Nutella, smoothies, doughnuts and a whole load of oats, welcome to the weird and wonderful day starting meals of some of the greatest endurance athletes
The importance of starting your early endurance sessions with an energy boosting meal is well established and research also highlights how skipping breakfast can have a calamitous effect on weight management.
One recent study in the journal Obesity showed that habitual breakfast eaters have more balanced insulin levels throughout the day and even fewer cravings on days when they’re forced to miss breakfast.
But what should runners and riders consume first thing to get their day off to a flyer?
According to Nigel Mitchell, the British Cycling and Team SKY nutrition consultant – the man who’s devised the breakfasts for the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome – an endurance athlete’s first meal of the day should feature a triumvirate of key components.
“Carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats,” explains Mitchell. “Carbs are one of the muscles’ primary sources of energy and fundamental to a pre-training breakfast.”
Mitchell lists a number of palatable first-meal-of-the-day carb sources including porridge.
“We created CNP porridge pack recipes at Team SKY designed to give that drip feed of energy in a convenient format.
“Proteins and your fats will also contribute toward energy provision but also play vital roles in weight management, muscle repair, recovery and adaptation.”
Endurance training increases the body’s need for protein, especially high intensity training, and Mitchell suggests those eggs are err, a cracking source.
“Also lean meats, low-fat dairy or yogurt smoothies provide protein – whilst eggs in an omelette or nuts can supply the fats you need in a form that’s more suited to breakfast time tastes rather than oily fish or olive oil.”
So how much of this nutritional science do real champions take on board? We asked endurance athletes – from the elite to the everyday – to give us their recipes for success.
Rowing 3,000 miles in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Ocean Challenge for Cystic Fibrosis, justgiving.com/Ocean-Reunion
“When rowing we’ll be consuming between 6,000-8,000 calories a day – often through high-calorie dehydrated MyProtein supplements – following each two-hour row we will eat one of the packs. Breakfast will be porridge – of different flavours to keep us interested – as the oats are essential for a slow release of energy through the day.
We’ll also have a few treats too, like chocolates, biltong, nuts and sweets.”
Salomon Trail Team runner and winner of the 4th IAU Trail World Championship in 2013
“This breakfast smoothie is great after an early morning run. I get the right amount of protein and carbohydrate to recover so I can train hard later on in the day. I mix two scoops of Kinetica Banana Whey protein, honey, one large banana, a handful of walnuts, a scoop of Greek yoghurt, 400ml of milk and a 100ml of water/ice.”
Explorer and author with the cordonrougeclub.com
“Being vegan, porridge is a staple – I have it laced with dried fruits and nuts and topped off with jam. This gives me a nice slow burn through the morning. A personal favourite is pancakes. It’s easy to pre-mix the dry ingredients in ziplock bags and stow in the confines of a kayak compartment or bike pannier. Add coconut oil and powdered soy milk. Garnish with jam or fresh fruit if available.”
Triathlete, TV presenter and one of a handful to have completed the 777 Marathon Challenge
“On the morning of an ironman I’m usually feeling a bit queasy from nerves – so I will have a a sweet coffee, half a toasted bagel and something like a small chocolate covered waffle or a doughnut.” (care of, alpenmornings.co.uk)
Endurance athlete and Polar explorer
“In Antarctica we were consuming roughly 6,000 calories per day (though I still lost nearly 20 kilogrammes in the course of the expedition) and breakfast consisted of Dorset Cereals granola, which had been repackaged into individual bags, along with powdered cream for extra calories, by Fuizionfreezedriedfood.com.
We washed it down with half a litre of energy drink, and another half-litre of protein shake – so just over 1,000 calories before we’d even got out of our sleeping bags!”
“I’d usually have a slice of toast with Meridian foods nut butter with a coffee before an early swim. After 90-minutes in the pool I’ll have three eggs (scrambled) on toast with avocado, two rice cakes topped with thick nut butter and sliced apple and a cappuccino.
“I’m addicted to Meridian food nut butters and chia seeds and use them most days. On Ironman days I have rice pudding with banana and Nutella – easy to digest and very low in fibre to minimise gastrointestinal problems on the run.”