What to eat on the run with morning workouts?
June 7, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to transition to being a morning workout person so that my evenings are a little more free, but I don't know what to eat for breakfast that'll work with this routine. Any suggestions?

I really want to start hitting up the gym in the morning so that I don't have to exercise after work, as I find that it really cuts a hole through the evening... after I'm done with my workout, dinner, and getting things ready for the following day, I barely have time to do any of the other things I want to do. I experimented with getting up earlier and going to the gym instead, and it worked surprisingly well, but I ended up having to eat out for breakfast when I did so and didn't really think that was a good idea.

I used to keep a stash of wheat bagels in my desk at work and toast them with peanut butter for breakfast, but I wanted to get away from the big carb infusion and start having a more complete breakfast. So now, I typically have protein-heavy breakfasts in the morning before I go to work--two eggs, occasionally a few strips of bacon or sausage links, and a slice of wheat toast with peanut butter are my staples. Sometimes a glass of milk as well. My problem is that these things aren't portable, and I don't have time to go back to my apartment to make breakfast after I work out. My gym has towel service so I'll typically shower there, put my work clothes on, and head to the nearby subway station.

(I know that "breakfast food" is a cultural thing and that there's not really anything stopping me from taking grilled chicken breast and vegetables and heating them up for breakfast when I get to work, but I'd prefer to avoid that if I can.)

As I see it, my options are either: (1) get up way earlier than I want to eat my regular stuff and have a little time to digest or (2) eat out on the way to work, which is usually some combination of suboptimally nutritious, expensive, and time-consuming/out-of-the-way. Has anyone dealt with a situation like this before? How'd you solve it?
posted by Kosh to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about oatmeal? It's carby, but whole grain and fiber-filled and you can mix in peanut butter for protein. I always have a container of oatmeal and a jar of peanut butter in my office.
posted by something something at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2011

I keep oatmeal and whey protein powder in my desk. Then all you need at work is either milk (or water), a microwave, a bowl and a spoon.

That mix is not going to win any gourment awards but it is better than a stop at dunkin donuts or not eating at all.

Note - I mix the whey into the oatmeal *AFTER* the oatmeal comes out of the microwave. I don't recommend putting the whey into the microwave unless you like eating something with the consistency of roofing caulk.
posted by de void at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I work out in the morning, then head to work and eat breakfast at my desk. I keep a stash of hard boiled eggs and string cheese in the work fridge for those days, and it works well for me.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2011

Do you have a refrigerator at work? If so, you could keep some milk/yogurt there. I don't know if you're into protein powder, but you can either bring a few scoops in a shaker bottle or keep it at your desk. Oatmeal is also easy to make if your office has a microwave (but I guess it's a big carb-bomb).

What about hard-boiled eggs? They should be OK out of refrigeration for a few hours, I think.
posted by aganders3 at 10:28 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I try to have something small pre-workout (half a banana) and something bigger after, like a smoothie or piece of frittata. You could make a smoothie and take it with you, or pack fritatta and breakfast meat and heat it at work (just be sure to have that post-workout snack if it'll be more than a half hour!). I tend to make a big frittata on the weekend and then reheat slices during the week, and it packs fine.
posted by ldthomps at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2011

Just wondering why your current breakfast items aren't portable. Isn't it possible to pack stuff in a container of some sort and hold the drink in a bottle?

Boiled eggs are really a perfect start to the day, especially for someone who's going to be exercising. I have four every morning. They'll provide you with some of nature's best protein, and the yolks (though I don't eat all of them) are full of vitamins, healthy fats, etc.

You also need carbs to exercise. A cup of oatmeal is great (I have this, too), but I can see how that might be harder to carry. Maybe you can get a small container for the oatmeal and carry water/milk separately? Oatmeal is an amazing source of good carbs and fiber.

Lastly, I'd recommend fruit like a banana or grapefruit.

This is a simple breakfast that's as healthy as you can get.

You could also try a whey protein smoothie with a source of carbs (mixing in carbs does more to facilitate post-workout recovery).

Hope this helps.
posted by jykmf at 10:35 AM on June 7, 2011

Work out from 5:00 - 6:30. Includes weights and a couple miles on treadmill. I don't do anything before I work out. Roll out of bed and go. When I get to work I have a protein bar / shake, fruit, and tea.
posted by bleucube at 10:36 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

My apologies if this is getting away from typical "breakfast food" but what about rice and beans?
posted by teragram at 10:36 AM on June 7, 2011

I eat a whole banana before I do any exercise and then afterwards I have yoghurt with sliced almonds and strawberries and/or hard boiled eggs. Cottage cheese also works.

I usually keep a couple of bananas or apples around for snacks later, too.

We have a toaster at work, so toast with peanut butter would work here, but how about peanut butter and crackers? Peanut butter and apples?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2011

Ultimate* Breakfast Sandwich: toasted wheat bread, sliced avocado, bacon, sliced hard-boiled egg, tomato. Some kind of fruit on the side. You can thank me later. *Not actually ultimate, but pretty proteiny and definitely delicious
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:12 AM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Somebody I used to work with came into work every Monday morning with a new box of high protein low sugar cereal, assorted nuts, fruit and a couple of containers of soy milk. She stored all of this at work, the cereal and nuts at her desk, the rest in the office fridge. She had breakfast at work every day and with that bit of organisation she was set for the week.

Or you could just do what I did which is make a nice high protein smoothie at home andand drink that when I got to work. I also used to store portion sachets of oatmeal in my desk and simply added water to microwave. I even managed to do this using the disposable coffee cups, admittedly they held ~6oz of water and I was standing right next to the microwave observing to make sure they didn't boil over. I also had a jar of nut butter in my desk and stirred some of that into my oatmeal and had a piece of fruit on the side, if at all possible something from the work fruit bowl. I have also been known to bring in hard boiled eggs.....
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:25 AM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I guess I had never really thought of my eggs being portable because my preference is to have them fresh, but maybe making them fresh in the morning and immediately dumping them into a container, having fruit for some quick pre-workout carb fuel, and then reheating the eggs at work to eat after would be the thing to do... same with any breakfast meat I prepare. I could easily store my bread at my desk the way I used to keep my bagels, too.

All the other suggestions are great, too, because I am looking for variety!
posted by Kosh at 11:25 AM on June 7, 2011

Egg Muffins courtesy of Sidhedevil. Awesome! Pop in microwave at work and get your protein on!
posted by jasondigitized at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2011

Here is an even quicker way courtesy of artemisia.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2011

Granola bar or something before workout. Post work-out options that are good include: hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, protein bar (like a clif bar), trail mix with nuts and fruit, cottage cheese!!! (especially delicious with fruit in it).
posted by hepta at 12:09 PM on June 7, 2011

My routine, which is later int he day than yours but other wise breakfasty is a bowl of Kashi protein-y cereal and skim milk before workout [not that carb-y really] and then a yogurt-protein powder-flax seed-maple syrup slurry afterwards. It's got some fats/sugars so that it's meal-like, but goes down easy and can be eaten at a desk. That said, some variety of an egg sandwich or breakfast burrito would probably be what I'd be looking at if I were an egg eater.
posted by jessamyn at 12:30 PM on June 7, 2011

Would it help to get up a little earlier to give yourself time to go home and eat after the gym? Or do you live far enough away from the gym to render that wildly inconvenient?
posted by elizardbits at 12:54 PM on June 7, 2011

I keep a carton of (raw) eggs in the fridge at work, and scramble them in a bowl in the microwave. I add some cheddar, and after they're cooked, some cottage cheese. Takes less than 2 minutes.
posted by rtha at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2011

On my workout days, I get up and run for 30-40 minutes on an empty stomach. Afterwards I mix some whey protein powder & water in a shaker, put 1/3-1/2 a cup of yoghurt (unsweetened, low-fat) in a little leakproof container, and put 1/3 a cup of (uncooked) rolled oats + a teaspoon or two of sultanas in a ziplock bag.

I drink the protein while I'm driving to work, then when I get to work I microwave the oats/sultanas with some water then mix in the yoghurt and a heaped teaspoon of LSA (my workplace provides crockery, cutlery and microwaves). My non-workout days are the same, but I skip the protein.

When I'm feeling very proactive I sort everything into its container the night before, and just add water to the protein and pick the other stuff up on my way out the door.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 3:42 PM on June 7, 2011

How about making and freezing your own breakfast burritos? Basically, just assemble a ton of breakfast burritos (endless variations!), freeze them on a cookie sheet, wrap in wax paper, and toss in ziplocs. You could pitch one in your gym bag and it'd be thawed enough to nuke at work. And that might help on days when cereal or nut butter just ain't gonna cut it.
posted by stellaluna at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

what about cheese? have some fruit with it for fiber and a bit of a sugar boost.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2011

Could you make your own frozen breakfast burritos? Cook the eggs and maybe some meat, roll in whole wheat tortillas with cheese, and then you can pack them up (wrapped in paper towels and then in a ziploc), freeze them at work, and reheat one every morning. You could make a whole week's worth of breakfasts in one go, although the precooking/freezing/reheating will probably make them suffer quite a bit texture-wise.
posted by MadamM at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2011

Jinx, stellaluna!
posted by MadamM at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can prepare a scrambled egg mix in some tupperware and then microwave it at work. For instance, I have this just about every day, a la slow carb diet:

1 egg + equivalent of 2 or 3 whites (from those little containers of egg whites)
black beans
sour cream
jalapeno peppers (the jarred ones)
little bit of cheddar cheese

Microwave this for about 5 minutes and voila! Scrambled eggs. It doesn't get easier.
posted by kitcat at 5:22 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

make a breakfast burrito with your eggs, bacon/sausage, and a whole wheat tortilla. at any smart and final or costco you can get those little plastic portioning cups that will hold about as much peanut butter as will go on a piece of bread. make it the night before, wrap the burrito in saran wrap or aluminum foil, warm it at the office and voila. the equivalent of your current breakfast, but portable.
posted by koroshiya at 5:37 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

heh. i apparently skipped stellaluna's comment. i don't freeze them, though - i just make a couple at night a couple times a week and have them for the next couple days.
posted by koroshiya at 5:39 PM on June 7, 2011

Quick thought on logistics of WHEN you eat:

If you can, take in some protein and carbs when you first get up.

Immediately after your workout take in protein isolate and sugar (you want stuff your body can digest quickly. No complex carbs or fat - they slow digestion)

Wait a little while (say another 30 min) before eating your delicious breakfast. Probably as much time as it takes for you to shower, dress, and get to work.
posted by jander03 at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2011

You can also make tons of mini-quiches in muffin tins. Bake, cool, wrap in saran, put them all into a giant ziploc. Remove one or two and they'll be thawed after your workout -- you can eat them cold, or nuke in the microwave!
posted by barnone at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2011

I read a great recipe in "Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food" by Alicia Simpson. She makes a powdered power smoothie mix in bulk that is great to grab and go with.

She calls it the "Green Goblin!"

Make a big batch of the powdered mix, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and mix with juice a portion at a time. I bought one of those protein drink mixer bottles, called the Blender Ball, that is designed for mixing up drinks like this. It had ounces printed on the side so it makes measuring the juice easy as well. One tip is to add the juice first to avoid clumps in the bottom. It cost a bit up front to buy this stuff at Whole Foods but I have enough material to make Green Goblins for a long time now.

Two Weeks Worth of Green Goblin

1 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup wheat germ, brewer's yeast or almond meal
1 cup unflavored protein powder
1/2 cup spirulina (I use a bit less because I don't like the taste. This was the most expensive ingredient.)
1/2 cup psyllium seed

Scoop 1/4 cup at a time and mix with 16 oz of fruit juice. I like it with pineapple juice.

It is pretty easy to keep a tupperware of this mix and some fruit juice in the office fridge. The mix is bright green from the spirulina, so I think it will be safe from pilfering fridge raiders. Just make sure folks know it isn't a moldy leftover! Don't want anyone tossing $20 worth of spirulina!

I second the idea of making eggy things at work or bringing eggs with you. One of my co-workers has a special microwave egg cooking dish that she got on Amazon that she uses to make omelettes at work. My mom is a florist that has to be at the flower mart at the crack of dawn. She loves to have hard boiled eggs in her pocket for a portable breakfast.
posted by dottiechang at 9:34 PM on June 11, 2011

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