The Best Breakfast for Athletic Performance and for Getting a Lot of Things Done

Here’s what makes a good breakfast for me:

  1. Easy to make. Easy to shop for.
  2. It doesn’t get in the way of a productive morning.
  3. I have a lot of energy for training later (noon).
  4. I feel good after eating it (not too-full, not too-hungry).
  5. It tastes good.

I happen to have a few friends on Facebook who are either elite-level athletes or at least train every day (or multiple times a day). So, I asked on Facebook in this post (click to comment) what they eat for breakfast. I’ve been eating oatmeal (600-800 calories, steel-cut, with nothing in it) for as long as I remember, except when making a weight cut for a tournament. It is the biggest meal of the day for me and fuels me for training which usually happens about 4-5 hours after breakfast (at noon).

But… time has come to try something new. I did just that. Tried a few options, and here are my preferences based on that experience, listed from worst to best. You can find a million resources online claiming that either one of these is the best. At this point I wouldn’t believe anything if I were you. With diet, reading a book is never enough. You have to explore, experiment, and eventually stick to something/anything (and be happy doing it).

#7 – Oatmeal

Oatmeal is my lifelong friend, so I feel like I’m backstabbing a friend here, but surprisingly almost no one I asked suggested a carb-heavy breakfast. That was the biggest surprise for me. A few people suggested a little oatmeal as a side thing, but to make a large meal of purely oatmeal was suggested by no one. Goodbye, old friend.

#6 – Protein Shake

Protein and fish oil are the only supplements I take or ever took consistently. I don’t know if they work, but every time I drink a protein shake I feel like Popeye. It’s probably a placebo effect, but it works. I don’t care that it’s chemicals. I believe that reducing stress is the key to a long happy life. So I try not to stress about diet. People see me being strict about my diet, and think I’m stressed over it. But reducing the complexity of a diet to bare minimum essentials actually removes all stress. It allows me to focus on all the other things I have to do in my life.

#5 – Balanced Meal

The easiest advice you can give people is: eat a balanced meal. There are a million resources suggesting a 50/50 split on carbs and protein. This post has a few typical examples:

A good breakfast should contain 500 to 750 calories, roughly half from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fats. Ideal breakfast carbohydrate foods are fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereal such as oatmeal and whole grain breads such as 100-percent whole wheat or rye bread. Great sources of breakfast protein (which also contain fats) are eggs, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, milk, cheese, yogurt and meat.

In an ideal world, this would be the best breakfast for me. But it takes too much time to organize, shop for, and prepare. Plus my brain enjoys a meal with as few ingredients as possible. Simplicity is beautiful.

#4 – Nothing (Water and Coffee)

As intermittent fasting suggests, eating nothing is a strong option. I actually really enjoyed trying this for 2 days. That time is NOT enough to let your body get used to it, and I believe it would eventually get used to it. Anyway, I noticed that my energy levels were still high, and my mind was incredibly focused. I got the most shit done on this breakfast because I had nothing on my mind except the work at hand from the moment I woke up. The little tinge of hunger was somehow inspiring of productivity not hindering it.

#3 – Nuts

Almonds and coffee. What else is faster and simpler. I like minimalism in all daily things. This way when something complex or intricate comes along I enjoy it more fully. With a simple breakfast like this, I get a lot of work done in the morning (4-5 hours), and then get on the mat and work my ass off for 8-10 rounds of hard training.

#2 – Omelet

The big surprise for me is thGarden-Veggie-Omelet-1024x685at most of the athletes recommended a protein-fat breakfast and saving the carbs for after training. Some mentioned a side of fruit, but the bulk of the breakfast is protein. A friend made me an omelet. I didn’t realize how easy it is. So now that’s what I’ve been eating. I feel great, no hunger, lots of energy.

#1 – The Best Breakfast: Your Own Thing (Consistently)

I’m a big believer that your body can adjust to pretty much any conditions (dietary, social, cultural, climate, etc). So really, anything works. Most people probably wouldn’t agree with the “anything works” philosophy, but for me, this philosophy keeps stress low. I focus on keeping things simple. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. There is a lot of money to be made in convincing people that there is a perfect diet or even a good diet out there. Perhaps there is. But I doubt the question will be resolved with enough clarity in the next 50 years for anything like a real scientific consensus. In the mean time, I’m just going to live a happy life.

PS: Here are two suggestions I’m yet to try, but I know work for a few people:

0 thoughts on “The Best Breakfast for Athletic Performance and for Getting a Lot of Things Done

  1. throwninjastar

    I think a variety of things work for the me the key before a big event and a lesson I learned before I ran a marathon was don’t try and change it right before that big event. The race organizers had a variety of options like oranges and some power aid drinks that I had never consumed before while running and my gi tract was not happy with me at all.

    Reply
  2. Jim Caruso

    Good stuff Lex. For what it’s worth, my standard breakfast is a banana with peanut butter and a pre-packaged protein/nutritional shake called Orgain (no chemicals!) I like getting up early and being instantly productive with my work, drinking coffee and deferring breakfast until I have been up two or three hours. I do my BJJ at night, so breakfast does not have quite the direct impact on my training as it does for you. I do weight train two mornings per week, and in that case I usually do just the protein shake.

    By the way, there are protein powders that do not have chemicals. In addition to the pre-packaged Orgain I mentioned, try Bio-Chem whey protein powder. Despite the name, it appears to be mostly or totally chemical-free. It is sold at Whole Foods, which I personally treat as a “seal of approval” for the absence of harmful ingredients.

    Best,
    Jim Caruso

    Reply
    1. Lex Post author

      Bio-Chem, interesting, I’ll try it. Thanks Jim. It’s hard to know what is and isn’t good for you out of all the synthetic stuff. I eat a lot of protein and veggies naturally, so I wanted to move away from drinking shakes. But I actually like the taste, and it’s very convenient 😉

      Reply
  3. Brian Jester

    Lex,

    For breakfast, I go for bagel with colby-jack and turkey or meatballs, coffee and lots of water. Snack, I take fruit and nuts (salted ar OK, nothing like beer nuts).

    Brian

    Reply
    1. Lex Post author

      “Nothing like beer nuts” is probably the best line in a diet advice I’ve ever read. Lol. Nice. Lots of water is the thing I’m trying to fix about my diet.

      Reply

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