Some people like to eat the same breakfast every day, some people like to try different foods. If you are training and competing in endurance sport, it’s a good idea to vary your breakfast according to the timing and type of training session you do. This helps you to consume carbohydrates, protein and fats in different amounts, and eating different foods over the course of a week also broadens your intake of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients which support good health.
Try some of these breakfasts which link to particular training sessions;
After an early morning swim, run or bike (possibly done fasted)
2 x boiled, scrambled or poached eggs
2 slices of wholegrain or rye bread
Cup of colourful fruit salad (eg blueberry, kiwi, orange or mango & strawberry)
Carbohydrate in the bread and the fruit will help to replenish your stores of muscle glycogen while the two eggs will give you about 14g of protein to help your muscles recover after your session. The fruit will also provide vitamin C and phytonutrients to support your immunity, which is suppressed after hard training.
Before a 2-3 hour long ride or run
2 slices of white toast
2 tsp honey
Pot of low fat yogurt
Eat this meal 90 minutes to two hours before a run and 30-60 minutes before a ride. The toast, honey and banana all provide quickly absorbed carbohydrate to ensure you start your session with plenty of energy. The yogurt provides protein to support your muscles. This low fat, low fibre meal helps to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal distress while training.
Before a 2-5 hour ride where the aim is to improve use of fat as fuel
3 x scrambled eggs
Tomato, mushroom & spinach sautéed in coconut oil
This is a low-carb high fat (LCHF) approach for endurance athletes who are aiming to improve their metabolic efficiency, ie the ability to burn fat as fuel for longer before needing to access the carbohydrate stored in muscle glycogen. The eggs, avocado and coconut all provide healthy sources of fat while the vegetables provide vitamins but very little carbohydrate. The caffeine in the coffee helps improve your perception of effort.
After an early morning long run or ride (brunch)
Buckwheat pancakes with fruit and yogurt
Aim to eat a meal within an hour of finishing your session which contains both carbs to replenish muscle glycogen stores and protein to help your muscles recover and repair. This pancake recipe, which is also gluten free, hits the spot well. The fruit also provides vitamins and other nutrients to support immune function which is suppressed by the stress of a long training session.
On the day of short run or swim at lunch time
Porridge made with 60-80g of oats (gluten free if necessary) and 200ml of cow’s milk, almond milk, rice milk, soya milk or coconut milk
2 tbsp of nuts eg almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts or pecan nuts
1 tsp of pumpkin seeds
1 tsp of ground flaxseed (linseed)
This is the day to choose a very nutrient-dense breakfast, as you have plenty of time to digest and absorb it before training. The oats and banana provide the carbohydrates to support your session later, while the nuts and seeds provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals to support energy production and bone health, especially B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron,. The walnuts and flaxseed are both sources of the anti-inflammatory omega 3 essential fatty acids.
On a day with a high intensity evening training session
Bircher muesli with Greek yogurt: combine 50g of jumbo oats with half a grated apple, 1 tsp of raisins, 6 almonds and 6 walnut halves. Add 200ml of milk – cow’s or plant based alternative – and soak in the fridge overnight. Top with 2-3 tbsp of Greek yogurt before eating.
This is a delicious breakfast which can be taken to work in a pot and eaten at your desk. It is lighter than the porridge above but still provides a good range of vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats. Make sure that you have some carbohydrates as part of your lunch, eg bread, rice, pasta, potato, noodles, and eat a pre-run snack such as a natural energy bar made from dried fruit and nuts to support your high intensity training, where carbohydrate will be your main fuel source.
On a rest day
Smoothie: blend 1 banana, 1 tbsp nut butter, 3 tbsp of plain yogurt, a handful of fresh or frozen berries and 250 ml milk or plant-based alternative. Add 10g of whey protein powder or plant-based alternative if you are in a particularly heavy phase of training.
This high protein, low carb drink makes a great choice on a rest day when your energy needs are reduced and your muscles have the opportunity to repair themselves while you rest.
Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, writing and giving talks about nutrition for endurance sport. Based in London, she also works as a Registered Nutritional Therapist, conducting one–to–one consultations with triathletes, distance runners and cyclists to help them eat well, be healthy and perform better through the creation of an individual nutritional plan. To learn more about these consultations, please visit www.nutritionforendurancesports.co.uk