Among most athletes I know, breakfast seems to divide opinion. We all have to get up early for training. For me and those I row with this regularly means being up at 5:00-5:30 for rowing, erging, weights or whatever else. Many choose to skip breakfast, either in favour of the extra half an hour in bed, or claiming that they prefer to train on an empty stomach. Others hit the fry ups either before or after training. Personally, I cannot function without breakfast. It is a vital first step after waking up and I struggle to imagine the horror of a morning erg on an empty stomach. Or possibly even worse, a stomach full of bacon.
My breakfasts tend to be very repetitive. There’s a ritual to it and I seem to end up eating the same thing every morning for many days, or even weeks on end. This has never really bothered me – I like the routine and I like to know that what I’m eating is tried and tested for getting me through training and the rest of the day thereafter. I normally go through phases of different types of muesli or porridge (As an aside: I spend enough time with Americans – my step mother, PhD supervisor and various rowers and friends – these days that the phrase “oatmeal” has started to creep into my vocabulary when really I mean “porridge”. I’m very ashamed of myself). Recently though I was introduced by a friend to the idea of overnight oats, and since then I’ve been making this almost every day. I love the fact that unlike bought muesli I can have complete control over what’s in it, and it’s not painfully expensive. And unlike oatmeal (porridge…) it requires no effort at all in the morning – just take it out of the fridge and tuck in. Porridge is hot, and it will therefore always have a place in my heart for winter breakfasts, but right now overnight oats are king.
The basis of this recipe is just the combination of a cup of oats with a cup of skimmed milk and half a cup of yoghurt. Beyond that you can add more or less anything you want. I have given an example below based purely on what I like and what I happened to make this evening. I adore dried apricots. Hands down the best of all dried fruits. They are definitely the most regular addition to my oats. Coconut flakes are also brilliant and go well with the apricot, but really I just happened to have them in the cupboard. Chia seeds and ground flaxseeds (shown looking pretty with oats in the photo at the top of this post) add some nutritional oomph. Other possible additions include nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans – whatever you have), other dried fruit (the usual ones like sultanas, dates, etc, or branch out into something more interesting like dried apple, dried mango slices – again the possibilities are endless), maple syrup, honey, nut butters, spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla) or fresh berries (possibly best added the morning after rather than left to soak overnight). But anyway, here is one particular combination that I can vouch for, with some pretty pictures.
Overnight Oats, as made this evening
Serves 1 hungry athlete or two normal people
1 cup of jumbo oats
1 cup of skimmed milk
1/2 cup of fat free bio live yoghurt
1/8 cup ground flaxseed
1tbsp chia seeds
Handful (roughly 1/4-1/3 cup) dried apricots
Small handful (up to maybe 1/4 cup) coconut flakes
1 ripe banana (optional)
- Chop the apricots. I usually cut them into quarters, which can be done quickly if you stack them carefully and cut the stacks into quarters. If you’re including the banana (which should be very ripe) mash it to a puree.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
Simple as that.
I adore apricots. They’re so bright and orange and delicious.
The finished product. Gloopy nutritious deliciousness.
I hope this helps someone out there get through their morning erg. Future posts in the pipeline!