Nutritionist Pip Taylor shares four ways to a better breakfast for athletes.
The big thing to keep in mind is that we should eat when hungry. If you wake up hungry, eat. But if you aren’t hungry, don’t feel forced into eating simply because it is breakfast time. Instead be guided by your hunger signals and eat accordingly.
Plan and prepare
Breakfast for many involves opening a box and pouring some milk. But this is likely not the best use of the meal. Skip the sugar and refined carbs that make up many commercial breakfast foods. Hungry or not, they won’t be doing anyone any good. And in fact there is good evidence to show that eating sugary foods can actually make you more hungry than if you had skipped the meal altogether. Instead incorporate proteins such as yoghurt or eggs, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegies for added nutrients.
Use it as an opportunity to kick-start your daily vegie intake. Most people wait until lunch or even dinner to start getting those important serves of nutrient-dense vegies in, making it hard for even big eaters to reach the minimum recommended five serves a day (one serve is half a cup of cooked vegetables and one cup of leafy greens). Make a green smoothie and you’re well on your way to achieving vegie intake goals before you even start work.
Up the protein
Keep your brain sharp at work and up the protein ante. Plus this will help you recover from your morning workout in preparation for the evening or following day. Eggs are an easy breakfast option. Again, yoghurt with some fruit and nuts is also recommended. Leftovers from last night’s dinner are also great.
Play around with the timing of your breakfast. Try doing some of your easier workouts before breakfast to help boost your body’s ability to burn fat as fuel. This is especially important for endurance athletes for whom fat becomes a major source of energy during races and long workouts. On mornings when you have a high intensity workout and need to hit PRs and splits, consider a small energy-boosting pre-workout breakfast to help maximise those maximal efforts that require glycogen.