Get better results and improve body composition with the best pre-workout breakfast nutrition even if you work 9 to 5. The Poliquin™ Meat and Nut Breakfast in which you eat a high-protein, low glycemic meal of organic high-quality meat with nuts will give you improved mental clarity, increased energy, better appetite control, and optimal performance in the gym. It should be a staple of your pre-workout breakfast no matter what time you train.
I find that clients and readers are confused about when to eat a meat and nut breakfast if they have to work at 9 am (or earlier) and must train before work. For some reason, the idea of eating meat and nuts at 6 am is met with a skeptical response. But if you want to be the best, you need to take actions that will make you the best—and eating the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast is one of those things.
This article will provide five tips for planning pre-workout breakfast meals for best results. You’ll learn how to have the most drive when you train and how to sustain that energy throughout the day for the best performance in the rest of your life.
Tip #1: Eat Breakfast For Fat Loss and Optimal Body Composition
Breakfast is essential for fat loss and optimal body composition, and a new study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism shows why. There are a number of additional benefits that I will highlight below, but just about everyone is keen to learn new strategies for better body composition, so I’ll start there.
This new study tested whether fasting or eating breakfast before exercise results in subjects using more energy during the first 24 hours after a workout. The rationale is that excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the amount that the metabolism is elevated after exercise as the body recovers from training, is the true indicator of the value of exercise for body composition. The amount of calories burned during any given workout regardless of whether you exercise fed or fasted is minor compared to the calories burned in EPOC.
Researchers had a group of trained young men either eat breakfast of 25 percent protein, 53 percent carbs, and 22 percent fats or skip breakfast and then perform a 36-minute treadmill test. They tested calorie expenditure at 12 and 24 hours after the treadmill test via EPOC and identified the amount of fat burned after the workout by measuring the respiratory exchange ratio (RER). The RER is a measure of macronutrients being used by the body, and as this measurement rises, the body uses more carbohydrates rather than fats for its energy needs. As the RER falls the body burns more fat for energy.
For optimal fat loss you want your body to use fat for fuel, but you also need a substantial afterburn or EPOC. The good news for anyone who strength trains or performs high-intensity interval training to improve body composition is that EPOC is always greatest after exercise that uses the anaerobic energy system compared to the aerobic energy system. That means that since this study included an exercise test that used more of the aerobic energy system (36 minutes of running), the findings will be even more significant for fat loss if you are doing anaerobic training like weight lifting.
Results showed that after eating breakfast and doing the treadmill test, EPOC was elevated to a much greater degree at 12 and 24 hours post-workout than skipping breakfast. RER was significantly higher in the group that ate no breakfast than in the group that had breakfast, indicating that breakfast eating resulted in much more fat being used for energy than carbohydrates. The breakfast skippers burned more carbs. The difference between the fed and fasted groups in EPOC and the amount of fat burned was most pronounced at 24 hours post-exercise, indicating the longer term value of pre-workout breakfast nutrition for fat loss.
Tip #2: Eat A High-Protein Breakfast To Enhance Your Brain Function for the Day
The first thing you put in your mouth in the morning establishes how your brain will function for the day. Research shows that skipping breakfast in the morning will produce poorer cognitive function and a delayed reaction time compared to eating breakfast. But it goes beyond simply eating something, and all macronutrients are not the same!
The macronutrient content of the food you eat directly influences the production of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that dictate both your cognitive and physical function. For example, if you set your neurotransmitters up with the politically correct high-carb cereal, orange juice, and a banana, you’ll trigger a large insulin response and a quick increase in blood sugar levels. This will elevate serotonin, but because high-carb foods are high glycemic and are swiftly digested, they will be quickly used as energy or put into storage as fat, leading to a drop in energy levels. The elevated serotonin will make you have low energy and feel foggy, and it’s very difficult to reverse the poor brain function and lack of drive that go with a high-carb low-protein breakfast.
The solution for optimal neurotransmitter function is to eat a high-protein solid meal for breakfast, and this is the case even if you are training early to hit the office by 9 am. To be motivated to train first thing in the morning (or second thing after eating breakfast), you want to eat foods that drive dopamine and acetylcholine—two neurotransmitters that give you drive and focus for a great workout. High-protein foods will supply the amino acid building blocks from which these stimulating neurotransmitters are synthesized.
Tip #3: Eat the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast
Animal protein contains high concentrations of the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine, from which dopamine and norepinephrine are synthesized. Choline, which is the precursor of acetylcholine, also comes primarily from animal protein—the highest concentrations are calf liver, beef, eggs, chicken, turkey, and seafood. A potent dose of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is another reason that meat is best for a pre-workout breakfast since BCAAs increase memory function and reduce fatigue following heavy exercise. The BCAAs you eat for breakfast will make you sharp for the start of a long day, while supporting protein synthesis during your workout.
Eat meat with some nuts for your pre-workout meal, even if it is a small breakfast. A solid breakfast is best because it will sustain you for the duration of your workout. I prefer solid food before training and suggest leaving enough time to digest—at least 45 minutes to an hour. If you are pressed for time because you wake up 30 minutes before training, the best strategy is to wake up earlier, eat breakfast, do some chores or work at home, and then hit the gym once your meat and nuts have digested. If this is absolutely not an option, I provide some other high-protein breakfast options in tips 4 and 5.
The meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, and the nuts provide a good source of healthy smart fats that help blood sugar remain stable for an extended period of time. For example, a study in the journal Physiology and Behavior compared the effect of a breakfast with either a balanced (1 to 1) ratio, a high-protein (1 to 4) ratio, or a high-carb (4 to 1) ratio on cognitive performance and blood sugar maintenance for 3 hours after eating. Results showed that the high-protein meal produced much better cognitive performance compared to the other two meals, and the low-glycemic nature of the meal allowed for a longer, better sustained attention span in participants.
Tip #4: Individualize A High-Protein Breakfast To Your Needs
Everyone responds a little differently to food and has individual nutrienttiming needs pre-workout. I’ve made my pre-workout breakfast preference clear, but if meat is not an option because you need something that is more quickly digestible, protein is essential.
The scientific evidence goes on and on about the value of pre-workout protein. Breakfast suggestions include a meal of salmon, an egg, cooked beans, or even nut butter and an apple or protein fortified whole-fat yogurt and berries. Yes, I know the apple contains fructose, and there are concerns about the insulin response of milk proteins, but solid food is better than a shake because it will help you maintain peak energy and focus for the duration of a hard workout.
If you must go for a shake, casein will produce a slower digestive pattern—of course, I’m not a fan of casein, but some people are. Whey protein is very rapidly digested, making it ideal for your post-workout shake, especially since it has been shown to sustain protein synthesis to a greater degree than just taking BCAAs after strength training. Fortified pea or rice proteins are other options.
Tip #5: More Strategies for Planning Your Pre-Workout High-Protein Breakfast
The key to a pre-workout breakfast is high protein and low carbs. A few suggestions for fulfilling this macronutrient makeup include the following:
• If you normally train before work and don’t eat anything, start small and plan ahead. Prepare your breakfast in advance (the night before) to ensure you have everything ready and can get out the door quickly. Start with just a few bites the first day and take it from there.
• Additional breakfast solutions are to get sliced grass-fed beef roast, salmon, sardines, or turkey burgers and pair them with a handful of nuts. Leafy greens or low-glycemic fruits such as berries can be substituted for nuts if you are allergic.
• Protein pancakes made from coconut flour and similar options can be found in The Primal Blueprint Cookbook—it offers low-carb, “paleo” meals that are useful if you want a more “traditional” high-protein breakfast.
• Quinoa and black beans, or gluten-free oatmeal with vanilla whey or pea protein, pecans, and walnuts are more suggestions from our team at the Poliquin Strength Institute.
• Enjoy coffee or green tea with breakfast because the caffeine will elevate fat burning during your workout by as much as 15 percent.
• Take fish oil with breakfast because it will improve energy use and insulin sensitivity. It will also help you make muscle gains because other omega-3 fats in fish oil improve gene activity.
• I know I suggested protein fortified yogurt and an apple above, but this breakfast is for the insulin sensitive crowd only. Be aware that fructose is a sugar found in fruit that is known to decrease fat for use as fuel and increase the burning of carbs. On the other hand, it lowers the glycemic response of carbs. If fat loss is not your primary goal, fruit-derived fructose may be an acceptable part of breakfast since the fructose content is only roughly 5 grams. Remember, taking fish oil with that meal will also mitigate the insulin response significantly.
• Milk proteins are particularly “insulinogenic,” which means they will cause persistently high insulin levels. If insulin sensitivity, diabetes, or body composition is an issue, you may want to avoid milk protein.
Coach Poliquin’s top 5 breakfasts associated to the countries he visits most:
Carpaccio made out raw bison ribeye, cut thin, mixed in with olive oil, and Celtic sea salt, roasted salt cashews.
Carpaccio made out raw wapiti, cut thin, mixed in with olive oil, and Celtic sea salt, roasted salted pistachios.
Mahi mahi cevice, macadamia nuts.
Goat stew, avocadoes.
Swedish mini shrimp, roasted almonds.