Two of the most common questions that runners ask are: “What should I eat for breakfast before running?” and “What should I eat for breakfast after running?“
Ultimately, the best breakfast for runners will help you fuel for your run and recover after your run while sticking with your diet, nutrition, and weight goals.
In this guide, we will discuss what foods you should eat for breakfast before and after running, helping you decide the best breakfasts for runners, whether you eat breakfast before or after running, or if you need ideas for the best breakfast foods for runners in either scenario.
We will cover:
- What Is the Best Breakfast For Runners?
- What Should I Eat for Breakfast Before And After Running?
Let’s get started!
What Is the Best Breakfast For Runners?
As with just about everything related to nutrition, there isn’t a single best breakfast for runners.
Different runners will have different preferences in terms of foods that settle well while running, different nutritional needs in a breakfast before or after running, and different dietary goals that will affect what constitutes the “best breakfast for runners.“
For example, some runners are looking for hearty breakfasts for runners who want to gain weight or refuel after a long run, whereas other runners want healthy weight loss breakfasts that will provide enough energy for a good run while helping them lose weight.
Additionally, many runners train first thing in the morning, so they may want the best breakfast for running that is super light and quick, like a low-calorie breakfast snack to give you just enough energy to get through your run without causing digestive problems.
Then, you might have a more nutritious, energy-dense post-run breakfast when you are back.
Other runners do a fasted run without eating any breakfast before running and then want the best post-workout breakfast ideas for runners that will replenish all of the glycogen burned in the run and support muscle recovery.For this reason, we can’t provide a single best breakfast for runners, but we have put together some of the best breakfast ideas for runners to help fuel your run if you eat breakfast before running or to help you recover and refuel if you eat breakfast after running.
Everyone’s digestive system and caloric needs are different.
Therefore, we haven’t split up the running breakfast ideas by pre-run and post-run breakfast ideas.
You can pick and choose the foods that will either settle well and work as a breakfast before running, or that will refuel your body if you eat breakfast after running.
That said, generally, the best breakfast before running is going to be high in carbs but low in fiber, fat, and protein and generally light overall so that it settles well. The best breakfast after running will provide your body with calories, glycogen, and protein to recover.
What Should I Eat for Breakfast Before And After Running?
Here are some breakfast ideas for runners:
Oatmeal is arguably the most classic breakfast for runners.
It is versatile, a good source of complex carbs, and can be “dressed up“ or “dressed down” based on how many calories you want in your running breakfast and/or if you are eating breakfast before or after running.
Essentially, as the name implies, one of the benefits of quick oats oatmeal before a workout is that it can be prepared extremely quickly, allowing you to head out the door for your workout without any delay.
Plus, quick oats oatmeal is one of the best breakfasts for runners to eat when you have limited time to digest your breakfast before running.
Quick oats are low in fiber and have faster-digesting carbs to give you energy for your run.
Making oatmeal from rolled oats or steel-cut oats can take quite a bit of time (20 minutes or so).
Because these latter types of oatmeal retain the oats in their more intact state, there is more fiber and longer polysaccharide molecules to break down.
While this is better for improving satiety and decreasing the blood sugar response, because whole-grain oatmeal is a lower glycemic food, it will take longer for the glucose to be available for your muscles to take up for fuel.
In cases where your workout is not going to be extremely vigorous, and you have enough time to digest your pre-workout oatmeal before you begin exercising, you can add a scoop of protein powder or other protein-rich ingredients such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, and milk to improve the nutritional profile of your pre-workout oatmeal breakfast.
Additionally, by adding protein and healthy fats, you can increase the satiety that you will get from the oatmeal.
You can stir in a scoop of plain or vanilla protein powder whether you are having overnight oats or making hot oatmeal.
Using vanilla protein powder or something like PB2 Peanut Butter Protein Powder will impart a nice flavor while adding upwards of 20 to 25 grams of protein to your oatmeal.
When you are making hot oatmeal with protein powder, add the protein powder to the liquid and dissolve it first, and then add the liquid to the oatmeal.
This will prevent any clumping and will help make a nice, smooth, and creamy porridge.
If your run is not for a few hours and you are eating an early breakfast, or your digestive system isn’t particularly sensitive, you can also add almonds, regular nut butter, berries, bananas, honey, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or other ingredients to oatmeal.
Of course, any of these add-ins will work well in an oatmeal breakfast for after running as well. Learn more about oats for runners here.
#2: Fruit and Nut Butter
One of the best breakfasts for runners who only have an hour or less to digest breakfast before running is to have a banana or half a banana with a tablespoon of nut butter.
You will get the simple carbs from the fruit and a little bit of fat and protein to keep you satiated without weighing down your stomach, causing bloating while running.
#3: Egg Sandwich
Eggs alone generally aren’t a sufficient breakfast for marathon runners or runners who are putting in a lot of mileage because they do not provide any carbohydrates.
However, a post-run breakfast that contains eggs can provide you with the muscle reparative protein that you need.
You can make an omelet with a bunch of veggies, cheese, and lean meat if you want, but make sure you have it alongside whole-grain bread, some fruit, or some hash browns so that you get some carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen.
Alternatively, you could make an egg sandwich with whole-grain bread, a fried egg (or egg salad), a slice of tomato, and some lettuce for a well-balanced breakfast for runners.
#4: Yogurt or Cottage Cheese
One of the best breakfasts for runners is a parfait made with yogurt or low-sodium cottage cheese.
If you aren’t sensitive to dairy, these are great breakfast foods for runners because they are high in protein but also contain some carbs.
You can then add berries, nuts, seeds, muesli, or low-sugar granola, depending on your caloric needs, dietary preferences, and if you are looking for what to eat for breakfast before running or what to eat for breakfast after running.
You can even add protein powder for a high-protein breakfast for runners.
I also recommend adding hemp seeds, flax seeds, or other superfoods to help reduce inflammation after running.
#5: Smoothie or Protein Shake
Smoothies made with fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, Greek yogurt, some protein powder, almond milk, and some nut butter or seed butter, if you need more calories, can be one of the best breakfasts for runners.
Especially if you are running in the summer, having a smoothie for breakfast after running is a great way to get the nutrients you need when you may lack an appetite; plus, drinking a post-run breakfast smoothie or protein shake will help you start rehydrating as well.
#6: High-Protein Cereal
Eating cereal for breakfast gets a bad rap as low-carb diets are all the rage these days, and many breakfast cereals are packed with high fructose corn syrup or added sugars.
However, there are some healthy, whole-grain cereals for runners, and the truth is that runners need carbohydrates in breakfasts to fuel muscles for longer runs and intense workouts.
Plus, there are some great, high-protein breakfast cereals that strike a good balance between providing carbs for runners along with more protein for satiety and repairing muscles after workouts.
We love Magic Spoon cereal for breakfast for runners because it is high in protein and healthy fat, which helps keep you satiated while being deliciously reminiscent of your sweet childhood favorite sweet cereals.
One full cup serving of this high-protein cereal has just 140 calories but packs in 14 grams of protein (there are also 7 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of fiber).
For more ideas for what to eat before running, check out more breakfast ideas for runners here.