Top 4 Breakfasts to Fuel your Running

sarah cuff Food for Runners 10 Comments

(updated April 2018)

In order to have good energy to complete a strong run, you need to eat breakfast 1 to 4 hours before heading out the door for a morning run.

And even if you’re not going for a morning run (maybe you’re running later in the day), research shows that people who eat breakfast are leaner and healthier than those that skip it. Why? Possibly because breakfast eaters are less likely to let themselves get so hungry during the first part of the day that they eat too much later in the day. Breakfast sets the tone for your day. Is it going to be a day of choosing healthful foods? Sometimes it all comes together or falls apart first thing in the morning.

A good pre-run breakfast provides a mixture of complex carbohydrates for sustained and lasting energy with some simple sugars for immediate and quick energy, and some protein and some healthy fat for satiation and reduced glycemic load. Here are my top four options for you:

1. Oatmeal / Porridge

I know, shocker, right?!! Okay, maybe not so much. It’s truly a timeless dish… Yes, oatmeal is one of the bestest breaky’s out there. Try Fully Loaded Oatmeal (recipe in my Eat 2 Run Recipe Book)… It’s got all the right proportions of simple and complex carbs, protein and fat. Plus it tastes absolutely delicious. I can say this with confidence as I live with a picky eater who hands down wouldn’t eat oatmeal because he wasn’t going to like it, didn’t ever remember liking it… And then ended up totally enjoying Fully Loaded Oatmeal! Or use an instant oatmeal (especially when travelling), such as Q’ia instant oatmeal, and add hemp hearts, chia seeds, walnuts, maybe some dried fruit and  banana and/or fresh berries. Or try a Baked Oatmeal for something a little different.

Not everyone can eat oats if that’s you try porridges made with alternative gluten-free grains such as rice congee, quinoa porridge, millet porridge or buckwheat porridge.

Keep in mind quick oats or instant oatmeal is easier for the body to digest in the hours before running, whereas old fashioned oats or steel cut oats are better for when you won’t be running in the next few hours.

2. Granola

Granola is basically oatmeal that’s been baked. Because all store bought versions I’ve found to date contain processed cooking oils (canola oil or sunflower oil, etc), I make my own with coconut oil. I actually started eating granola when I wanted a switch from oatmeal and porridges. I guess I’m not the first one. In 1951, Willie Pelzer ‘invented’ granola when experimenting to find a better and more appetizing way of enjoying rolled oats. Granola was popularized in the 1960’s with the hippie movement when fruit and nuts were added to it along with the label of health food.

You could try making client favourites Classic Almond Granola or Walnut Cherry Granola (recipes in my Eat 2 Run Recipe Book), or switch it up and try Buckwheat Granola.

3. Smoothie

For those of you who think there is just no possible way you could eat breakfast in the morning, don’t worry. Try drinking it instead! It’s easy to digest as the blender has done a lot of the ‘chewing’ work for you already  – just drink and go. You can make it light (mostly just fruit) or more substantial (add nuts, seeds and/or greens). Try this Blueberry Almond Breakfast Shake – an all time favourite of many of my clients for years.

4. Pancakes / Toast 

When I started eating breakfast years ago and always felt I simply didn’t have the time for breakfast, toast was easy and fast. If you choose this option, I recommend using Ezekiel sprouted grains bread (usually found in freezer section) or a simple spelt, kamut, rye or sourdough bread. One that has only 3 or 4 ingredients such as: 100% spelt / rye / brown rice / quinoa along with water, sea salt, bacterial culture. If the ingredient list includes sugar or wheat gluten or anything you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it. Serve your toast spread with 100% all natural almond butter, sprinkle with hemp hearts and top with a sliced banana. Or alternatively top it with sliced / smashed avocado with sea salt and tomato.

However, what I think even better than toast is homemade Banana Oat Pancakes, topped with maple syrup and berries. Or Pumpkin Oat Pancakes. To make them a faster morning option you can make them up in advance, freeze them, and toast them!

Other great breakfasts

My top four list left out some of my very favourite breakfast foods that are more appropriate for after a run – to help you refuel after your run. Or simply a great way to start the day when you don’t have a morning run scheduled.

  • Eggs – such as Savoury Egg Scramble or Cabbage Latke (recipes in my Eat 2 Run Recipe Book), or a Frittata. You might add a side of bison or turkey sausage or nitrate free organic bacon to any of these options. Maybe some home fries too!
  • LCHF (low carb, high fat) pancakes such as Banana Almond Pancakes or Zucchini Pancakes.
  • A veggie rich Tofu Scramble.
  • Full-fat grass fed (organic) plain unsweetened Greek yogurt with a touch of maple syrup or honey and topped with plenty of seeds, nuts and fresh fruit

What’s your fave breakfast food? Right now my absolute favourite breakfast is cranberry buckwheat granola with fresh berries and almond milk (circa 2013… My favourite has changed many times since then). Leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite breakfast is!

To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,


Sarah Cuff, R.H.N.
Holistic Sports Nutritionist
Founder Eat 2 Run Sports Nutrition
CSNN Sports Nutrition Instructor
Better Bodies Club Nutritionist

Comments 10

  1. Hey!
    Love your post… favourite breakfast currently is Banana Porridge, delicious. But if I have to choose, oats or oatmeal…….oatmeal definitely! It’s so tasty and super healthy. Love having a banana too with my breakfast for some natural sugar. Definitely keeps me going until lunch.
    The Granola you have suggested sounds good, I’ll be trying that!
    Take care
    Steph ??

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      Hi Greg… Thanks for this great question! I actually don’t mind Clif bars so much – they are better than many other bars out there!! That said, they are still packaged, processed bars – which probably means more sugar and processed soy than we want to be eating on a regular basis. I pulled up the ingredients, and as you can see below the first ingredient is sugar (brown rice syrup) and the fourth ingredient is also sugar (organic cane syrup), and there’s a lot of soy.

      So, long story short, I don’t see a problem with reaching for Clif bars in a pinch, but there’s likely a better whole foods option out there to make your staple breakfast, whether it be on a daily basis or before long runs!


      ps. Good luck as you train to qualify for Boston!!!

      Organic Brown Rice Syrup, ClifPro® (Soy Rice Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract], Organic Soy Flour, Organic Roasted Soybeans), Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Peanuts, Salt), Peanut Flour, Peanuts, ClifCrunch® (Apple Fiber, Organic Oat Fiber, Inulin [Chicory Extract], Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Psyllium), Organic Date Paste, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt.

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