Monday, November 15, 2010

The Best Energy Booster - Breakfast

One of the best decisions an athlete can make is to start the day with breakfast. Why you ask? Because your body is actually in a starvation state when you get up in the morning. Your metabolism has slowed to an almost stand still because it has not been fed in 8 to 12 hours or so, it acts to conserve energy by slowing all metabolic processes down. If you don’t fill your gas tank with some nutrition and energy you won’t be able to run your machine (your body)well. Your body and your brain need fuel to get it revved in the morning and prepare for thinking and the demands of physical activity. Between 10-30 percent of people head out the door in the morning with a low tank of gas because they skip this important meal. Omitting breakfast is a favorite practice of teenagers and gets worse with age. Amost 60% of teens in high school skip breakfast more than 3 times per week! Don’t be a statistic…learn how to eat smart.

There are some tangible health benefits to eating breakfast, according to research, so consider this:

Breakfast eaters...

...Are healthier. They are more likely to get more nutrition and essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, in their diets.

...Tend to have better control of their weight. Studies show that breakfast skippers often overeat the rest of the day because of excessive hunger so they are more prone to being overweight.

...Do better in school because they have improved concentration, longer attention spans and they achieve higher test scores.

...Have better school attendance (and are tardy less).

...Have better hand to eye coordination, which is a critical element of success in sports.

...Fuel their sports training and practices better because they are supplying their muscles and liver with the right fuel (carbohydrates) to perform their best.

I often hear comments like, “I’m not hungry when I get up” or “I don’t have time to eat breakfast” in the morning. To that I reply, do not expect or wait to feel hungry when you get up in the morning. And breakfast doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes. Cereals are a great choice if they are not sugar-laden ones. Choose those with 3 or 4 grams of fiber (bran cereals like Fiber One, Oat Bran, Bran Flakes and Raisin Bran are even higher in fiber) and less than 9-10 grams of sugar per serving. Always look for whole grain on the box and select fortified or enriched cereals that provide iron, an important mineral for athletes. Here are some quick and easy grab and go breakfast ideas along with some others that will combat breakfast boredom at home!

-Bagel with peanut butter, 100% fruit juice
-Dry cereal like bran flakes with a banana and skim milk
-Breakfast burrito (2 eggs scrambled in microwave oven for 1-2 minutes, stirring) made with eggs, sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese and topped with salsa. Roll and go!
-Fresh orange, low fat mozzarella stick, dry cereal in a Ziploc, hard-boiled egg, applesauce, low fat chocolate milk.
-Carnation Instant Breakfast made with low fat milk (I like to throw a banana in and whirl in the blender, with a few ice cubes for a healthy milkshake before a tough workout!)
-Homemade smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, low fat yogurt/low fat milk or instant dried nonfat milk powder.
-Low fat cottage cheese with pineapple (no sugar added) with a whole wheat English muffin.
-Omelet with spinach, mushrooms, low fat cheese, tomato juice, and whole wheat toast
-Oatmeal (instant works!) with a handful of craisins and almonds on top, low fat milk
-One of my favorites: Low fat yogurt and fruit (think berries) parfait with a scoop of grape nuts or healthy granola in a plastic cup to go.
-Apple smeared with almond butter and topped with raisins, cereal bar
-Canadian bacon (or lean ham) and low fat swiss cheese on a whole wheat English muffin for a breakfast sandwich
-Clif bar (in a pinch) and 100% orange juice

If you want to be on the fast track to better health and performance, include breakfast in your nutrition game plan. Check out the Eat Right Tips from the American Dietetic Association’s website at for simple, speedy and good-for-you breakfast ideas and power up with breakfast!

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

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