Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From the Nutritionist's Mouth: Champions Eat Breakfast

Whether you are trying to be an elite Olympic champion or you just want to feel like a champion in your own life, you’ve got to eat breakfast. Breakfast literally means to “break the fast” from going without food overnight. It gets your metabolism started and sets the tone for your how you will eat over the course of the day. So yes, it may in fact be the most important meal of the day. And just to make it clear, whenever I use the word “breakfast” it never ever means “donut”, unless it is one of those high protein, high fiber, low sugar ones. Let me know when Dunkin’ Donuts starts selling them.

Breakfast benefits

Weight Management
Eating breakfast can help people lose weight and maintain that weight loss. Many studies have found that those who regularly eat breakfast tend to weigh less than those who skip breakfast. This first meal of the day helps get your metabolism going and makes you less likely to overindulge later in the day. Those calories you think you are saving by skipping breakfast are likely to be consumed at some point, with a few extra added because you are more likely to binge.

Protein appears to be an important part of breakfast as it helps increase satiety, making you feel full longer. In a study presented at the 2007 Experimental Biology meeting, researchers found that eating 2 eggs a day for breakfast helped women lose 65% more weight than women who ate a bagel for breakfast. The egg eaters also had a greater reduction in their waist size and reported more energy without increasing cholesterol levels.

Improved Concentration
Your brain needs energy too, especially from good quality carbohydrates such as whole grains and fruit. Studies have found that children and adults who eat breakfast do better in school and at work.  The American Dietetic Association reports that children who eat breakfast miss less school, are better problem solvers, are more creative, and have better hand-eye coordination.

Better Blood Sugar Control, Healthier Heart
A healthy high fiber breakfast that has a low glycemic index can help keep blood sugar levels in better control throughout the day. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070905095324.htm)
Breakfast also may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A study conducted by the American Heart Association found that obesity and insulin resistance rates were 35 to 50% lower in breakfast eaters. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes and increases the risk for heart disease.

Improved Beauty
Ok, I threw that one in there but based on the other benefits, it is totally possible.

What to Eat for Breakfast?

Creating a breakfast that includes some protein, healthy high fiber carbs, and even a little healthy fat will give you the most health benefits and will leave you feeling fuller longer.  Some quick ideas:

Egg on whole grain toast (like Ezekiel Bread)
Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds or walnuts

Mozzarella cheese stick and fruit

Protein shake- whey or other protein of choice, milk or alternative (almond, etc.), frozen fruit like blueberries…throw in some spinach or avocado too

Cold ready to eat cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber, add a handful of almonds or walnuts

Whole grain toast w/ nut butter of choice or low fat cream cheese, even Greek yogurt can be used as a spread to boost protein.

Egg and piece of fruit

Old fashioned oatmeal, handful walnuts, handful of blueberries, milk or milk alternative.

Protein or granola bars in an emergency. Look for ones that have 7 grams protein and at least 5 grams fiber.

Lean turkey, ham, or roast beef can be a source of protein in the morning too.

Don’t be afraid to have leftover dinner for breakfast.

Running and Breakfast Timing

Timing your breakfast before a run is a very individual thing. I have found that experimenting can be helpful.  In general a larger breakfast of 400-500 calories is OK if you have 2-3 hours before a run or exercise. If you get up and run right away, take time for a little something in the range of 100-300 calories.  Some runners experience an insulin surge and resulting glucose drop when they mis-time their pre-run meal and may need to adjust accordingly based on trying different combinations and amounts of food.  When I eat my normal breakfast then run an hour later I get weak and shaky without having a small amount of carbohydrate 15 minutes before my run.  Start with the “general” rule of thumb and tweak accordingly based on how you feel.

How's Day 8 of the '30 Day Fitness Challenge' going for you?

A healthy breakfast may be a great goal to add into your challenge!

Megan Witt, RD, LD, CLT
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist 
MegaNutrition Works, LLC 
Certified LEAP Therapist for chronic conditions caused by food sensitivities including irritable bowel, migraine, fibromyalgia and more.

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