Fueling properly in the morning can help you get the most out of your workouts—no matter the time of day.
Tonal coach Gabby Sansosti has a confession to make: She’s not great at prioritizing breakfast. “It’s tough—I’m constantly on the go,” she says. “Often, I’m waking up and scooting out the door. So, if I’m being completely honest, most of the time, I’m fasting accidentally in the morning.”
While some people tout the fat-burning benefits of exercising on an empty stomach, fasted workouts can keep you from building muscle mass, according to a 2020 article published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. And doing cardio in a fasted state led to twice the amount of protein breakdown in muscles than in a non-fasted state, a 2011 study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal found.
The thing is, during a workout, you break down your muscles. Essentially, exercise causes microtears in your muscles that your body repairs and rebuilds during rest and recovery—that’s how growth happens. If you eat a protein-packed breakfast before you grab those Tonal handles, you’ll prevent muscle damage and promote recovery during and after the workout.
“You’ve got to give the body what it needs to sustain that workout,” says Coach Gabby. “If you start with an empty tank, you’re just going to end up bottoming out. Sure, you might make it through the workout—but will you hit those PRs? Will you reach new levels? Or are you just kind of skating by?”
If the latter seems more accurate, you’re doing yourself a disservice. “The problem with treating exercise like you’re just checking a box and getting it done is that you’re setting yourself up with a larger opportunity to fall out of your routine,” says Coach Gabby.
That’s why, as part of the Four Week Fast-Track Challenge in January, Coach Gabby is committing to prioritizing breakfast. “I know that when I do eat before working out in the morning, I have more energy and get more out of my workouts,” she says. “With the proper fuel, your body’s engine starts revving at a different level, setting you up for more success in that workout and in sticking to your larger goals.”
Coach Gabby’s right: Breakfast eaters tend to gain less weight over time, according to a study done by MayoClinic; they also burn more calories throughout the day, older research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined. But people who cut out a morning meal are likely to miss out on key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals—and have worse diet quality overall, a 2021 report published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found after looking at data from more than 30,000 American adults. Not to mention, skipping breakfast made people four and half times more likely to be obese, according to earlier findings from the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The trick to squeezing in that a.m. kitchen time for Coach Gabby is finding #noexcuses habits that don’t add to the chaos and inconsistency of her already hectic schedule. “What I like about these breakfast recipes is that they’re quick and efficient, and—minus the shake—can be made ahead of time, like as part of a bedtime ritual,” she says.
As someone whose schedule changes every single day, Coach Gabby admits that she’s not going to cook something fresh for every meal because I’m just too busy. “A smoothie, a muffin, overnight oatmeal—those are very grab-and-go options that you can take on your way to the studio or are very easy to consume pre-workout.”
The recipes also can be scaled up or down according to your preferences or needs. If you can’t stomach a heavy breakfast before working out, you can just grab one mini frittata for a smaller snack-sized portion that’ll be easy on your stomach before a workout. Then, follow your workout with a hearty bowl of oatmeal or a post-workout smoothie to jumpstart the recovery process. The key will be experimenting to find what works best for you.
Either way, Coach Gabby’s three morning meals are so easy, you can make them all in 30 minutes or less—whether you do that before you go to bed or first thing in the morning. Ready to jump on the breakfast bandwagon?