Athletes are often told to stay away from simple sugars—like the kind found in white bread—unless they need an immediate energy boost. But after years of exile, the stuff may have a place in the world of sports nutrition after all. Allen Tran, registered dietitian and chef for the Olympic ski team, says that a piece of plain white toast will provide quick energy just as well as any shot block or gel.
But when you aren’t headed to a workout in 30 minutes or less, Tran suggests you use your bread (preferably of the nutty or whole-grain variety) as a vehicle for truly nutritious ingredients. That means the toppings should provide protein and healthy fats. Many athletes have taken that advice to heart, making nutritionally stacked toast a staple in their diets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
U.S. Ski Team freestyle skier Mikaela Matthews prepares toast several times a week for lunch. She tops sourdough bread with two eggs over easy (the runny yolk is key, she says), goat cheese, rosemary, salt and pepper, and smashed avocado. Since Matthews always stocks these staple ingredients, lunch is ready in less than five minutes.
“I usually do my workouts in the morning, so the added protein from eggs helps me recover after a hard gym session, and the remaining fats and carbs help replenish my energy and leave me feeling full and satisfied,” Matthews says. Tran seconds her take, saying she’s crafted a near-perfect balance of the macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat—that are key for performance.
Avocado Toast with Rosemary and Goat Cheese
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- 1/2 avocado, smashed
- Goat cheese
- 2 eggs
- Fresh lemon juice
Toast bread, if desired. Meanwhile, fry the eggs until over easy. Top each bread slice with one egg and half the smashed avocado. Sprinkle with goat cheese, salt, and pepper. Add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice for extra zest.
Stephanie Howe Violett
Ultrarunner and sports nutritionist Stephanie Howe Violett goes all in by baking her own sourdough bread, an especially great base because it’s slowly fermented to make the nutrients in the bread more absorbable, Tran says. If you can’t make your own, snag a loaf from your local baker or farmer’s market.
Before a run, Violett tops her bread with peanut butter, molasses, and a sliced banana. The peanut butter serves as a good source of fat and protein to keep you full, while the molasses adds a few minerals to the mix, like iron, magnesium, and potassium, which support your body during hard efforts, Tran says.
Sourdough Bread with Peanut Butter, Molasses, and Banana
- 2 slices sourdough bread, homemade or bakery-bought
- 2 generous tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 banana, sliced
Toast the bread. Top each piece with one tablespoon peanut butter and half the banana slices. Drizzle molasses on top.
As an Olympic cross-country skier, Jessie Diggins has made fueling a prime focus. She incorporates toast into her diet once or twice every week, usually accompanied by a salad.
Diggins adjusts her meals based on her training routine. Her favorite toast recipe—seedy wheat bread topped with avocado and cheese—comes into play before endurance-based efforts. “If I’m headed out the door for a three-hour ski, I make sure to get a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fats ahead of time so I don’t run out of energy during such a lengthy aerobic activity,” she says.
Tran says this meal is a high-calorie gem, with healthy fats from the avocado and cheese and fiber from the whole-wheat bread providing sustenance throughout the day. To add extra protein to this meal, Tran suggests adding some plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with Italian seasoning, chili powder, or Sriracha.
Seedy Whole-Wheat Bread with Avocado and Cheese
- 2 slices seedy whole-wheat bread, thickly sliced
- 1 avocado, mashed
- Cheddar cheese, sliced
- Hard goat cheese
Toast the bread. Spread avocado evenly on each piece. Place cheddar cheese slices on top. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Rob Krar is an endurance-running legend, once holding FKTs for both the single and double crossing of Grand Canyon. He’s an almost equally prolific late-night snacker, often turning to bread to stave off post-dinner hunger.
While Krar will try just about any combination, his go-to is a savory concoction that includes tahini and sesame seeds, especially helpful in spurring recovery after long runs and tough workouts.
“If you’re not familiar with tahini, it’s like peanut butter but made with sesame seeds,” Tran says. Combined with whole-grain rye bread, it’s a fantastic way to mix up the usual nut-butter-on-bread combo, while still providing a good source of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, all key for performance.”
Rye Bread with Tahini, Honey, and Sesame Seeds
- 2 slices rye bread
- 2 tablespoons tahini sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Sesame seeds
Toast the bread. Slather each piece with one tablespoon tahini. Drizzle the tablespoon of honey across both slices. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top for extra crunch.
Steph Davis lives for avocado on her toast and opts to let the nutritionally gifted ingredient shine on its own. All she adds to a piece of whole-grain Ezekiel bread are avocado, olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. While Tran gives this his stamp of approval, he does note that it could use some protein, especially if you aren’t using a bread with a nut or seed base.
“This avocado toast gets you most of the way there for a balanced breakfast. You just need to add a protein source, such as a fried egg on top, to make it complete,” Tran says.
Avocado Toast with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
- 2 pieces sprouted whole-grain Ezekiel bread
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
Toast the bread. Split the avocado slices between the two pieces of toast. Drizzle olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.