Breakfast – it’s deemed the most important meal of the day, yet sometimes the hardest to fit into a busy schedule! Between late weeknight practices and games as well as early morning training and school, this meal may get neglected by young athletes and families.
Why is breakfast important?
First, everyone can benefit from breakfast, not just athletes. That first meal of the day provides the brain energy to improve focus and complete tasks at work or school. Having a balanced breakfast also curbs fatigue and extreme hunger later in the day. Young athletes specifically, have high energy needs and require extra fuel to keep them moving and growing! Thus, having a well-balanced breakfast helps meet these energy needs. A Canadian study found that 98.9% of elite athletes have breakfast every morning, contributing to the success and growth in their sport.
What makes a balanced breakfast?
Breakfast should include 3 key components, carbohydrates, protein and a bright colour. Carbohydrates are our brain’s preferred source of energy and help fuel us throughout the day. Examples of carbohydrates for breakfast include oats, whole grain bread, rice, banana, cereal and muffins. Protein is the building block for our muscles and helps to keep us energized for longer periods of time. Examples of protein foods include Greek yogurt, cheese, meat, cow’s milk, soy milk, peanut butter and nuts. The last component of a balanced breakfast is a bright colour! This can be a fruit or vegetable that provides the body with beneficial vitamins. Some examples include strawberries, bananas, bell peppers and orange juice. Below are some balanced breakfast ideas that include all 3 components.
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich
- Smoothie with Greek yogurt and fruit
- Omelette with green peppers and toast
- 1-2 eggs with avocado toast
- Overnight oats with soy milk and strawberries
What about morning practices or games?
Eating before early morning practices can be difficult. Sometimes we don’t necessarily feel like eating or have enough time. However, the body needs quick fuel to maximize the session. If there is only 30 minutes to eat before a morning practice, try to have a small serving of a simple carbohydrate food. Some examples include a banana, ½ bagel, applesauce, arrowroot cookies or a granola bar. The body digests and breaks down these foods quicker than foods high in protein, fibre or fat. Following your practice or game, have a balanced breakfast such as the ones listed above. This will help your body and muscles recover from the session.
The key to breakfast is consistency, not perfection. Whether breakfast is a hot meal at the kitchen table or a protein muffin in the car on the way to school, it is still a benefit to you as a student and athlete.
Erdman, Kelly & Tunnicliffe, Jasmine & Lun, Victor & Reimer, Raylene. (2013). Eating Patterns and Composition of Meals and Snacks in Elite Canadian Athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 23. 210-9. 10.1123/ijsnem.23.3.210.
Res, P, T. (2014) Recovery nutrition for football players. Retrieved from https://www.gssiweb.org/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-129-recovery-nutrition-for-football-players
Photo: Ben Kolde on Unsplash