Deciding what to eat for breakfast on race day or before a long, grueling bike ride is about as difficult as picking which IPA to unwind with after a brutal workday. Simply put: it ain’t easy.
While there’s certainly a difference between us mere mortals and Olympic athletes, they can offer new ideas for healthy ways to fuel up in the morning. Annie Kay, MS, RD, the lead nutritionist at the Kripalu retreat in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, admits there is a difference between a performance athlete who spends their whole day logging training hours, and someone who is doing morning workouts, say three days a week.
“When you’re working out in the morning, a little bit of a carbohydrate, like a piece of fruit, is an excellent idea,” says Kay. “Then, have a balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Breakfast with a protein like an egg, maybe some vegetables, and a piece of toast is terrific.”
You may not be loading up on 8,000 calories a day, but check out some of the breakfasts that Olympians eat before their big competitions and upgrade yours today:
Henrick Rummel: Rowing 4’s
No matter what Rummel’s breakfast is, he always starts with eggs. He’ll typically throw in some staples like bread, cheese, and ham. A typical race-day breakfast looks like a PB&J, 5 eggs over-easy, oatmeal, and bread.
Casey Patterson: Beach Volleyball
Casey’s diet varies from others because he battles an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s, that attacks your thyroids. This means he can’t have gluten, diary, eggs, or whey protein. He only eats fruit, vegetables, meats, and a lot of Larabars.
Jake Gibb: Beach Volleyball
Gibb enjoys eating a very big breakfast of four eggs, sausage, and oatmeal. As a self-proclaimed creature of habit, he says he probably eats that breakfast 300 out of the 365 days of the year.
Ryan Lochte: Swimming
As a swimmer, Lochte is trying to hit close to 8,000 calories a day. To do that, he front-loads his day with eggs, pancakes, an english muffin, fruit, oatmeal, and tops it off with some orange juice.
Steve Kasprzyk: Rowing 8’s
Steve keeps it minimal because he doesn’t want to have a heavy stomach before a big race. He sticks with oatmeal and coffee (he drowns his with a serious dose of cream and sugar; you’ll probably want to stick to black with a touch of milk).
Taylor Phinney: Cycling
Taylor likes it simple but not boring. His typical choice du jour? Up to three eggs, served over-easy, with sushi rice, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. This gives him a solid mix of simple carbohydrates, protein, and some sodium.
Jared Ward: Marathoner
Jared keeps his breakfast to around 400 calories, and tries to eat three to four hours before a morning race. Favorites include oatmeal, and a piece of toast or bagel with some peanut butter.
Nareg Guregian: U.S. Rowing Pairs
Nareg starts with a really strong coffee to wake him up and then scarfs down a PB&J, whole-wheat toast, and an apple.
Rickie Fowler: Golf
His breakfast typically includes eggs, bacon, toast, and if the tournament has an omelet bar, he pairs one with a toast and a strong cup of joe.