Cheddar cheese omelet with smoked salmon.
Cheddar cheese omelet with smoked salmon.

Athlete Recipes: Distance Swimmer Lewis Pugh’s Polar Bear Breakfast

The difference between hitting the summit and hitting the wall often comes down to the fuel in your belly. Here, 11 pros share their favorite nutritional secrets and performance-enhancing recipes.

Cheddar cheese omelet with smoked salmon.

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THE MEAL: Swimmers are famous for consuming huge amounts of calories. And it’s no different with Pugh, who has covered the entire length of the Thames, swum 87 miles across the width of the Maldives, and, in 2010, suffered through a kilometer swim—in 29-degree water—at the base of Mount Everest. But Pugh, 42, insists he’s not all that different from the ordinary athlete, especially when it comes to the first meal of the day. “We’re all looking for a nutritious breakfast that makes us feel fresh and invigorated, not as if we’ve eaten a 10-kilogram dumbbell,” Pugh says. The British ultraswimmer believes this medley of cheese omelet, yogurt, strawberries, and salmon, which he eats after hour-and-a-half training swims in the Atlantic Ocean, meets those needs perfectly.

WHY IT WORKS: “The strawberries and dairy contain just enough carbohydrates to refuel cells after a workout,” Korzun says. “But it’s not so carb heavy—like a Grand Slam pancake-and-sausage breakfast—that it will put you in a food coma.” Further, a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that choline, found in the yolks of eggs, acts as an anti-inflammatory. “We always hear how bad egg yolks are for us, because they contain saturated fats,” says Korzun. “But a few egg yolks a couple times a week are perfectly healthy, provided they’re consumed in balance with the rest of your meal.”

SECRET INGREDIENT: Salmon is rich in omega-3’s, which a 2006 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study found are just as effective as ibuprofen at reducing pain in arthritic patients.

Whip three large eggs in a bowl.
Coat a medium-size frying pan with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and place over medium heat. Pour the eggs into the pan.
While the eggs are cooking, grate in six ounces of cheddar cheese.
After about two minutes, fold the sides of the omelet over, then cook for another minute.
Serve with a seven-ounce side of smoked salmon (or add to the omelet in step three) and a seven-ounce bowl of low-fat yogurt with a dozen strawberries.


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