We hear it all the time, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But, according to a recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that statement isn’t exactly accurate. It might not be the most important meal of the day, but it’s certainly important, especially if you’re exercising and need calories to burn—and even more so if your workout consists of multiple sweat sessions.
“Breakfast sets the tone for the entire day, nutritionally speaking,” says Daily Harvest Nutritionist Sara Jane Mercer. At the Holistic Hideaways retreat at Le Soleil d’Or, MS RD Dietitian Nutritionist McKel Hill recommends keeping the carbohydrates moderate and sugar low during breakfast. “Opt for high fiber whole foods like vegetables and fruits, and pair them with high quality proteins and healthy fats.”
If you strive for a lifestyle like that of a fitness trainer, eating early is essential. The most significant part isn’t what exact a.m. hour they’re noshing—it’s what’s inside that bowl, bag or bottle that really counts, particularly if they’re burning 500+ calories per workout (that calls for a bagel and cream cheese celebration, right? Not so much). Here’s what our favorite workout warriors are chowing down when they wake up.
Hilary Sheinbaum is a travel, health, food and lifestyle writer.
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Liv Young, Box + Flow in New York City
The first thing Liv Young does when she wakes up every morning is eat. This box + flow trainer needs a meal that packs a punch (pun intended). She takes two GG's crackers, applies Laughing Cow spreadable cheese, a sliced egg (all white and 1/3 of the yolk), sliced avocado and Maille creamy Dijon mustard. "You don't get the full effect if anything is cold," says Young, who crafts her breakfast at room temp. "Spritz with a lemon, very fruity olive oil and cracked black pepper to finish, and voila!" After her first workout, she grabs a Matcha Tea Latte from Champion Coffee in NYC's Bowery Market. "This is my base for the day. It starts my body, my metabolism, and kickstarts a non-stop, action filled workout and action packed day."
Photo by Liv Young
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Mat Forzaglia, The Fhitting Room in New York City
At home in NYC, The Fhitting Room's Mat Forzaglia cooks ¼ cup of dry steel cut oatmeal and mixes in 1 tbsp of peanut butter. He also eats three scrambled eggs and an avocado. Forzaglia opens his eyes at 4:30 a.m., and is teaching until the late morning, so the protein-packed meal, filled with good fats and complex carbs, keeps him energized. "It is light enough so it doesn't leave me with a sluggish feeling like I ate too much. This can be eaten before or after a workout," says the HIIT coach. "The protein and carbs help build muscle and provide energy throughout the day." Sounds like breakfast makes it worth not hitting the snooze button–even if it's before sunrise.
Photo by Mat Forzaglia
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Ethan Marine, Anatomy at 1220 in Miami
Anatomy at 1220's Ethan Marine has a "Power Cereal" that can be eaten pre or post-workout. It includes 2 tbsp of almond butter, 2 tbsp of shredded coconut flakes, 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 banana, 2 cups of nut milk and (optional) 1 cup of blueberries. "Pre-workout, this meal serves as a great source of fuel for the body with its sugars from the banana, slow digesting fats in the flax and nut butter to keep you feeling satisfied for a while. Post-workout, this meal is a great way to replenish those same macronutrients you just depleted, especially the protein and the simple carbs," says Marine. You can't buy this cereal in stores, so you'll have to pack a spoon and book a flight to Miami ASAP to try it (or DIY).
Photo by Ethan Marine
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Lauren Chiarello, Chi Chi Life NYC, Exhale, and FLEX Studios in New York City
Chi Chi NYC's Lauren Chiarello, who teaches at Exhale and FLEX Studios, refuels after a morning workout. Her go-to is scrambled egg whites with red peppers, tomatoes, low-moisture mozzarella and drizzled balsamic vinegar. On the side, she has sprouted bread and in-season fruit–usually blueberries, strawberries or kiwi. "This is a magical combo of protein and carbs to fuel me for the morning and set the tone for the rest of my snacks and meals," she says of the Italian-inspired homemade dish. Full disclosure: she eats it for dinner sometimes, too. We dig that. "Blueberries are my favorite because they are little rockstars–they can help boost our immune systems and may protect our brains from degeneration, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress."
Photo by Lauren Chiarello
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Daniela Dib, SoulCycle in Los Angeles
When she's strapped for time, SoulCycle's Daniela Dib opts for avocado toast on whole wheat bread before heading to the podium. Homemade in eight minutes, it's anything but basic, topped with hummus, chia seeds, tomatoes, scallions and fresh squeezed lemon. "Avocado is a super food. It is rich in good fat, and it promotes lean muscle growth," says the Los Angeles-based instructor. "It has more potassium than a banana, which I've found really helps me prevent cramps while teaching." If you're sprinting out the door, Dib recommends giving your body enough time to digest the dish before hitting the gym. (Aha! A perk to sitting in LA traffic!). "This is not something you want to eat immediately before jumping into training!"
Photo by Daniela Dib
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Rachel Robinson, Barry's Bootcamp in Miami
When she stopped eating meat, Barry's Bootcamp instructor Rachel Robinson started paying even more attention to her diet. Post workout, her earliest meal consists of yogurt with chia seeds, banana and blueberries. "Yogurt offers a dose of animal, plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium and magnesium. I also love chia seeds because they add a great texture to the yogurt and deliver a massive amount of nutrients with very few calories," says the Miami-based trainer about her homemade dish. "Bananas contain a fair amount of fiber, which keeps you feeling full, and the blueberries ward off heart disease and are packed with fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B6." Before teaching classes–at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.–Robinson opts for coffee with coconut milk. We would too, if we were getting up that early.
Photo by Rachel Robinson
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Noah Feinberg, SoulCycle in New York City
At the Union Square Farmers Market in NYC, you can find SoulCycle's Noah Feinberg buying ingredients for his pre-workout breakfast. Three to four hours before his first class, we're sleeping, but Feinberg is awake and cooking two to three sunny-side up eggs and eating two pieces of toast with tomato. "Eggs are packed with high quality protein, vitamins and minerals," says Feinberg. For extra calories and protein, he adds turkey bacon and fruit. An hour or 90 minutes leading up to his first class, he eats again, this time a KIND bar or Vegabar, to keep him fueled without feeling too full. While the bars come as they are, the dish can be modified. "There are a million ways to go about this breakfast," says the instructor. "Be creative, post a pic of it if you need to, but most importantly keep the mind and body happy." Insert frying pan egg emoji.
Photo by Noah Feinberg
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Breann Mitchell, The Bay Club Company in Santa Monica
The Bay Club Company's Breann Mitchell opts for protein pancakes before and after a workout, so she has enough energy before exercising and can recover efficiently as well. The regional fitness program director makes her short stack with egg whites, Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Oats, cinnamon, a pinch of baking soda and salt. Occasionally, she adds some protein powder or tops it with a little almond butter. "It's a great mix of protein, carbs and fiber and is also low in sugar. More importantly, they are delicious," she says, noting the mix is easy to make at home. "Sometimes I'll make a bigger batch and store it in Tupperware in my bag if I'm running around all day. Healthy carbs and fats in the almond butter keep me fueled, and the fiber keeps me full."
Photo by Breann Mitchell
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Kate Champagne, Soul Cycle in Washington, D.C.
Don't be fooled by her name–SoulCycle's Kate "KC" Champagne isn't popping a bottle of bubbly before instructing FLOTUS. Prior to clipping into her bike with Michelle Obama, she keeps breakfast No. 1 simple with a bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond, milk and sliced banana. "It's light in my stomach and digests quickly. It has a small dose of carbohydrates for energy, and for potassium it has electrolytes that aid muscle recovery. The protein supports muscle growth, and milk staves off feelings of fatigue or sluggishness in my morning workouts," says the DC based instructor. After exercising in the morning, Champagne eats a second, more substantial breakfast packed with protein to support muscle growth and recovery, and keep blood sugar balanced and metabolism on track. Breakfast No. 2 is multi grain toast, a made-from-scratch avocado mash (1/2 ripe avocado, 2 scoops of FAGE 2% plain yogurt, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt) with sliced tomato, and 2 eggs with red chili flakes. "Never skimp on flavor! Healthy and delicious should not be mutually exclusive!"
By Kate Champagne
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Mahri Relin, Body Conceptions in Denver and Boulder
The owner of Body Conceptions, Mahri Relin, finds her fuel by scrambling eggs in coconut oil with sauerkraut, an avocado, and salt and pepper. Relin's friend introduced her to the recipe, and she's eaten it first thing in the morning ever since. "I found that the energy I got from the dish lasted several hours," says the instructor, whose company has locations in Denver, Boulder, New York City and New Jersey. "I was able to work out all morning, and I didn't get hungry for lunch until mid afternoon." She says avocados provide vitamins, fiber and protein, while eggs offer even more protein, and coconut oil increases high-density lipoprotein in the body. "I eat sauerkraut because of its probiotic qualities."
Photo By Mahri Relin