Building a Better Athlete... with Breakfast!

I'm sure you have heard it before, but it won't hurt to hear it again.. breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for athletes! Take a moment and think about your typical day. As an athlete, it is most likely a busy one consisting of workouts, team practices, team meetings, and other responsibilities related to your sport. On top of that, if you are a student-athlete, you have classes, homework, studying, and maybe a side-job to fit in there as well. And don't forget about your social life with family and friends!

Just listing an athlete's daily responsibilities is tiring, which is why starting each day with breakfast is absolutely essential. Let's put it this way: you probably wouldn't begin a long road trip without filling up the car with gas; if so, you certainly wouldn't get too far! Same thing applies to fueling your body. Starting the day with a wholesome breakfast provides the energy an athlete needs as well as serves many other important functions:

1. Let's start with the most obvious one. The word breakfast literally means "breaking the fast" from the night. Your body has just gone several hours without any nutrients, and many of your energy stores have been depleted. Breakfast refills these energy stores and prepares you for the high athletic demands and other activities of the day ahead.

2. When you awaken from a night's sleep, your blood sugar is typically at its lowest. A good breakfast helps normalize this blood sugar (or glucose) and prevents feelings of tiredness and irritability. Trying to power through a tough morning workout with a low blood sugar is not easy, nor is it healthy. Your performance in the weight room will most likely decline; in addition, episodes of dizziness or feelings of faint may occur. Fuel up!

3. Breakfast jump starts your metabolism and puts your body in "ready-mode." Your brain and muscles are geared up and ready for anything, whether it be a test at school, team practice, or workout. Fueling your body in the morning (and throughout the day) helps to improve both the intensity and duration of training. Now what athlete wouldn't want that?

Now that you're a pro at the importance of breakfast, here are some creative ideas to wake up to. Eat up and Enjoy!

Oatmeal ideas
·      Apple Pie Oatmeal: Cook ½ dry oats with water or skim milk or light soy milk. Add ¼ cup no sugar added applesauce. Sprinkle 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Top with 1/8 cup of walnuts or almond slivers
·      Recommended Cereals: Fiber One, All Bran, Special K, Kashi, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Chex, Cheerios
·      Try to stick with those that have LESS than 10 grams of sugar per serving, AT LEAST 3 grams of fiber per serving and made with Whole Grain. (Whole grain should be the FIRST word in the ingredient list)
·      Pump up the nutrition of your bowl of cereal with fresh or dried fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raisins, craisins) and some nuts. 
-    Use Skim or 1% or Light Soy milk
Wholesome waffles
·      2 Whole grain waffles (ex: homemade with whole wheat flour, “Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles”)
·      On each waffle, top with:
o   1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
o   1/8 cup low fat or non fat yogurt
o   1/8 cup sliced (fresh!) strawberries or blueberries
o   Sprinkle with heart healthy nuts: almonds, walnuts, or pecans
Peanut Butter Creations
·      Peanut Butter Banana Crunch: Spread medium sized banana with peanut butter and roll in your favorite high fiber, whole grain cereal
·      Fruity Nut Butter Wedges: on a whole-wheat tortilla, spread with 2 tbsp peanut butter, top with sliced bananas, slices strawberries, and almond slivers. Fold in half, press firmly, and cut into wedges… (Delicious!)
·      Peanut Butter Strawberry Bagel: on a small whole wheat bagel, spread with 2 tbsp peanut butter and top with sliced strawberries
-     Spread a Whole Wheat English muffin with your favorite Nut Butter, top with a sliced banana, and lightly drizzle with honey
Fruit Fixings
·      Fruit and Yogurt parfait: 6 ounces Low Fat/ Non Fat Yogurt. ½ cup 100% Whole Grain, High Fiber Cereal. ½ cup sliced fruit of choice: strawberries, grapes, melon, etc. 1/8 cup heart healthy unsalted nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans
·      Apple Yogurt Dippers: Slice apple into wedges and dip in your favorite low fat yogurt.
·      Small-Medium Whole Wheat Bagel with reduced fat Cream Cheese topped with sliced strawberries
·      How to make Scrambled Eggs in your microwave: 2 eggs (1 Yolk) or ½ cup Egg Substitute (Spray small bowl with PAM & microwave eggs 1:45 minutes, stirring midway)
·      Egg English Muffin: Scrambled egg and low fat Cheese (or try Light Laughing Cow cheese wedge) on Whole Wheat English Muffin
-     Healthy Breakfast Burrito: Small whole wheat tortilla, 1 scrambled egg, 2-3 slices turkey, 2 tbsp grated reduced-free cheese, 2-3 tbsp salsa