If you’re an early bird runner like me, you might be tempted to grab a bagel or sugary muffin for breakfast on your way out the door in the mornings. After all, the transition from tired, sweaty runner to working professional in such a short amount of time isn’t easy, and doesn’t always bode well for preparing a proper breakfast.
However, what you eat after your workout plays a critical role in helping your muscles to recover and fueling your next training session. In fact, proper nutrition is just as important as the workouts in your training plan. Runners who don’t consume the proper quantities of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (not to mention vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) following workouts are depriving their bodies of the essential nutrients needed to recover, build strength and endurance, and ward off injuries. So, back to the problem at hand – what nutritious post-run breakfast can a time-strapped athlete whip up on his or her way out the door?
Many exercise physiologists, coaches, and runners agree that the true breakfast of champions is oatmeal. Low-glycemic, full of fiber, and with an excellent carb-to-protein ratio, a warm bowl of oats following your run can bring your training to the next level by replenishing your glycogen stores and enhancing muscle recovery. Oats take only a few minutes to cook in the microwave, can be transported relatively easily in a Tupperware or mason jar, and – not to mention – will warm you up after a cold winter workout!
Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that enhances the body’s immune response, regulates appetite, and helps reduce your levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This superhero grain is also a great source of manganese, phosphorous, zinc, biotin, magnesium, vitamin B1, and cancer-fighting antioxidants, which together serve to reduce inflammation, control glucose and insulin production, and eliminate free radicals in the body.
Let’s face it, though – oatmeal by itself can be a little boring. (Who else remembers that grey goop you were forced to eat as a child?) Spice up your breakfast and boost your nutrient intake by adding nuts and nut butters, seeds, and fresh fruit to your morning bowl. Walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, peanuts, coconut, and flax seeds provide a dose of protein and healthy fats, while blueberries, cherries, banana slices, strawberries, and raisins serve as a great source of micronutrients and antioxidants to fight cancer-causing free radicals. If you’re looking for something to help your muscles recover from a strenuous workout, be sure to add anti-inflammatory cinnamon, ginger, or turmeric to your oats.
Need more motivation to hop on the oatmeal train? Elite ultrarunner Scott Jurek eats a bowl of oatmeal with coconut oil after early morning runs to refuel and recover from the previous day’s workout. When he ran the Appalachian Trail in 2015, Jurek depended on his morning oats to carry him through 46 straight days of strenuous trail running. And Garrett Heath, member of the Brooks Beasts Track Club, depends on either “a monster bowl of oatmeal” or a stack of pancakes for pre-race breakfasts. On a typical training day, Heath adds “raisins, craisins, almonds or peanut butter, berries, a banana, occasionally yogurt, and always a lot of cinnamon” to his oats for an extra boost of vitamins and nutrients.
In need of some recipe ideas to get you going? Check out a few of our favorite flavor combinations below:
- Banana, peanut butter, and cinnamon (the classic)
- Blueberries, banana slices, dried coconut, and almond butter
- Cherries, banana slices, walnuts, and ginger
- Strawberries, dried coconut, and chia seeds
- Apple slices, walnuts, and cinnamon
With so many toppings to choose from, your bowl of oatmeal will never get boring. Now, get out there, Run Happy, and don’t forget your bowl of oats!