What Do Athletes Eat For Breakfast?
We’ve all probably been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day a million times. But the thing is— that statement is pretty accurate. In some cases, what meets a person’s dietary needs may not include a regular breakfast, but it’s different when it comes to people living an active lifestyle.
When you work out, you need fuel to power your efforts. That seems self-explanatory, but some get-thin-quick scams will try to convince you that calorie intake needs to be minimized for a “healthy” look.
Any athlete looking to train for a competition or maintain their body’s readiness between games will tell you that you need to eat in order to compete. And a breakfast designed to give you what you need to succeed athletically is a great start to any day— whether you have a competition that day or just a regular workout.
So what is the breakfast of champions? When all is said and done, what do athletes eat for breakfast?
The Balancing Act
Whether you are training for a specific event or are trying to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, a balanced breakfast will help you achieve your exercise goals. But what exactly is a balanced breakfast? It seems like every cereal commercial mentions it, but none of them explain it.
The general, simple formula for a balanced breakfast is that it should contain 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 25% fats. Maintaining these percentages will give you meals that fuel your activities and help maintain muscle health.
But what does this look like in real life?
When it comes to carbs, you want to focus on fruits and whole grains. That can mean whole wheat toast or bagels, oatmeal, bananas, oranges, etc. Eating fruit is preferred over fruit juices because there is typically more added sugar in juices without the additional benefits like fiber and antioxidants that are found in actual fruit.
Sources of protein are often also good sources of the fats your body needs. Eggs, nuts, peanut butter, dairy like cheese and milk, and quality meats will all give you protein and fat to help your muscles stay healthy and recover from the workout they’re about to get.
Mix and match those elements into a 500 to 700 calorie meal every day and combine with a few glasses of water to help your body get in gear after a night’s sleep and you have a consistent, balanced breakfast diet that doesn’t require you to eat the exact same thing over and over again.
Many researchers also recommend a cup of coffee or either black or green tea to cap off your breakfast because caffeine, in moderation, can be very beneficial to your metabolism.
Is it ok to skip breakfast?
Some people have grown accustomed to skipping breakfast, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in general. But for an active person and especially for someone who is going to be heading to the court for a game, skipping out on your morning meal is unwise.
One recent study found that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for athletes. Athletes that skipped breakfast on competition days were shown to have had slower starts and comparatively worse results than those who ate breakfast— even when they competed in the evening.
The healthy carbs, proteins, fats, and hydration that come from a balanced breakfast help your body shift into gear after the natural state of fasting that it has been in while you sleep. Getting those nutrients at that time does more for the athlete’s body than the same meal would at lunch time.
Some athletes schedule their workouts right away in the morning and may not always have time for their whole breakfast before they get started. In this case, what is recommended is re-hydrating and having some breakfast. Then finish your 500 to 700 calorie meal after your workout. That way, you have fuel in your tank as you exercise, and you still get the energy you need for your day.
The benefits of breakfast are many for the athlete, so while no one will force you to eat a balanced breakfast every day, you won’t perform as well on the court or on the field if you skip out on your morning meal.
What is the Best Athlete Breakfast?
The ideal breakfast for athletes is different depending on the sport for which they are training. Generally speaking, the 500 to 700 calorie breakfast is going to be best for an athlete day in and day out. But what about on game day?
You don’t want to change things up too much once your body has become accustomed to a regular infusion of nutrients and calories at breakfast time just because it is game day. For example, you shouldn’t jump from wheat toast with peanut butter and a fresh fruit and yogurt parfait to potato chips and soda just because the second option has more calories that you can burn.
If you have trained your body to expect and accept a certain level of caloric intake in the morning, drastically altering the amount of food you consume for breakfast right before you compete could leave you feeling a little nauseous. That’s normal.
But if you don’t overdo it, a little extra breakfast can be a good thing on game day. Remember: you don’t need to get your whole day’s worth of calories in before you compete. Upping your breakfast to 800 or even 900 calories can serve you well. Just be cautious of over-eating after your competition.
Generally speaking, for an event like racquetball that requires repeated bursts of energy, the standard daily caloric intake of 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 calories a day for men works well. For someone training for a marathon or a triathlon, a higher daily caloric intake would be advisable.
The best game day breakfast, though, is the one that works for you. If you are getting the nutrients your body needs to fuel a high quality athletic performance without making yourself feel over-full or sick, then you’ve found something that works.
And remember that the general guideline is high carb consumption before competing and protein afterward. This can mean a pasta dinner the night before with a regular breakfast on the day of your game, followed by a post-game meal that has a high protein level to facilitate muscle recovery after the exertion of competition.
So, What Do Athletes Eat For Breakfast?
In one of the most famous scenes in the classic film, Rocky, Sylvester Stallone cracks six eggs and swallows them raw before running across Philadelphia in an amazing training montage. In retrospect, he would probably only want to eat that many eggs if he was trying to bulk up.
But instead of worrying about how many eggs do athletes eat, it’s important to recognize that your breakfast needs don’t have to lead to the exact same meal over and over.
As long as you keep that formula of 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fats in mind, you can use judicious meal planning to keep a level of variety in your morning meal without complicating your daily routine.
Maybe you go from oatmeal with fruit and yogurt to a simple two-egg sandwich on wheat toast the next day. You can prepare the ingredients for healthy breakfast burritos and freeze them, so you just have to warm up the tortilla and pop the burrito in the microwave for a tasty and fast meal when you need it.
There are so many options that you can fit into your lifestyle and your tastes. When you get used to a balanced breakfast, you can stop asking, “what do athletes eat for breakfast” and start asking, “what do I want today?”