This is why athletes should eat breakfast

The importance of breakfast is in its title, its breaking the overnight fast. Your first meal is the key to turn your body on for the day.

Eating a good breakfast when you get up, or directly after training will be an important start to how you fuel your day. Putting the right energy in around training will mean you have energy to burn and be more likely to train harder and better.

In the same way you wouldn’t set out on a long drive when the petrol light is on in your car, you also don’t want to head out for the day with no fuel in your system.

Why breakfast is crucial for athletes

  • Within 30 minutes of waking up the body is like a sponge in anticipation of absorbing energy from food so there is fuel for the body to work.
  • If this opportunity is missed your metabolism starts to slow down.
  • Your body is then forced to find energy through breaking down the body’s stores – including muscles – which is a slow and inefficient process to best fuel training.
  • If training whilst fasting, it needs to be done under controlled conditions and match the training and outcomes you have in place, otherwise it is not recommended.

What skipping breakfast means

  • If the body has been placed under stress in training without any food available, and feels it has been starved of adequate energy for a period of time it drives appetite and hunger to encourage the replacement of the energy that was missed.
  • When you do start to eat later in the day it may lead to overconsuming at meals and irregular or poor snacking.
  • This energy imbalance can have a negative impact on blood glucose levels, appetite, performance and potentially weight gain.

What to eat for breakfast and when

  • What you eat depends on how quickly you need the energy.
  • If going to an early training, you may not want a large volume of food, fibre or fat sitting in the stomach while you train, as blood flow will move away from the stomach and can lead to indigestion.
  • Prior to earlier training, if time is limited, it’s better to have a smaller, easily digested carb choice or a fluid option if that sits better during training while getting used to what you can tolerate.
  • Consider pre-training intake as a function to aid performance and outcomes rather than food for pleasure or to fill up.
    If you aren’t training early, and you are heading to work, school or uni then it’s better to have a balanced option for breakfast with some fibre, wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein, good fats and nutrients so the body has everything it needs to slowly fuel the body over the morning.

Pre early training breakfast

A small, low fibre, low fat, high carbohydrate snack will be adequate when you wake up to engage your carbohydrate stores and to get the body using fuel more effectively by kick starting the metabolism before training, including:

  • A banana, or piece fruit
  • Raisin or regular toast with jam or honey
  • Rice cakes / corn thins / cruskits
  • Glass light milk or 100% juice
  • 2-3 scoops Sustagen
  • 300ml Powerade
  • 2 fresh dates
  • Low fibre cereal like cornflakes or nutri-grain
  • Low fat yoghurt

Regular daily / post training breakfast

Follow training or day to day, start with a high nutrient, high fibre and balanced breakfast, choices could include:

  • A bowl wholegrain cereal with milk or yoghurt
  • Porridge or oats with milk or yoghurt
  • A smoothie with oats, fresh fruit, milk and yoghurt
  • Natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and mixed nuts/seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds almonds)
  • Grain toast with a protein source like egg or sliced ham and avocado + extra vege (spinach, tomato)
  • Toast with spreads + protein shake or drink milk
  • Bircher muesli made with oats, natural yoghurt and grated apple
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