Dial-in your workout nutrition like a professional athlete with these delicious and nourishing breakfast recipes.
Whether you're a cyclist, a runner, or any type of endurance athlete, nothing beats good old-fashioned oatmeal to give you long-lasting energy for your workout.
If you read our recent article about when to eat honey for maximum performance, then you know exactly how to use different types of carbohydrates to super-charge your workouts and kickstart post-workout recovery. As we mentioned there, a combination of simple and complex carbs is ideal both for pre-workout fuel and post-workout recovery meals.
The Perfect Carbohydrate Blend for Cycling (or Running)
Complex carbohydrates are digested and processed slowly. Thus, they provide you with steady long-term fuel to keep you performing over several hours. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and give you an immediate burst of energy. Strategically combining the two gives the best of both worlds, sending a burst of energy straight to your muscles, while the rest is released gradually.
Honey oats are the perfect blend of these muscle fuels. The complex carbs of the oatmeal provide long-term energy, while the dual sugars in the honey (fructose and glucose) go straight to your muscles, either giving a burst of energy or kickstarting recovery.
This isn't news to athletes. Oatmeal has been a recommended pre-race breakfast for decades, and rice cakes with honey is a favored mid-ride snack in the Tour de France according to Cycling Weekly.
Not all honey oats are created equal, however. Adding the right mix-ins at the right time raises a classic workout food to the next level.
There are lots of things you can add to a bowl of honey oats to achieve specific nutrient goals. We've split them according to when they're most useful for your body.
Caffeine and carbs is a powerful enough combination that it's been specifically studied as a way to enhance athletic performance, with promising results.
Fruits are a traditional and tasty addition to oats. They add natural sweetness and additional carbs for your body to utilize.
Fruits with a lower fiber content are better to use before a workout or run. A lot of overnight oats recipes call for apples, pears, or raspberries, but these high-fiber fruits are best saved for after your workout. Bananas, blueberries, or fruit jams are perfect additions to pre-workout bowls for an extra carb boost without too much additional fiber.
Antioxidants help our bodies recover from stress (including exercise) and fight inflammation. Eating foods high in antioxidants gives our bodies a leg-up in post-workout recovery.
Scientific research targeting athletic benefit is a bit mixed so far, but a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggests that eating a diet rich in antioxidants helps both effort and recovery.
Pure honey contains some antioxidants carried from the plants the bees used to make it. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are also rich sources of these nutrients.
Having a diet rich in unprocessed plant foods (and therefore antioxidants) is good for all your meals. This ensures that your body will have the micronutrients available to combat oxidative stress whenever it needs them. Still, it doesn't hurt to add a little extra before and after strenuous workouts.
Whether it comes from an animal or a plant, protein is a vital macronutrient for our bodies, especially after exertion. Protein builds and repairs our muscles, which are worn down during exercise.
Experts recommend eating 20-40 grams of protein after an intense workout, ideally within the "golden window" of 20 minutes after exertion. This quick protein influx helps muscles start recovery as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Protein can sit heavily in your stomach, however, so it is best added after your workout, rather than before.
Nut butter, chia seeds, and coconut oil are great additions to balance a bowl of honey oats. They're good for your heart and help you feel full after a meal.
When adding healthy oil to your bowl, start small the first time and work up to your desired amount. Oils can sometimes be a bit hard on your stomach, so pay attention to how your body reacts and work up slowly. The benefits are worth it.
Probiotics help boost your immune system and digestion. For the casual athlete, this is a nice perk, but probably not a huge priority.
It becomes a much higher priority during multi-day events or particularly intense training periods. These types of events can be very hard on an athlete's immune system, so providing proactive support is a key performance strategy.
The possibilities are endless and customizable to your personal training goals, but here are a few of our favorite blends to get you started.
Masala Chai Energizer (pre-workout fuel)
This recipe is a flavorful go-to when you're looking for something quick, easy, and tasty before your workout.
1 cup masala chai tea (or tea of choice)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1-3 Tablespoons pure honey (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cooking your oats with masala chai (tea) instead of plain water gives you a gentle caffiene boost from the black tea, as well as extra antioxidants from the array of spices used in the brew. Cinnamon is great for supporting steady blood sugar levels, not to mention tasting delicious.
This is a ridiculously simple addition that makes a huge difference in flavor and energy.
Loca Mocha Banana (pre-workout fuel)
For a stronger caffiene boost, these coffee-infused honey oats will wake you up. The cocoa and honey add a mellow sweetness to the mix.
1 cup strong coffee (or 1 shot espresso + water)
1/2 cup oats
1 Tablespoon cacao or cocoa powder
1-3 Tablespoons pure honey (to taste)
The King's Recovery Bowl (post-workout recovery)
Have you heard of Elvis's favorite sandwich? Legend says it was peanut butter, banana, honey, and sometimes bacon. I don't wrap the savory bacon into this bowl, but it is really good on the side if you're looking for even more protein.
This bowl stresses protein for muscle recovery, with healthy omega-3 fat and antioxidants.
1/2 oats cooked with milk (dairy or non-dairy, but preferably a variety with protein)
1 banana (1/2 mashed and blended into oats, 1/2 sliced on top)
2 Tablespoons nut butter
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
2 Tablespoons honey
Work these recipes into your training routine to fuel your race like a professional. The Tour teams have done the research, now you can reap the benefits.
For more healthy tips and fun facts, check out these other posts:
Need some pure raw honey right away? Chances are good it's available in a store near you!