Running in the morning allows you to start your day with something good for your body and mind. You get to check off the box of getting your exercise in and not have to worry about other responsibilities cropping up and derailing your plans to work out.
Many runners also like the feeling of starting the day breathing in fresh air, getting the heart pumping, and working up a sweat. But, in the final miles of a long morning run, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll start paying less attention to the scenery on the roadside and more to the possibilities of what you will eat for your post workout breakfast.
The best post-workout breakfast options to recover well from your run or workout provide the calories and nutrients you need to replenish the resources used during exercise. The meal should leave you satisfied for several hours and start your nutrition for the day on the same strong foot that your run or workout did.
Need some inspiration and ideas for the best post workout breakfast options to recover well? Keep reading for a list of 17 healthy breakfast ideas for runners.
#1: Steel-Cut Oats
Steel-cut oats or whole rolled oats are minimally processed and provide the complex carbohydrates your body needs to replenish glycogen stores after a long run or hard workout.
Add nuts, seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped fruit, or berries to add flavor, healthy fats, more protein, and antioxidants.
The best post workout breakfast options to recover well contain a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of grams of carbohydrates to protein. You can boost the protein content by using milk or plant-based milk instead of water, stirring in a scoop of protein powder, or adding yogurt or cottage cheese on top.
Muesli is like granola but lower in sugar. It is a melange of oats, other whole grains, seeds, dried fruit, and nuts. Enjoy a bowl with low-fat milk or atop Greek yogurt for a healthy post-workout breakfast.
#3: Overnight Oats
A few years ago, overnight oats were all the rage. Though they may have been overtaken by avocado toast or some other fad by this point, a bowl of overnight oats is still a good post-workout breakfast. You can even stir in vanilla or chocolate protein powder to add flavor and muscle-building protein.
#4: Overnight Barley
Overnight oats tend to monopolize the Instagram-worthy mason jars of delicious breakfast-y goodness. Still, barley is an even more nutritious alternative to oats that lends a more toothsome, savory take to this popular, customizable post workout breakfast option.
Any form of barley works well, but if you’re looking to optimize your gut microbiome, avoid pearl barley because it’s the only type that is not whole grain, stripping the fiber-rich outer bran and hull from the kernels.
One cup of whole-grain barley packs an impressive 32 grams of fiber (much of which are prebiotics) and 23 grams of satiating protein. It also provides more than one-third of the RDI of iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
#5: Greek Yogurt and Granola
Greek yogurt and granola or muesli are popular post workout breakfast options because they provide exactly what your body needs to recover.
Again, you can add fruits like bananas, peaches, apples, pears, and berries to boost the carbohydrate content, and nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes to increase fat, protein, and calories, depending on your nutrition needs and goals.
#6: Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is high in casein protein, one of the most absorbable forms of protein. It makes an excellent swap for Greek yogurt if you’re looking for something different.
#7: Protein Pancakes
If you’re not an oatmeal or smoothie person and prefer another warm breakfast option, protein-packed pancakes are an awesome alternative. You can whip them up with oats, bananas, and Greek yogurt.
They are a bit chewier than the fluffy box-mix pancakes you might have had growing up, but they are similar enough that they still scratch that pancake-loving itch.
Combine 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon with 1/2 medium-size ripe banana, 2 large egg whites, 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
The oats and banana bring prebiotics to the table, and the yogurt contributes probiotics and protein. You’ll also get protein from the egg whites and some nice flavor from the cinnamon. Ginger makes a tasty addition as well.
You can top them with more Greek yogurt instead of syrup to boost their nutritional value. Another gut-supportive modification is to swap the banana for canned pumpkin. You’ll add vitamin A and some fiber.
#8: Power Muffins
You can make your own post workout breakfast muffins and add zucchini, carrots, beets, or other veggies, and use applesauce or canned pumpkin instead of some of the oil and sugar. Add flaxseeds and chia seeds to boost the fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acid content.
#9: Nutritious Smoothies
The options for smoothies or protein shakes are nearly endless, and they make a great post-workout breakfast option for recovery if you struggle to eat solid food after exercising. Plus, they help contribute liquids to rehydrating your body.
The recommendation is to refuel within 30 minutes after finishing a workout for optimal recovery, and since many runners don’t have the stomach or appetite to tolerate food right after a hard workout, drinking your calories and nutrients can be a more palatable approach, especially in hot weather.
To make a nutritious post-workout smoothie, select fruit, vegetables, some liquid, and a source of protein and blend the mixture until smooth.
Bananas make a good base, and they contain carbohydrates and electrolytes like potassium and magnesium to help replenish electrolytes lost in sweat. Freezing them before adding them in will make your smoothie thicker.
Pineapple adds sweetness, and it contains digestive enzymes. Berries add tons of flavor, antioxidants, and fiber.
Smoothies are an easy way to add vegetables to your post-workout breakfast if you’re not a fan of a savory first meal. You can easily blend in dark, leafy greens like baby spinach without changing the flavor much. Pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, beets, and beet greens, also work well in post workout breakfast smoothies.
Liquid options include milk or plant-based milk like almond milk, hemp milk, or soy milk. In general, use milk products over juice as you’ll get more nutritional value with the protein your body needs to recover from your workout.
You can also add Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt if you are vegan, protein powder, nut butter, nuts, or seeds to boost the calories, protein, fiber, and fats as needed to meet your nutrition needs.
#11: Eggs and Whole-Grain Bread
Eggs paired with whole-grain bread make a good post workout breakfast because eggs provide muscle-reparative protein, and bread is high in complex carbohydrates. A nut butter topping or sliced avocado will add additional healthy fats.
#12: Omelet With Vegetables
Omelets are a convenient way to incorporate vegetables into your breakfast. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, kale, spinach, green peas, tomatoes, asparagus, and broccoli work well in omelets, but you can certainly toss in whatever veggies you enjoy.
Because an omelet with cheese and veggies is low in carbohydrates and falls short of the recommended post-workout fueling macronutrient ratio goal of 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein, consider adding a carbohydrate source like potatoes, toast, or fruit to help replenish glycogen stores.
Like an omelet, a frittata gives you the protein from eggs and cheese and some fiber, vitamins, and minerals from whatever veggies you add. They can be baked ahead of time and reheated when you get home from your run for a convenient post workout breakfast option.
#14: Sweet Potato and Almond Butter
It might sound a little strange, but sweet potatoes with almond butter or another nut butter are delicious and work well as a post workout breakfast option for someone who likes something surprisingly decadent yet packed with nutrients.
You’ll get complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins A and C from the sweet potato, and the protein your muscles need (along with healthy fats and vitamin E) from the almond butter.
#15: Rice and Beans
Depending on where you live, rice and beans may sound like the furthest thing from breakfast, but it is a breakfast staple in many parts of the world. With the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to proteins, rice and beans or quinoa and beans makes an excellent post workout breakfast option.
A bowl of rice and beans provides a complete source of proteins along with the carbohydrates you need to replenish glycogen stores. You’ll also get tons of fiber and an easy vehicle for getting in vegetables to kick off your day on a nutritious foot.
From corn, tomatoes, avocados, and onions to carrots, peas, broccoli, and peppers, you can toss in various combinations of veggies to mix up the flavors and nutrients you get.
The same can be said for beans. You can use more flavorful beans like black beans, kidney beans, or lentils, or use milder beans like garbanzo beans, navy beans, or pinto beans, depending on your palette and preferences.
#16: Whole-Grain French Toast
French toast is a carbohydrate-rich post workout breakfast option. The egg and milk custard batter provides protein, and you can top the French toast with fresh fruit, slivered almonds, peanut butter, or almond butter, rather than maple syrup for a healthier alternative.
Choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread because you will get more fiber, protein, and B vitamins.
#17: Low-Sugar Cereal and Milk
A good old bowl of cereal and milk can be an excellent post workout breakfast after shorter runs, provided you choose wisely. Look for cereals made with whole grains that contain less than 5 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of protein and fiber.
You can boost the calorie content by adding sliced bananas, almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Or, do what most of us end up doing anyway—pour a second or third bowl!
Does anything sound tempting? What’s your go-to post workout breakfast after a morning run?
If you are looking for some healthy snacks, take a peek at our 26 Best Snacks For Runners for some yummy ideas!