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The perfect breakfast

Instant Oatmeal

 (iStock)

Maybe your parents' families sat down together every morning for eggs, sausage, and homemade pancakes, but in today's world, does anyone even eat breakfast at their kitchen table? 

Chances are you hit the snooze button multiple times before stumbling out of bed to rush through your morning routine. And that leaves little time to cook up much of anything.

If you have the luxury, by all means sit down for a nice, hearty breakfast. About three eggs, a piece of fruit, and a small bowl of oatmeal is a good mix of protein and carbohydrates, says Alan Aragon, a nutritionist in Westlake Village, Calif.

No time for that hassle? That's no reason to skip breakfast—here are three reasons you need a morning meal. There are lots of fast and easy meals—most of which you can take with you—that deliver the nutrients you need in the morning. The only thing you need to consider is whether or not you're an a.m. exerciser.

If You Work Out in the Morning
If you want to build muscle, you should eat protein and carbohydrates about 30 to 60 minutes before you work out. If you don't feel hungry, you still need to eat this mix—even if you gulp down some fruit juice spiked with a scoop of whey-protein powder.

"One of the reasons you want protein and carbohydrate prior to training is because you're trying to create an environment where your muscles are fed the nutrients they need during your workout," Aragon says.

Exercise increases your blood flow, so if you eat properly beforehand (and therefore have those nutrients in your blood), you'll have elevated nutrients levels at the same time your blood flow is elevated, maximizing the delivery of protein, carbs, and vitamins to your working muscles, Aragon says. And this prevents muscle breakdown and promotes muscle growth.

Don't forget to eat right after your leave the locker room. Your muscles are most receptive to nutrients within a half hour of training, Aragon says. He recommends eating one-quarter of your goal body weight in protein and carbohydrate grams. So if you want to be 175 pounds, have about 40 to 45 grams of protein and carbohydrates. If you're on the scrawny side and want to bulk up more, increase the carbs to half of your target weight goal.

Go ahead and have whatever tastes good to you—but avoid an overload of sugar. "Have rice or oatmeal or any grain rather than a bunch of sugar if you want a big hit of carbohydrates," Aragon says. "There's no good time to consume a crap-load of sugar."

Good Pre-Workout Choices
• Fruit juice with a scoop of whey-protein powder mixed in
• A protein shake (add flaxseed or fiber to feel fuller longer)
• 1-2 cups of cooked oatmeal with a scoop of whey-protein powder mixed in or a glass of milk
• A container of sweetened yogurt
• 6 oz. of yogurt, 1-2 oz. of cheese, or a glass of milk with a piece of fruit
• A spoonful of natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit
• Eggs with salsa or a piece of fruit

Your Top 4 Gym Mistakes
 

If You Don't Work Out in the Morning
There's no set time you have to eat breakfast. If you're not hungry before you leave the house, bring something with you (preferably not a Pop-Tart) and eat it at work. Just follow these two rules:

1. Include a fruit or vegetable in your breakfast. Most guys don't eat enough produce, so this is an easy way to boost your intake. The small amount of carbohydrates will restore liver glycogen levels, providing your muscles—and your brain—the fuel they need to function at their peak.

2. Eat quality protein. It's great for your muscles and it’s slow-digesting, so you'll make it through the morning without feeling hungry.

Your meal doesn't have to consist of traditional breakfast foods. "Anything that's good at lunch or dinner makes a perfectly good breakfast—even leftovers," says Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist in Los Angeles.
 

Good Choices for Fast Breakfasts
• Eggs with salsa or a piece of fruit
• 6 oz. of yogurt, 1-2 oz. of cheese, or a glass of milk with a piece of fruit
• A spoonful of natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit
• A protein shake (add flaxseed or fiber to feel fuller longer)
• Fruit juice with a scoop of whey-protein powder mixed in