What Elite Skiers Eat for Breakfast (Hint: More Than You Do)

Gavin KentchMay 24, 2016

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

— A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Breakfast, as you learned in elementary school (or more recently from Ryan Gosling), is The Most Important Meal of the Day. That’s likely true for anyone. It is emphatically true for skiers.  Whether you’re training once a day or three times a day, 100 hours a year or 1,000, it all starts with breakfast. If training is the foundation for racing, and proper nutrition is the foundation for proper training, then it logically follows that breakfast is the foundation for, well, everything.

Kikkan Randall in the kitchen "getting ready and fueled" in the fall of 2014. (Photo: Twitter)
Kikkan Randall in the kitchen “getting ready and fueled” in the fall of 2014. (Photo: Twitter)

Certain types of breakfast tend to get all the press. Pretty much everyone is a fan of second breakfast. J.R.R. Tolkien explains that hobbits eat second breakfast as the second of their six daily meals – after (first) breakfast and before elevenses. Thomas Mann, in The Magic Mountain, ups the ante, discussing not only second breakfast but also, remarkably, third breakfast. Robert McCloskey, in the seminal 1941 children’s book Make Way for Ducklings, underscores that second breakfast is best in the animal kingdom as well; his Mr. and Mrs. Mallard follow around the late-morning duck boat until they get “another breakfast, better than the first.”  Everyone, it seems, is a fan of second breakfast.

There is no question that everyone is a fan of pancakes (and their close relative, the waffle).  Turning from early-20th-century literature to the modern institution of the 21st-century skier blog, it is clear that there could not be a skier blog – or maybe even skiers – without pancakes or waffles.

Sophie Caldwell has a rest day and makes blueberry waffles. Jessie Diggins spends the summer making apple pancakes, and Christmas eating French toast. Annie Pokorny, waxing philosophical, brought us the remarkable (and compelling) “5 Reasons Waffles are a Philosophically Valid Way to Organize One’s Life.” And Noah Hoffman – well, Noah makes pancakes, including but not limited to blueberry pancakes, thick whole-grain pancakes, gluten-free pumpkin pancakes, Zach Caldwell’s putative-pancakes crepes recipe, pancakes à la Skratch Labs, pancakes in Bend, and pancakes in Anchorage.

And a generation earlier, before the term blog had even been invented, Luke Bodensteiner, at the time a struggling Olympic hopeful, wrote in Endless Winter: An Olympian’s Journal of downing 18 (!) “steaming hot buttermilk pancakes” one morning in September 1993, then crushing a 50-kilometer rollerski followed by a 12-mile run. Plus ça change.

This is not an article about second breakfast.  Nor is it even an article about pancakes.  This is an article about what athletes eat for real breakfast on real weekdays. Training day or rest day, at home or abroad, every elite athlete has a food that they’re comfortable with. And once they’ve found it, they tend to eat that food every. single. day. (Except for Lex Treinen, who wrote that he “never actually [has] the same breakfast every day,” but he’s an outlier among the athletes surveyed for this article.) If ski racing is, ultimately, about controlling the things you can control and trying to get a good outcome from the things you cannot, then breakfast becomes one more thing that can be effectively controlled.

Starting with Alaska, we asked skiers with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center elite team to share an honest picture of their average breakfast for a weekday training day and describe what they eat. Here’s what they told us:

Gavin Kentch

Gavin Kentch wrote for FasterSkier from 2016–2022. He has a cat named Marit.

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