With an ever-increasing number of decisions to make in the yogurt aisle alone (Greek or Icelandic? Nonfat or full-fat?), it can feel impossible to decide what to eat for breakfast. Throw an intense workout into the mix, and it’s all the more crucial to whip up something filling, fueling, and flavorful.
To help us master the first meal of the day, we asked three female Olympians to share their everyday breakfast routines, as well as what they ate on the day of their Olympic meets. Their number one piece of advice? Never skip breakfast, no matter the day's events.
“You don’t have to be training for Olympic gold to realize what a difference a solid breakfast can make to your day,” says Shannon Miller, the first American gymnast to win Gold on the balance beam (an accomplishment she achieved at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia). “Growing up, breakfast was always important and remains so today for both me and my family.”
On a typical day: Miller’s mornings with her kids are often hectic, so portable smoothies have become one of her go-to options. For added nutrients and fiber, she adds a scoop of Juice Plus+ beverage mix, and when she has time, she pairs the smoothie with scrambled eggs. Dara Torres, 12-time Olympic medalist and the first and only swimmer to represent the U.S. in five Olympic games, opts for foods her 10-year-old daughter will eat with her, including Rice Krispies and frozen waffles, which she says helps to kick-start their day. “I make it a point to never miss breakfast, because with active lifestyles comes the constant need to be energized and ready to take on what the day brings you,” she says.
Gabby Douglas, who became the first African-American woman in history to win gold for the individual all-around in gymnastics in 2012 and will be competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, opts for oatmeal and a banana on days when she has practice. “This gives me the energy I need to get through the first hours of training,” she says. She eats a larger breakfast of waffles, scrambled eggs with cheese, and kosher beef bacon on her days off.
On mornings of Olympics meets: Before stepping out to perform their routines, Miller and Douglas both started their day with eggs. “The morning of my Olympic meets I ate scrambled eggs with wheat toast and fruit,” Miller says. “It was critical to fuel my body for the long day ahead. I certainly didn’t want to lose energy half way through the competition!” Gabby pairs her eggs with oatmeal and granola. “I don’t like to eat anything too heavy or high in fat content before competing,” she says.
Torres tended towards lighter breakfasts as well. “My breakfast included elements that gave me energy and weren’t too filling, as lighter foods are best when swimming,” she says. “I would usually eat yogurt or a bowl of cereal, which I would pair with fruit so my first meal of the day was well-balanced.”
So whether you’re training for a half-marathon or simply hoping to break a sweat in spin class, it can't hurt to heed Douglas’ advice: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! You can’t expect to perform at your best if you don’t take good care of your body.”