Food and Nutrition

The 3-Ingredient Breakfast a Gold Medal Winning Triathlete Always Eats on Race Day

Emily Laurence

Photo: Getty Images/ Quality Sport Images; Art: W+G Creative
Sure, the 2021 Olympics certainly had its fair share of controversy, but there's no denying that it was still mega inspiring, both during the competitions themselves and in more personal ways. (And can we all agree that the world needs more equestrian dressage?)

While the vast majority of us will never be Olympic athletes—although, hey, a person can dream—learning about their training habits can be beneficial for getting better at our own workouts. Sure, you may never run a four-minute mile, but don't you want to know what type of sneakers a speedy runner who can laces into? Or how they kept up their training during lockdown?

For the record, gold medal-winning triathlete Flora Duffy, from Bermuda, wears Brooks running shoes and worked out in her garage when COVID-19 prevented her from hitting the gym. She also shared with CNN what she eats for breakfast before a game day: "I always eat the same breakfast: rice, a banana, and an avocado," She says. Nothing fancy or fussy; just three accessible grocery store staples.

Curious whether or not Duffy's triathlon breakfast would win her a gold medal from a dietitian, I decided to ask one I was friendly with, Kelly Jones, RD, what she thought of the meal. Could it work for the average jogger before a long run? According to Jones, who works with professional athletes, college athletes, and non-athletes with vastly different workout routines, she's into this meal as a pre-run breakfast.

"The rice and banana are excellent carbohydrate sources since they supply plenty of usable energy for the race. They don't contain too much fiber, which could result in feelings of excess fullness or digestive discomfort during the race for some," Jones says. "The avocado also supplies some energy in the form of fat, but pre-race it's actually functioning as a way to keep the breakfast foods from being digested and absorbed too quickly, which could result in blood sugar rising and then dipping before the event begins. That could result in feeling more lethargic or hungry." So the carbs in the rice and banana supply readily-available energy, and the fat in the avocado helps prevent the body from using that up too quickly. This results in more stable, sustained energy throughout the race.

I know what you're probably thinking: Where's the protein?! After all, it is a nutrient Americans are pretty obsessed with. Jones says that while protein is important to consume throughout the day during training and after a workout for recovery, you actually don't need a lot of it before a long run. From an energy perspective, she says carbs are more helpful when thinking about a triathlon breakfast. "Essentially, this helps to maximize the body's ability to store carbohydrate in muscles in the form of glycogen, helping to maintain a higher intensity for a longer duration in the event," she explains. "This means carbohydrates make up so much of one's diet that there will be less room for fat and protein than normal. A high carb breakfast pre-race will help to top off these glycogen stores, but also deliver energy to the bloodstream to maintain normal blood glucose, too."

Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of avocado:

Jones adds that while protein isn't necessarily needed before a triathlon, she would recommend eating a moderate amount before an Ironman or ultra-marathon to help reduce muscle damage and support the immune system during such extreme distances. She also adds that running for more than an hour requires additional carbohydrates—otherwise you're going to be too drained to finish. "This can be in the form of sports drinks, sports gels or blocks, and even honey or maple water, since all are the most easily digestible forms during activity that will get to the bloodstream more quickly than rice or a banana while exercising," she says.

So there you have it: an Olympic-winning triathlon breakfast cosigned by a registered dietitian. Finding foods that go the distance is a major step in powering through that long run. Beating boredom when the miles stretch on? That's a whole other matter.

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