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Breakfast: The Most Important Meal Of An Athlete’s Day

Any serious athlete should already know the importance of eating a good breakfast every day. There has been plenty of research showing that ingestion of food after waking performs a number of important beneficial tasks, including:

  • Rehydration – sleep always has at least a mildly dehydrating effect
  • Repletion of glycogen
  • Kick-starting metabolism
  • Improving mental alertness
  • Helping you to feel more awake
  • Satisfying hunger
  • Helping to prevent food cravings

Conversely there are also copious amounts of research indicating profound negative effects that result from not eating breakfast. These include effects such as:

  • Lethargy and dullness
  • Slower reaction times
  • Impaired mental acuity
  • Increased possibility of muscle strains and cramp
  • Increased severity of acidosis
  • Potential digestive and metabolic problems
  • General weakness and poor athletic performance

All of that is really obvious anyway, and you don’t need to read a scientific paper to discover it, because everyone has experienced what it’s like to skip breakfast. While it’s not necessarily a big deal for most people, if you’re an endurance athlete or your training workout involves any activity that requires strenuous effort for more than 45 minutes at a time, skipping breakfast could even claim your life. It sounds like an exaggeration, but actually there are quite a few serious conditions that can develop.

The most common one is well known among cyclists and goes by the slightly hilarious name of “The Bonk“.  There’s nothing funny about it if it hits you though. This is a sudden-onset of severe hypoglycaemia, and it can kill you in many different ways.

Having said all this, the two important things to bear in mind are:

  1. Any breakfast, even an “unhealthy” one, is better than no breakfast at all, and
  2. Not all breakfasts are created equal… some are a lot better than others!

When designing your championship breakfast, be aware that all that trendy diet advice telling you to avoid carbs is pure nonsense. There is absolutely no difference in terms of energy levels between protein and carbohydrate (gram for gram they have exactly the same amount of energy), while fat has around three times more energy.

The key difference is in terms of bioavailability, because carbohydrates are easier to metabolise. The bottom line is that if you consume more carbohydrates than you need, you may gain extra body fat. If you consume more protein than you need, you may gain extra body fat. And if you consume more fat than you need, you will have more to worry about than just gaining extra body fat!

Grains, therefore, should be the primary energy source in an athlete’s breakfast. On the same theme, don’t feel that you should load up on bran, because bran actually has very little nutritional value. It’s not a lot different from eating rubber. But in all seriousness, bran will not do a lot for you beyond the obvious. Plus, because it is really high in phosphorous, it will throw your Ca:P ratio way off unless you’re also supplementing it with calcium.

As an athlete, your body is under more stress than most, so you need to take care of it properly. The best way to do that is to ensure you have good nutrition and good hydration, and that includes making sure you have a decent breakfast every day.

Buying all of the necessary foods and investing in parts such as a Continental Grand Prix 4000S II Folding Road Tyre for your bike or a new belt for your treadmill might seem like it’s not worth the initial cost and effort at the beginning, but sticking with it and doing your best to stay fit and healthy will pays its dividends in bucket loads.

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About Paul Stainthorpe

Running has been part of my life since 2011. While growing up I hated running and would do anything to avoid it at school. Give me a ball and a racket any day. It’s funny how some things change. I run for good. In 2012 I ran the 12 Days of Christmas for the Percy Hedley Foundation. In 2013 I attempted (with friend Lee Nyland), the 12 parkruns of Christmas for the Tiny Lives Trust.


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