Are you an athlete looking for some delicious and nutritious breakfast ideas to fuel your performance? Do you want to learn why and how to eat a high carb breakfast for athletes before your training or competition?
If so, you are in the right place!
In this blog post, we will share with you 10 high carb breakfast ideas that are perfect for athletes of all levels and sports.
And we’ll also explain the benefits of eating a high carb breakfast for athletes and how to choose the best carb sources for 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 converted into glucose (blood sugar) when you need it.
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
How to Choose the Best Carbs for Athletes
When choosing carbs for your breakfast, you should consider the following factors:
1. Complex carbs vs refined
Generally, you want to choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds to fill your performance plate.
These generally have higher fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals than simple or refined carbs. However as you get closer to your activity (30-90 minutes), you’ll want to choose lower fiber, easy to digest carbs to fuel.
2. Amount of carbs based on athlete needs
The optimal amount of carbs for athletes depends on several factors, such as your body weight, activity level, intensity, duration, frequency, goals and preferences.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to get about 45% to 65% of your total daily calories from carbs.
The timing of carbs refers to when you eat them in relation to your sports activities. The best time to eat a high carb breakfast is about 3 to 4 hours before your workout.
This can give you enough time to digest your food and absorb the nutrients into your bloodstream. Eating too close to your workout can cause stomach discomfort, nausea or cramps.
Eating too far from your workout can make you feel hungry or low on energy during your exercise.
As you get closer to your activity, you’ll want to eat easy to digest high carb foods. Check out our posts on pre game snacks and soccer nutrition for more information on timing your carbs.
Now that you know why and how to eat a high carb breakfast as an athlete, let’s look at some tasty and easy breakfast ideas that you can try.
10 High Carb Breakfast Ideas for Athletes
Here are 10 high carb breakfast ideas that all athletes can enjoy. You can adjust the portions according to your individual energy needs and preferences.
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 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.
Granola is made from oats, nuts, seeds, honey and other ingredients that provide healthy carbs and fats. Berries are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C.
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 good source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6.
4. Egg and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with fruit
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein, choline and vitamin B12. You can scramble, fry, or boil them and add some cheese for extra calcium and flavor.
You can put them on whole wheat bread for some complex carbs and fiber. 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.
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.
However, some general principles that most athletes follow are:
- 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 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 1 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
Some examples of high carb breakfasts before a game are:
- 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
What is the best breakfast for endurance athletes?
Endurance athletes are those who engage in prolonged or continuous exercise that lasts more than an hour, such as soccer, running, cycling, swimming or triathlon.
These athletes need more carbs than other athletes to sustain their energy levels and prevent fatigue.
The best breakfast for endurance athletes should:
- Provide about 2 to 4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight
- Include some protein and healthy fats to support muscle recovery and reduce inflammation
- Be high in antioxidants and electrolytes to combat oxidative stress and dehydration
- Be easy to digest and absorb to avoid stomach issues
- Be varied and enjoyable to prevent boredom and cravings
Some examples of the best breakfasts for endurance athletes are:
- Overnight oats with almond milk, chia seeds and berries
- Whole grain bagel with almond butter and honey
- Sweet potato pancakes with cottage cheese and maple syrup
- Greek yogurt with granola, dried fruits and nuts
- Egg muffins with spinach, cheese and ham
Eating a high carb breakfast for athletes 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’ve got a game or practice, check out our recommendations for your ultimate soccer day game guide and what to eat before a soccer practice.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite high carb breakfast is!
Get our free Pre Activity Fueling Guide for more information on how to fuel before your sports activity.
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 20 years in public health and nutrition experience. As a performance 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.