Whole-wheat Raspberry (Oh-So-Good!) Scones and the Pre-workout Meal

If you haven’t guessed by now, I LOVE breakfast and I love baking, thus why most of the recipes I have shared with all of you so far have been breakfast ones. Soon I’ll incorporate other recipes and expand beyond the realm of delicious breakfasts, but before I do that, I have yet another superb one for you: Whole-wheat raspberry (oh-so-good!) scones! I’ve been eating variations of the overnight oatmeal recipe (Monday through Friday) for a few weeks now and feel that it is time for me to expand to something else. The other reason why I want to try a different breakfast is to see how my swimming is affected. I’m perfectly full and satisfied with my overnight oatmeal, but when I’m swimming I tend to burp a lot. Also, I’ve noticed that I’m completely exhausted after swimming, which makes for a hard workday (especially those 5:30a.m. to 10:30p.m. days). So I’m wondering if this has something to do with what I am eating pre-workout, or if this has more to do with my swimming and other workouts.

Before I share this awesome recipe with you though, I’d like to talk about pre-workout and what you should eat. I’ve discussed post-workout, so I wanted to explore the pre-workout meal, specifically before a morning workout or a race. Do you eat before or don’t you? What is the best thing to eat? How much should you eat? How long before the workout/race do you eat? These are the questions burning in my mind and I hope to answer for us.

(There is so much research on nutrition and different practices depending on distance/duration of exercise, that I will only discuss some basics in this post and delve deeper into Ironman specific nutrition at a later date).

Do you eat before a morning workout or if it’s race day, do you eat that morning?
First of all, we need to have some understanding of what happens to our body in terms of glycogen storage, depletion, and resupply. The reason why you eat in the morning is to replenish liver glycogen stores, which have been depleted throughout the night as you slept. Muscle glycogen, or the first fuel recruited when exercise begins, remains intact overnight. Refueling properly after your last workout will ensure that you’re muscle glycogen levels are primed, these stores constitute about 80% of your glycogen stores (see blog post Post-workout Recovery: What You Need to Know, for details on refueling post-workout: https://ironwomandiaries.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/post-workout-recovery/). Simply put, your stomach might be screaming, “I need food,” but your muscles are saying, “We’re ready for action!” Thus, some might argue that eating before a workout is not necessary, however the consensus seems to be that eating will allow you to perform better not only physically but mentally as well.

What is the best thing to eat before a workout or the morning of your race? And, how much, as in calories, should you eat?
The purpose of eating before a workout is to store enough carbohydrates to get you through the workout. According to Joe Friel author of “The Triathlete’s Training Bible”, eating enough carbohydrates pre-workout is “especially important for early-morning sessions.” Consuming between 200-400 calories, largely from a moderate-glycemic index (see list below), carbohydrate-rich food, is optimal for fueling your body pre-morning workout. Also keep in mind that this pre-workout morning meal should consist of roughly 70% carbohydrates. Foods that are high in fiber, simple sugars, and high fat should be avoided. (You don’t want the uncomfortable urge to have to use the bathroom part way through your swim, you’ve got enough to worry about, like breathing). Consuming high glycemic carbohydrates such as those simple sugars within three hours of exercise will cause you to experience negative effects on your performance. I won’t go into those now, just know that it will not only hinder your performance, but also, can be harmful to your health.

How long before the workout/race do you eat?
Surprisingly (at least to me) eating at least 2-3 hours before your workout/race is ideal, for exercising longer than 90 minutes. However, rest is just as important so getting up at 3a.m. for a 5:30a.m. swim is not the best idea. Instead, and for workouts lasting less than 90 minutes, Friel suggests taking a bottle of your favorite sports drink or two gel packs with 12 ounces of water to the workout and consume about 10 minutes before you begin. This will at least give you the fuel you need to power through your workout, keeping in mind this bit of advice is for your average workout 60-90 minutes in length, not brick or race day. So what about race day? Clearly your rituals are going to be different on race day, but your eating habits will be similar on brick days and should be rehearsed on these days. For a short course race the more time you have before the race begins the more you can eat. Generally, according to Friel, plan on consuming about 200 calories for every hour prior to race time.

Whew! With so much information to absorb let’s summarize the main points.

  • When exercising for durations lasting under 90 minutes, consuming between 200-400 calories, largely from a moderate glycemic index, carbohydrate rich food will power you through. Think your favorite sports drink or gel packs when in a time crunch, or unsweetened applesauce and a bagel 1-2 hours prior.
  • For brick days or when exercising will last longer than 90 minutes, eat 2-3 hours prior. (This will allow enough time for insulin and blood glucose to normalize. This way you won’t be at risk for increased glycogen depletion).
  • Always prior to working out or on race day, avoid foods that are high in fiber, simple sugars, and high fat.
  • Short course race day, if time allows, consume about 200 calories for every hour prior to race time.
  • The bottom line: Focus on eating complex carbohydrate-rich foods for your pre-race or pre-workout meal; you will perform better both mentally and physically during your workout.

Low glycemic index foods (30-50%):

Apples/juice/sauce                          Pasta (whole-wheat)
Beans, baked                                  Pears
Grapes                                            Tomato soup
Kiwifruit                                           Yogurt

Moderate glycemic index foods (50-80%):

Bagels                                             Oatmeal
Bananas                                          Pineapple
Black bean soup                              Popcorn
Bread, pita/rye/wheat                      Potatoes, boiled/mashed/sweet
Corn                                                Pumpkin
Crackers                                         Raisins
Mango                                            Rice, brown
Muffins                                            Watermelon
Oat bran                                          Yams

Whole-wheat Raspberry (Oh-So-Good!) Scones Whole-wheat raspberry scone on plate.

2 cups whole-wheat flour
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup large old fashioned rolled oats (not quick or instant)
¼ cup natural applesauce
3 tbsp. cold butter, cut in cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup + 2 tbsp. light vanilla soy milk
1¼ cup raspberries (As always, I used frozen since raspberries are not yet in season. Do not thaw them if you decide to use frozen as well).

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. (I always forget that I don’t have parchment paper and wax paper smokes in our oven at the temperature. So wanting to be the crafty baker, instead of greasing my pans with olive oil, which you could also do, I lined my baking sheet with tin foil! It actually worked pretty well. I just had to be careful when peeling off the scones. The point: if you do not have parchment paper, no worries. You can either grease your pan or use my tin foil method).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oats. Next, mix in applesauce the best you can. Take your butter cubes and either press with your fingers into the mixture (way more fun and one less dish!) or use a blender to cut butter in. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk soy milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over dry ingredients and stir or fold in until dough starts to come together (there will still be floury patches). Stir in raspberries. Dough may still be somewhat floury.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured clean counter and gently knead about 6 times, until dough is cohesive (raspberries will start to break up; this is fine). Pat dough into a circle of about 1½” thick. Using a knife, divide the dough into three sections, and then make half of an “x” in each section to result in nine equal pieces.
  5. Transfer scones to prepared baking sheets and bake about 22 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating pans once during baking. Transfer to wire racks to cool. I like to eat mine slightly warm each morning with either a bit of almond butter, a small spoonful of Greek yogurt, or just plain.

I know you’ll really enjoy these scones. They have such great texture and flavor, not to mention they just look like they taste good! Also, after my swim this morning I didn’t feel completely exhausted or starving—bonus! I hope you’re learning new things with me as I learn them. Fueling our bodies is so important to our performance. Bon Appétit!

Four whole-wheat raspberry scones on plate.Printable recipe

Sources: Friel, J. (2009). The triathlete’s training bible. (3rd ed.). Boulder: VeloPress.; http://www.hammernutrition.com/hnt/1279/;
http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/To-Eat-or-Not-to-Eat-Pre-Workout; http://www.foodess.com/2012/09/whole-wheat-oatmeal-raspberry-scones/

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