A Breakfast For Every Occasion

Breakfast: before a long run, before a race, to keep hunger at bay, as a treat or in a rush, we've got the perfect solutions

Before a long run

Oats and fruit

When running over 10 miles, carbohydrate breakfast foods such as cereal and bread are key. These are your body's preferred energy source so it is important that your muscles and liver glycogen stores are stocked up.

The ideal long run breakfast is oats, eaten about 1-2 hours before you set off. The timing of your breakfast will be a matter of personal choice and will depend on how comfortable you feel running after eating. Oats are excellent as they have a very low glycaemic index and therefore release energy slowly and steadily throughout your run, as opposed to sugary cereals which will last you a mile or so before leaving you weak.

In colder weather, make up porridge, alternatively, in warmer weather, mix a few handfuls of oats with a few tablespoons of fruit juice. Add yogurt, honey and some fruit and its ready to eat.

If you really cannot stomach running on a full stomach, have your 'breakfast' before you go to bed as a supper. You are still stocking up your glycogen and this can be a useful alternative for some runners. In this situation, an isotonic sports drink may be helpful on the morning of the long run to hydrate and top up your fuel.

Before a race

Poached eggs

The secret of the pre-race breakfast is to plan ahead and practise. Whatever you have on race day needs to be familiar and tailored to the distance you are running. For longer races upwards of 10 miles, see the above suggestions.

For shorter races up to 10k, you may feel happier having a lighter carbohydrate breakfast such as cornflakes, special K or weetabix. These cereals provide faster release energy and therefore can be eaten closer to the race time. If you are travelling a while to the race and are therefore eating at least a few hours before the start, a sports drink, banana or some dried fruit can help top you up once you get there.

Make sure that you are well hydrated so that, for races under 10k, you are unlikely to need to stop for water unless it is very hot or you are planning on taking over 75 minutes to complete it. Remember to practise, practise, practise. While a healthy, high fibre cereal may work for one person, it can play havoc with your bowels when race nerves appear.

There is some evidence that caffeine before a race can improve performance but the effects are more noticeable in non-caffeine drinkers i.e. those who have not built up a tolerance. Again, make sure you practise this on a time trial or hard training session before you do it on race day.

Keep hunger at bay

Poached eggs

If you find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin or vending machine mid-morning, you maybe need a more filling breakfast. Adding protein to carbohydrate e.g. eggs or beans on toast, lowers the glycaemic index of the meal and therefore fills you up for longer. Protein also takes longer to digest so, although not ideal as a pre-run fuel, can be a good type of food if you have a busy morning of meetings ahead and are not training till the evening.

Treat yourself

Healthy fry-up

The ultimate treat of a fry up can be made healthy (and less than half the calories of the traditional version) and still taste great. It is the fat in a fry up which adds the calories and is unhelpful to runners. Start by grilling bacon and cutting any visible fat off.

This can save up to 200 calories. Poach eggs rather than frying them, saving a further 100 calories. Use spray oil to fry or grill mushrooms and tomatoes to start off your five a day and finally, add in some granary toast to keep your energy levels up though the morning. Then enjoy your treat breakfast, guilt free!

In a rush


As much as I would like to say, grab a piece of toast, it is just not going to be as good as having a bowl of cereal. The good cereal brands are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as iron. This means that having a bowl of cereal a day is almost like taking a multi-vitamin! You can get pre-made up pots of cereal with lids that you can just add water to and eat on the way to work. Or even try eating cereal dry (cereals such as minibix or shreddies are good for this).

Laying your cereal out the night before can help save time or even plan to have your breakfast once you get to work. There is no rule saying you have to have breakfast at home and many people prefer eating it a little later anyway. If all else fails, a few bits of toast and a bit of fruit is better than nothing.

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