Athletes have higher nutrition needs and often start their day with a bigger breakfast. When on the go, these balanced breakfasts for athletes and easy meal prep breakfasts will help support workouts and recovery.
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?
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. And whether you’re carnivore, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, etc., you need a plan for regular eating.
This post on vegan breakfast meal prep goes over many of the basics with vegan breakfast recipes.
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.
An Easy Meal Prep Breakfast Consists Of
- Carbohydrates – Aim for 30-60 grams of carbohydrates, and possibly more if you’re eating before an intense workout. A high carb breakfast may be more pertinent to endurance athletes.
- Protein – Athlete protein needs are high, aim for 20-40 grams of protein per meal. Make sure you’re optimizing protein at breakfast!
- Fats – Fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids, are great for reducing inflammation and helping with brain health and adding flavor.
- Fiber – Fiber generally refers to colored fruits and vegetables, which provide ample antioxidants to help with managing inflammation and providing micronutrients. Easy to include in healthy snacks for athletes.
- Water and Electrolytes – Flavor your own or purchase some great options (I love the berry hydration tub). You can also make your own homemade electrolyte drink.
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. Lunches for runners are also usually low in carbohydrates, though they are still just as important for a morning workout recovery, or fueling an afternoon workout session.
This grocery list for runners is helpful in crafting your meals and utilizing some meal prep tips to make your food work for you.
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.
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.
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.
Easy Meal Prep Breakfast Options
There is no shortage of meal prep breakfast ideas.
Make ahead breakfast options with adequate protein and high carbohydrates could include:
- a vegetarian breakfast casserole
- a quiche or frittata
- baked oatmeal (oatmeal for athletes is very sustaining!)
- a breakfast hash
- a greek yogurt parfait
- overnight oats, amped up with eggs, protein powder and/or greek yogurt – these high protein overnight oats without protein powder are a great option!
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.
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.
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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.
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:
- Sweet Potato Cookie Dough
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal Cups
- Almond Flour Banana Muffins
- Gluten Free Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins
- Banana Chia Pudding
- Anti-inflammatory oats
- Easy No Bake Healthy Snacks
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.
Grab Our Intuitive Eating Guide to Help You Achieve Food Freedom!
Do you have a go to make ahead breakfast recipe? What’s your get out of a rut go to?