The Ultimate Healthy Breakfast for Athletes
As a competitor, chances are that you are fully aware of the importance of starting the morning off with a solid breakfast. However, many have no idea what a healthy breakfast for athletes truly means. It is commonly our culture to slam down a glass of juice and run out the door with toast or a danish in our hand.
I understand juices and breads are convenient choices, and often the only option in hotels. I appreciate any effort made to eat something in the A.M., but I have to be honest and say that slamming sugar filled, processed foods in the morning will likely do more harm than good. So, I’m going to explain the importance of a breakfast that helps keep your blood sugar steady and provide perfect examples of how you can incorporate it into your daily routine.
What’s So Bad About Cereals, Bagels, Juice, and Danishes?
Unfortunately, many traditional breakfast foods such as cereals or danishes are some of the most processed, sugar-laden foods on the market. When we consume foods consisting only of refined ingredients- AKA ingredients lacking fiber, protein, and quality fat, our body will experience a surge in blood sugar. This later follows with our blood sugar crashing down shortly after that.
When blood sugar suddenly drops we become tired, moody, and often ravenous. Our body “panics” when the crash occurs, and it sends our brain a signal that says “QUICK! I NEED SOMETHING SWEET TO STAY AWAKE AND ALIVE.” Then, we find ourselves reaching for a sugary granola bar, cookie, or a glass of soda, etc. And the cycle continues. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself! Have a glass of juice and a plain bagel or danish one morning. Make a note of how you feel and what you crave or don’t crave 30, 60, and 90 minutes, as well as 2-3 hours after consumption. How would you grade your cognition? How are your concentration, focus, and energy levels? How soon does your stomach start grumbling with hunger pangs?
The day after having breakfast with juice and a bagel or danish, enjoy this convenient but balanced breakfast: (to be varied by athlete size and sport) 1-3 hard boiled or scrambled eggs, 1/4-1 full avocado sliced on top or on the side, and a handful of berries. Again, take notes on craving, cognition, concentration, focus, energy, and stomach grumbling at the same time intervals. Do you feel satisfied? Is your energy the same or different? What about your mood? I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Just remember, whatever you put in your mouth first thing in the morning is likely what you will desire the rest of the day.
Make it count!
What Does an Amazingly Healthy Breakfast for Athletes Consist of?
We all know that fiber keeps us regular, feeling full longer, and is a crucial nutrient great for heart health. But what does that really mean? Think of fiber as a sticky sponge that removes “gunk” from inside the body. Every day we are exposed to so many toxins in this world such as poor quality air and water, processed, chemical-laden food, VOC’s in paint, exhaust from cars, etc. A build-up of these exposures over time often leads to chronic illness and sluggishness in human beings.
Since fiber is not digested and absorbed by our bodies, it rolls down the intestinal shoot like an intact ball of sticky glue, grabbing all the “gunk” it can and taking it along for a ride out our back door. Not only does this keep us full for longer but it prevents toxic waste from building up inside our bodies! This is critical for an athlete as toxic build-up can lead to inflammation. Inflammation then leads to slower recovery and poor performance. The best examples of foods which are excellent sources of fiber include chia seeds, flax seeds, fruit, veggies, and legumes. Whole grains typically contain a moderate amount of fiber also. Don’t forget to eat your potato skin as well!
Protein serves as the primary building block in our body. It is used to construct skin, bone, blood muscle, and cartilage, Our body also uses protein to make enzymes, hormones, and to build or repair tissue. In terms of athletic performance, quality protein is critical for the maintenance of lean muscle mass. The best examples include farm fresh eggs, chicken, turkey, organic tofu or tempeh, plant-based protein powder, and legumes.
High-quality whey protein powder can also be a great source of protein. However, it is essential for the athlete to be in tune with their body as dairy intolerance is more common than once thought. Adding whey protein if you have even the slightest bit of dairy intolerance may be counter productive. While its quite easy to go overboard with dairy consumption, high-quality whey such as Garden of Life SPORT Certified Grass Fed Whey could be beneficial in moderation. Nuts and seeds can also count in this category.
3) Plant Based Fat
Carbohydrates have the potential to be an athlete’s best friend as well as his or her worst enemy. The key is to choose carbohydrates that came from a plant (fruit, potatoes, brown rice) and avoid the ones manufactured in a plant (bread, crackers, packaged desserts)!
Carbohydrate is our body’s primary source of fuel. After we eat carbohydrate-rich foods, our body takes this byproduct to our bloodstream where our brain and muscles then collect these molecules of energy (glucose) out of the bloodstream. Carbohydrates provide our body with quick energy, promotes optimal digestion and is very heart friendly. The best sources include fruit, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, all starchy vegetables such as sweet and purple potatoes, and legumes.
Best Breakfasts Options on a Time Crunch
Mix together and let sit overnight in the fridge. Wake up, stir, and enjoy!
This makes two servings and can last three days in the fridge so feel free to double the recipe. If you’re looking for more details on this recipe or are interested in a steel cut oats version, check out our post on Tasty Basic Overnight Oats.
Egg Muffin Cups
Grease muffin tin
Mix 6 large eggs and 1/4 cup almond milk in a medium bowl
Mix chopped veggies into bowl of egg, milk, salt and pepper
Pour mixture into greased muffin tin and baked for 20-25 minutes at 375 or until middle of egg cup springs back to touch.
Egg cups can be kept in the fridge and reheated for about 4 days. The egg cups can be eaten by themselves, with a side of salsa or smashed and rolled up into a tortilla such as the ones listed above.
Homemade Turkey Sausage + Sweet Potato + sautéed veggies in avocado oil
Ultimate Options for Those Who Say: I Refuse to Meal Prep!
Well, there you have it, the ultimate healthy breakfast for athletes. Consistency is key and I promise it will pay off.
While there are very high-quality protein bars now available and we all love the convenience, I encourage everyone to make some of these efficient whole-food breakfast options a staple in their routine.
Do you have any favorite grab and go breakfasts that meet the 4 criteria listed above? Please share your comments below!