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Breakfast for athletes

Breakfast for athletes

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day and Eleanor Jones cooks up some ideas

My nan was always extolling the virtues of breakfast. She would point out that it was the first meal that you ate each day. Literally, it’s where you ‘break’ your overnight ‘fast’.

Unfortunately, it’s also the first one that gets forgotten about, especially when you roll out of bed 10 minutes before you leave home for work or school!

In this article, I look at what makes a good breakfast for strength and power athletes, endurance fanatics and the rest of us who like to eat on the run.

» Bircher Muesli

Bircher-style muesli simply means that the oats have been left to soak in fluid overnight – fruit juice or yoghurt, for example.

It’s a great idea for those who like their duvet a little too much in the morning – just grab it from the fridge and go.

Add fruit (apples, berries) for flavour and additional micro-vitamins.

PROS: Quick and can be eaten on the run – vegetarian, high-carbohydrate content (good for heavy sessions). You can add different fruits for variety

CONS: Needs to be prepared in advance

» Full English

Okay then, perhaps not the Full English. Traditionally the mainstay of the greasy spoon, the Full English breakfast doesn’t have to be the precursor to a heart attack. By grilling your meats, adding vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and beans) and missing off the fried foods, you can turn this dish into a healthy and filling option.

PROS: Excellent protein and fibre content. It’s filling and excellent if you’re watching your weight. Add some toast for endurance sessions

CONS: Requires stove and time to prepare

» Oatcakes

You can buy these ready-made in the supermarket. They’re pancakes made with oatbran, which is a high-fibre ingredient making them very filling.

Just like pancakes, you can add savoury toppings such as cheese or ham as well as sweet coverings. Watch out though for ‘easy’ toppings like Nutella or toffee sauce that are sugary and of little nutritional value.

PROS: High in fibre, filling, vegetarian, varied – customise your toppings. No cooking required

CONS: Easy to choose sugary toppings that have little nutritional value

» Cereals

The stereotypical breakfast choice of many Britons, there is a massive range of cereals on the supermarket shelves. Many of them are fortified, which means they have added vitamins.

Around 50% of the iron intake for many Brits comes from these enriched cereals. But make sure you check the labels. Many brands may be low in fat, but also have high sugar to compensate. That’s fine if you’re training in the morning, but not if you’re watching your waistline.

Look for the low-sugar, wholegrain varieties and add fruit, yoghurt and nuts to increase the nutrients you get from the meal.

PROS: Added vitamins, easy to prepare, convenient and high in carbohydrate (sugars)

CONS: Watch out for hidden sugar content

» Smoothies

Smoothies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Add milk, yoghurt, fruit juice, fruits, nut butter, seeds, oats or greens you can tailor them to your individual preferences.

PROS: Quick and can be eaten on the run. Vegetarian, easy (use frozen fruit), high dairy content (protein and carbohydrate)

CONS: Can be high in calories

» Eleanor Jones is senior sport scientist at the University of Birmingham and a BASES-accredited sport scientist with an IOC diploma in sports nutrition

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