Are you an athlete seeking a high carb breakfast to power your performance? Or perhaps you’re curious about the benefits of a high carb breakfast for athletes?
If so, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, I’ll share some of my favorite high carb breakfast ideas perfect for athletes across all sports and levels.
I’ll also discuss the advantages of a high carb breakfast and how to pick the best carb sources to meet your needs.
Why eat a high carb breakfast?
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body and brain. They are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, which can be quickly changed into glucose (blood sugar) when you need it to fuel your activity.
Eating a high carb breakfast can help you replenish your glycogen stores after a night of fasting and provide you with enough energy to perform at your best throughout the day.
A high carb breakfast can also help you:
- Improve your mood and mental focus
- Prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth
- Enhance your recovery and reduce inflammation
- Prevent hunger and cravings later in the day
Now that you know why you should eat a high carb breakfast as an athlete, let’s look at some tasty and easy breakfast ideas that you can try.
15 High carb breakfast ideas for athletes
Here are 15 high carb breakfast ideas that all athletes can enjoy. You can adjust the portions according to your individual energy needs and preferences.
Many of these options are naturally gluten free or you can use gluten free bread or flours instead of whole wheat.
1. Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
Oatmeal is a classic breakfast choice for athletes because it is rich in complex carbs, fiber, protein and antioxidants. Cook your oatmeal with water or milk and add your favorite fruits and nuts for extra flavor carb boosts.
Some examples of our favorite toppings are bananas, berries, dried tart cherry, apples, almonds, walnuts or pecans.
2. Greek yogurt with granola and berries
Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, probiotics and vitamin D. You can pair it with granola and berries for a crunchy and sweet combination that will keep you full and energized.
3. Whole wheat pancakes with peanut butter and banana
Who doesn’t love pancakes for breakfast? Top your pancakes with peanut butter and banana for a delicious and satisfying meal. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, healthy fats and vitamin E.
Banana is a high carb and a source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6.
4. Egg sandwich with fruit
Egg sandwiches on a whole grain english muffin or bagel make an easy and portable breakfast. You can scramble or fry the egg, add your favorite turkey bacon, and add some cheese for extra calcium and flavor.
Boost the carb content by adding your favorite fruit on the side. You can also add some spinach, tomato, or avocado for some extra veggies and healthy fats.
5. Smoothie bowl with oats, chia seeds and fruit
Smoothies are a quick and easy way to get a lot of nutrients in one glass. You can blend your favorite fruits with milk, yogurt or juice and pour it into a bowl. Then add some oats, chia seeds and more fruit on top for some crunch and texture.
Oats and chia seeds are both high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Fruits are high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
6. Quinoa breakfast bowl with eggs, avocado and cheese
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is high in carbs, protein, fiber, iron and magnesium. Add some eggs, avocado and cheese for a hearty and savory breakfast bowl. Additionally, add a side of fruit or piece of whole wheat toast to boost your carbs.
Eggs provide protein and choline. Avocado provides healthy fats and vitamin K. Cheese provides calcium and protein.
7. Bagel with cream cheese and salmon
Bagels are a popular breakfast item that are high in carbs. Whole wheat bagels add some extra fiber. When you pair it with cream cheese and salmon, you add protein and healthy fats for a balanced meal.
Cream cheese is a good source of calcium and phosphorus. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and selenium.
8. French toast with maple syrup and fresh berries
French toast is a delicious way to boost carbs and add protein for an athlete performance plate. Drizzle some maple syrup and add fresh or frozen (thawed) berries on top add flavor, fiber and carbs.
9. Sweet potato hash with eggs and avocado
Sweet potatoes are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Dice them and cook them in a skillet with some onion, garlic, peppers, and spices.
Then you can top them with some eggs, either scrambled or fried, for some protein and choline. You can also add some avocado for some healthy fats and vitamin K. This breakfast is filling, flavorful and easy to make.
10. Breakfast burrito with beans, cheese, salsa and whole grain tortilla
Breakfast burritos are a filling and flavorful option that you can customize to your likes. You can fill a whole wheat tortilla with beans (a good source of carbs), cheese, salsa and any other ingredients you like.
11. Waffles with syrup and berries
Waffles are a delightful breakfast option that are high in carbs. Top your waffles with syrup and berries for a sweet and satisfying meal. Syrup is a natural sweetener that contains manganese, zinc, and antioxidants.
Berries provide fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
12. Overnight oats with chia seeds
Making overnight oats with chia seeds, almond butter, and blueberries is a convenient and delicious way to enjoy a high carbohydrate breakfast without cooking. Mix some oats, chia seeds, almond butter, and blueberries in a jar and refrigerate it overnight.
In the morning, you can enjoy a creamy and satisfying breakfast that is high in carbs, fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are a superfood that provide omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron.
Blueberries and other fruits can boost carbs and also are high in vitamin C, fiber, and anthocyanins.
13. Breakfast pizza with veggies
For a break from a regular breakfast food. Try a spin on an all time favorite food, breakfast pizza. It’s a tasty way to start your day. Use a whole wheat crust and top it with some eggs, cheese, and veggies for a high carb and protein meal.
Eggs provide protein and choline. Cheese provides calcium and protein. Veggies add fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can also add some ham, bacon, or sausage for some extra protein and flavor.
Boost the carbs with a fruit salad on the side or pair with a glass of milk or freshly squeezed orange juice.
14. Rice bowl with tofu and veggies
Another break from the norm, for a more savory breakfast is a rice bowl. It’s a simple and versatile breakfast option that you can customize with your favorite ingredients.
Cook some brown rice and top it with some tofu, veggies, and soy sauce for a savory and satisfying dish. Tofu provides source of plant-based protein, calcium, and iron, while veggies add fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
15. Apple cinnamon muffins and greek yogurt
When you’re looking for an on the go high carb breakfast, try apple cinnamon muffins made with oats, whole grain flour, flax seeds and apples.
This high carb and and fiber rich muffin can be paired with greek yogurt, fresh fruit or your favorite omelet for a balanced meal. Oats and flax seeds add fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids and the addition of greek yogurt boosts calcium, carbs and protein.
High carb food list to boost breakfasts
- Bread, bagels, english muffins, pita, tortilla
- Pancakes, waffles
- Cereal, oatmeal
- Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruit
- 100% fruit juice
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, or winter squash
- Beans, peas, legumes, or lentils
- Milk and yogurt
What do most athletes eat for breakfast?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what athletes eat for breakfast, as different sports and activities may require different amounts and types of carbs.
Basic principles for high carb breakfast
- Eat a balanced meal that includes carbs, protein, and healthy fats
- Choose high-quality carbs that are less processed and more whole grains than refined carbs
- Avoid fatty or greasy foods that can slow digestion and make you feel sluggish
- Eat at least 2 to 4 hours before your workout or event to allow enough time for digestion and absorption
- Have a small snack about an hour before your workout or event to top off your energy levels
What is a good high carb breakfast before a game?
If you have a game or sports activity in the morning, you want to make sure you start the day with a full fuel tank. That means eating a high carb breakfast that can provide you with enough energy to perform at your best.
A high carb breakfast before a game should:
- Provide about 2 to 4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight
- Include some protein and healthy fats to balance blood sugar and prevent hunger
- Be low in fiber and fat to avoid gastrointestinal distress
- Be familiar and well-tolerated by your body
- Be tasty and satisfying
Examples of high carb breakfasts before a game
These are some simple ideas for a lighter breakfast to eat before a game. They’re higher in carbs, lower in fiber, protein and fat.
- Toast with jam or honey and scrambled eggs
- Oatmeal with milk, honey, raisins and nuts
- Fruit salad with yogurt and granola
- Chia pudding with berries
- Pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese
- Breakfast cereal or gluten free cereal with milk and berries
Our fueling timing chart below is a helpful tool to develop a fueling strategy especially for game day.
Eating a high carb breakfast can help you perform better physically and mentally throughout the day.
However, you should choose complex carbs that are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals when you have more time to eat before your game starts.
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Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.