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Breakfast is for Champions
Dietician Nancy Clark takes a look at just how important that
first meal of the day can be.
By Nancy Clark
From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Without question, breakfast is the meal that makes champions.
Unfortunately, many active people follow a lifestyle that eliminates
breakfast or includes foods that are far from champion builders.
I commonly counsel athletes who skip breakfast, grab only a light
lunch, train on fumes, gorge at dinner and snack on “junk”
until bedtime. They not only rob their bodies of the nutrients needed
for health, but also lack energy for high-quality workouts.
A satisfying breakfast tends to invest in better health than does
a “grab anything in sight” dinner.
Excuses to skip breakfast are abundant: "No time," "I'm
not hungry in the morning" and "I don't like breakfast
Athletes that are weight-conscious pipe up with “My diet
starts at breakfast.” These excuses are just that, excuses.
They sabotage your sports performance. Here's a look at the benefits
of eating breakfast.
Breakfast for Dieters
If you want to lose weight, you should start your diet at dinner,
not at breakfast. For example, do not eat a meager bowl of Special
K for your "diet breakfast." You'll get too hungry later
in the day and crave sweets. A bigger breakfast (i.e. cereal,
toast and peanut butter) can prevent afternoon or evening cookie
binges. An adequate 500-700 calorie breakfast provides enough
energy for you to enjoy your exercise, as opposed to dragging
yourself through an afternoon workout that feels like punishment.
Remember, your job as a dieter is to fuel by day and lose weight
by night. Successful dieters lose weight while they are sleeping.
They wake up ready for another nice breakfast that fuels them
for another high-energy day.
Breakfast for the Morning Exerciser
If you exercise first thing in the morning, you may not want
a big pre-exercise breakfast. Too much food can feel heavy and
However, you can likely tolerate half of a breakfast, such as
half of a bagel, a slice of toast or a banana before your workout.
Just 100 to 300 calories can put a little carbohydrate into your
system, boost your blood sugar so that you are running on fuel,
not fumes, and enhance your performance. You'll likely discover
this small pre-exercise meal adds endurance and enthusiasm to
Breakfast for the Noontime, Afternoon and Evening Exerciser
A hearty breakfast is important for people who exercise later
in the day. It not only tames hunger, but also provides the fuel
needed for hard workouts. Research has shown that athletes who
ate breakfast and then four hours later enjoyed an energy bar
five minutes before a noontime workout were able to exercise 20
percent harder at the end of the hour-long exercise test compared
to when they ate no breakfast and no pre-exercise snack. Breakfast
works. Breakfast and a pre-exercise snack work even better.
What's For Breakfast?
One of the simplest breakfasts of champions is a wholesome cereal
with lowfat milk, banana and orange juice. This provides not only
carbohydrates to fuel the muscles, but also protein (from the
milk) to build strong muscles and numerous other vitamins and
minerals such as calcium, potassium, vitamin C, iron (if you choose
enriched breakfast cereals) and fiber (if you choose bran cereals).
You can keep cereal at the office, bring milk to work and eat
breakfast at the office. Breakfast is a good investment in a productive
The Bottom Line
Breakfast works wonders for improving the quality of your diet.
That is, eating breakfast results in less "junk food"
later in the day. Breakfast also enhances weight control, sports
performance, daily energy levels and future health. Breakfast
is indeed the meal of champions. Make it a habit—no excuses.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, nutritionist at SportsMedicine Associates
(617-739-2003) in Brookline Mass., is the author of Nancy Clark's
Sports Nutrition Guidebook ($23) and her Food Guide for Marathoners:
Tips for Everyday Champions ($20), available by sending a check
to Sports Nutrition Services, 830 Boylston St #205, Brookline, MA
02467, or via www.nancyclarkrd.com.
Sample Quick Sports Breakfasts
- Bran muffin and vanilla yogurt
- Two slices of leftover, thick-crust pizza
- Peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich
- Pita with 1 or 2 slices of lowfat cheese and a large apple
- Baggie of lowfat granola with a handful of raisins
(preceded by 8 oz. of lowfat milk before you run out the door)
- Cinnamon raisin bagel (one large or two small) plus a can of