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9 Ideas For Breakfast For Athletes On the Go

Athletes have higher nutrition needs and often start their day with a bigger breakfast. When on the go, these balanced breakfasts for athletes will help support workouts and recovery. 

savory oatmeal topped with egg, herbs and avocado in white bowl.

One thing that has been a common theme among clients this year has been a lack of motivation for breakfast. Breakfast, it seems, is becoming monotonous and boring and people want new ideas.

And when we’re talking about active individuals, there is a high need for eating in the morning.

Sometimes a high energy breakfast is just what we need, but with a lack of time or energy, what’s an athlete to do?

overnight oats in mason jar with apple pie seasoning on countertop with sliced apples in background

What Does a Healthy Breakfast for Athletes Look Like?

A healthy breakfast is vital for an athletes’ performance and energy maintenance not only throughout the workout but throughout the day. Any sample meal plan for marathon training will emphasize breakfast – it’s a must. 

There are several benefits to athletes for eating breakfast:

  • More Nutrients – The only way to get more nutrients for performance are through food. The harder you train, the more nutrients you need to consume.
  • Better Performance – Breakfast omission can impede performance, both in the morning and even later in the day. One 2015 study found that athletic performance later in the day was stunted, compared to those who ate breakfast. 
  • Better Memory and Cognition – While you may not think this directly relates to athletes, it certainly can! Many athletes have to think and react quickly, and a good breakfast for athletes will help them do that. This study talks more about the cognitive benefits of breakfast!
  • Improved Strength – Having a balanced breakfast can also help preserve muscular health and minimize protein breakdown. So, whether you’re eating before or after your workout, a high protein breakfast can help build muscle. 

And while breakfast for athletes on game day may look different from an off day (for more race day nutrition ideas, read this post), it’s important to get into a routine of eating breakfast daily and consistently so the body can use nutrients. 

A healthy breakfast consists of:

greek yogurt in serving bowl with berries and a cherry, with nuts on the side

Each macronutrient plays a role in performance and recovery, so it’s important to have them all on hand and eat them at every meal. This grocery list for runners is helpful in crafting your meals. 

Fiber generally refers to colored fruits and vegetables, which provide ample antioxidants to help with managing inflammation and providing micronutrients.

I’m often including high fiber foods into my recommend healthy snacks for athletes

The macronutrient distribution may need to be altered depending on if you’re eating before a workout or after.

For example, a high carb breakfast for athletes may be more dictated towards runners and endurance athletes.

Athletes performance plate

Sports nutrition recommendations recommend 1-4 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight 1-4 hours before exercise. 

For example, before a workout, the meal or snack should be predominantly carbohydrate-based, with minimal fat and fiber to help ease and GI distress and runners stomach symptoms during the workout.

If you’re eating 1 hour before exercise, aim for 1 gram of carbohydrate per kg of body weight.

If you’re up early planning your long run in 2-3 hours, you can have a bigger breakfast, and aim for 2-3 grams of carbs per kg of body weight, respectively. 

Slice of Banana Peach Steel Cut Baked Oatmeal

After a workout, it’s generally easier to eat the combination of macronutrients listed above.

But, athletes are often tight on time like many of us, with work, family life, and other commitments. So, finding ways to get in a high energy breakfast is helpful!

And while breakfast can be a quick meal to prepare, it’s often lunch or dinner where they get hung up and may want to rely on different options of meal prep for athletes. 

Make Ahead Breakfast Options

Make ahead breakfast options with adequate protein and high carbohydrates could include:

Many of these can also be applied to breakfast ideas for teenage athletes, paired with a protein or energy bar

Use them in combination with these recipe ideas for athletes and you should be covered across the board. 

closeup of turkey sausage breakfast casserole cooked in clear baking pan

What If I’m Not Hungry After a Workout?

The most common question is, “but what if I’m not hungry?”  That’s a nuance of intuitive eating.

Just because you aren’t hungry for breakfast (or a meal – if it’s been several hours since you last ate), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat, especially if it’s around or after a workout.

It’s important to know that your hunger hormone, ghrelin, is often suppressed after high intensity exercise or exercising in the heat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat. 

We talk a lot about this with concrete examples in my Ebook, Simplifying Hunger and Fullness

learn how to honor your hunger Ebook

What Do Athletes Eat for Breakfast?

Many of the athletes I work with gravitate towards easy recipes for training purposes. They spend so much time training that they want simplistic, quick recipes that still nourish and fuel them. 

Breakfast is no different and it’s easy to prepare with make ahead breakfast meals.

Whether they’re eating hours before a workout, or scarfing something down after a workout, the best breakfast for athletes is going to be easy to prepare and nourishing. 

Choices may vary depending on whether they’re trying to gain weight vs those more focused on performance. 

Many athletes prefer smoothies, so if you’re looking that route, check out the best breakfast smoothies for athletes

Beet Smoothie overhead

Lastly, it’s important that athletes practice breakfast before a competition to ensure their gut can handle it without adverse symptoms – the last thing you want is to feel sick during your competition. 

Hence, it’s important to find one that works for you and “practice” eating it before/after a workout to make sure it settles in your stomach. 

If you’re looking for some snack ideas to bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch, some favorites include:

Make Ahead Ideas For Breakfast For Athletes

Need some high carb breakfasts ideas? Thesemake ahead recipes can help nourish and replenish athletes, and even offer an easy high energy breakfast for athletes trying to gain weight or maintain weight.

Make ahead breakfast recipes with text overlay | Bucket List Tummy

 

Are You Sure You’re Eating Enough As Athletes?

My ebook all about hunger and fullness provides tips and resources for dispelling diet culture myths, knowing if you’re eating enough, and tips for performance. 

Learn more here!

 

Do you have a go to make ahead breakfast recipe? What’s your get out of a rut go to?

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  1. My breakfast go to’s are black bean and egg burritos and roasted potatoes with eggs (I make the potatoes in advance and it just takes a minute to cook up the eggs). The chorizo and the sweet potato casseroles look good, I will have to try them soon.

    1. Love the burrito idea – great grab and go option! And anything with potatoes in it for breakfast has my vote 🙂