When it comes to running like a champ, a good breakfast is what separates the (whole) wheat from the chaff. Without the proper nutrients to fuel your morning sprints, you’re likely to find yourself fatigued, injured, or simply not running your best. Even so, it can feel daunting to make a nutritious breakfast when you’re waking up before the sun to work out. So we’re sharing easy recipes that don’t take a lot of time or energy to make. Whether you’re training for your first 5K or your one-hundredth half marathon, keep reading for ten of the best healthy runners breakfast.
If you’re in need of a training plan to complement your meals, check out Half Marathon Guide’s Training Plans.
It’s All About Macros: What to Include in Your Morning Meal
If you’re a runner, there’s one thing we know for sure: you love a good carbohydrate. Unfortunately, if you want to perform your best, you can’t load up on pancakes and call it a day. You need healthy protein and fat, too. Whether you consider yourself a beginner or experienced runner, these are the fundamental components to pay attention to in all breakfast foods.
What do elite runners eat for breakfast? For one thing, they don’t skimp on protein. If you’re an endurance runner, aim for about 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight each day.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (which is about 68 kg), you’ll need to eat about 95 grams of protein each day. Divided evenly between three meals, that’s about 32 grams of protein with breakfast!
Eggs, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats can help you hit your protein goals. You can also supplement with high-protein snacks (like a whole foods protein shake) between meals.
You’ll need some fat in each meal too. It’s especially important to get healthy fat with breakfast to provide long-lasting energy for your whole day. Nuts, avocados, fatty fish like salmon and olive oil are all excellent choices.
And when it comes to carbs, how much should you aim for? It depends on the type of running you do. If you’re a sprinter, 70 percent (or more!) of your daily calories may come from carbs, while an endurance runners breakfast may get closer to 50 percent of their calories from carbs.
Here’s the bummer news: while sweet treats and other simple carbohydrates are okay in moderation, they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet. (Even if you are burning them off quickly.)
Instead, stick with good sources of complex carbs, like sweet potatoes, fruit, whole grain bread and starchy vegetables.
These dietary guidelines are an excellent place to start, but when in doubt—get help! A qualified dietitian can help you craft the perfect meal plan for your running needs.
Breakfast Timing: Should You Eat Before or After Morning Runs?
The answer to this question is complicated and depends on your unique body type, but most people have more energy when they eat before a run or workout. The key is to eat foods that help your performance, rather than hinder it.
For many folks, this means making sure you have a mix of simple and complex carbs in the couple of hours leading up to your run and loading up on protein after you finish.
In practical terms, this means a banana or toast with nut butter can make a good “pre-breakfast” before your run. Then you can chow down on some eggs when you get home. To keep digestion stable, save the coffee until you’re finished running, too.
If you’re running for more than an hour, don’t forget to keep snacks like pureed fruit on hand to keep your body going.
Ideas for Runners Breakfast
At the end of the day, any meal that balances protein, complex carbs and fat from high-quality whole foods is likely to make a great breakfast recipe for a runner. But if you’re looking for specific ideas, these are a few of our favorites.
We’ve included lot of recipes that use few specific measurements because we know the last thing you want to do in the morning is math.
Avocado Toast with Eggs
For this breakfast classic, choose whole-grain toast to sneak in some extra protein. Layer on mashed avocado seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top with a couple of jammy, hard-boiled eggs, microgreens (if you’re feeling fancy!) and whatever seasonings you prefer. Add sliced fruit on the side for a balanced breakfast.
Easy Egg Muffins
When you’re waking up before the sun to run, you don’t want to think about preparing breakfast. Enter: egg muffins. Easy to make the night before, these are delicious and portable too. You can make as many or as few as you’d like; this recipe is easy to flex up and down in size.
To make the muffins, whisk eggs with milk. You’ll add ¼ cup of milk for every eight eggs you use. Then stir in your preferred vegetables and protein. We like chopped ham, bacon and bell pepper. Add cheese if you’d like and pour into a greased muffin tin.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. (They’re done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.) Let these babies cool before you stick them in the fridge for the morning!
Simple Protein Oatmeal
Not a fan of eggs? Not a problem. You can still get protein in your runner’s breakfast with a protein-ified take on a comforting classic.
To make protein oatmeal, there are two secrets. One is to stir protein powder into your oats and the second is to up the amount of liquid you use. This ensures your oats stay creamy, even with all that added powder.
The ratio we like to use is 1½ cups of liquid—any combination of water and milk you prefer—to ½ cup of rolled oats + ¼ cup protein powder.
Cook together your oats and liquid like normal, adding any sweeteners you like along the way. When you take the oatmeal off the stove, stir in your protein powder until your oats are creamy. That’s it! If you’re not a huge fan of protein powder as it doesn’t agree with every runner’s digestive system, chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re not into the pre-run preparation, consider overnight oats. To make overnight oats, simply mix oats and your favorite dairy or nut milk (we prefer almond milk) and seed and refrigerating overnight.
Here’s a recipe to get you started.
Four-Ingredient Protein Bars
This may be the best pre-run breakfast for folks who like something light before their run. Just remember to prep these ahead of time; they need to chill in the fridge until they’re firm.
To make the bars, microwave half a cup of peanut butter with a quarter cup of honey and stir until combined. Mix in one scoop of protein powder and two cups of oats.
Press the mixture into a parchment-lined baking dish and put it in the fridge to chill. That’s all there is to it!
The Simplest Banana Pancakes
Another good runners breakfast? Pancakes! Seriously, you can have this weekend favorite before your run. Just use better-for-you ingredients.
Instead of opting for tons of flour in your pancakes, sub in bananas. Simply blending two eggs for every banana (plus a dash of cinnamon) will yield some truly delicious pancake batter.
Add a dollop of greek yogurt or some sugar-free bacon on the side of your pancakes for a more filling and protein-rich breakfast.
Cottage Cheese Toast
Another underrated-but-excellent runners breakfast? Cottage cheese! It’s packed with protein that helps you log miles without feeling bogged down.
Have you tried cottage cheese slathered on whole-grain toast with berries piled on top? Drizzle on a little raw honey and sea salt and you’ve got something indulgent that’ll get you out of bed in the morning.
Here’s a recipe to get you started.
An Early Morning Smoothie
Can’t tolerate solid foods first thing in the morning? We get it! For the sensitive stomachs out there, we recommend an easier-than-easy smoothie to fuel your run.
Simply blend greek yogurt, a couple of heaping spoons of peanut butter and a banana for something that’ll keep you fueled for your runs. Start with a ratio of half a cup of yogurt to one banana and modify it to your liking.
Many runners like smoothies to get their daily servings of fruits and veggies.
Classic Egg Scramble
Are eggs a good runners breakfast? Absolutely! And we love a loaded-up scramble as much as the next person. But on a busy morning before a run, things don’t have to be so complicated.
Instead, keep this simple scramble ratio in mind: 3 eggs to ½ cup of greens like spinach or kale and ½ cup of your favorite chopped protein.
Stir together in a bowl, throw in a pan and you’ve got a delicious breakfast that hits all the food groups. Add half a sweet potato or a couple of slices of whole-grain toast on the side to meet all your macros.
Hard Boiled Egg Snack Plate
A couple of our favorite coffee chains sell snack boxes featuring hard-boiled eggs, but this simple snack is easy to make at home for a post-run breakfast. Start by boiling a couple of eggs and topping them with salt and pepper. Then add a few of the following to your plate:
- A good quality, hard cheese
- Fresh, in-season fruit
- Whole grain crackers or toast
- Smoked salmon
- Salted nuts
- Sliced cucumbers
- A dollop of honey-drizzled greek yogurt
Loaded English Muffins
It doesn’t take much to make a pre-run breakfast feel special. Try swapping out your regular toast for a whole-wheat english muffin or bagel and load it up with your favorite protein-rich toppings.
We like smoked salmon and cream cheese, nut butter with raw honey or mozzarella and salted tomatoes.
Runners Breakfast Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
When you’re serious about your sport, it can be easy to obsess over the details—including what you eat for breakfast. The reality is as long as you’re eating food that makes your body feel good and hits all your macros, you’re likely doing just fine.
This is especially true on race day, when you may feel even more pressure to eat the “right” thing. Stick to what you’ve learned about what fuels your body best, and skip foods that can aggravate your gut, like spices and caffeine.
Some trial and error is part of the process, especially as your body’s needs can change over time.