before your race.

Benefits of Pre-Workout Fuel

While it takes some experimenting to find what works best for you, fueling your body before any workout is a necessity. You will have more productive workouts by starting with a full tank of gas and optimal hydration, prevent weakness and fatigue due to low blood sugar and/or inadequate muscle glycogen stores, spare glycogen and be sharper mentally. Get started dialing in your morning fuel strategy and get better results.


Adams, W.M. et al. (2014, August). Influence of Body Mass Loss on Changes in Heart Rate During Exercise in the Heat: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from

Thompson, A.H. (2016, April 10). Preventing the “Low-Fuel Light” in Endurance Exercise. Retrieved from

American College of Sports Medicine. Pre-Event Meals. Retrieved from

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About Dr. Rick Kattouf

Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling, Doctor of Optometry, Personal Trainer, Triathlon Coach, Sports Nutrition Specialist and Heart Rate Performance Specialist. Rick has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country. And Rick has been seen in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, National Examiner,,, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Health UK, FIGHT Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine, Pace Running Magazine,, Chicago Athlete and The Independent in the UK. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries. Rick can be reached at 866-966-1422

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