National Nutrition Month: Why athletes shouldn’t skip breakfast

  • Published
  • By Agnese Walker M.S., R.D.N.
  • 6th Medical Group registered dietician

March is National Nutrition Month, an awareness program focusing on the importance of informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits.

Not being fueled before a workout will leave you feeling sluggish, reduce energy supply to your muscles, and slow down your metabolism. Your heart rate will be higher than usual, and your rate of perceived effort will increase. These effects won’t just be limited to those morning workouts, however.

In a study performed at the University of Loughborough in 2016, researchers took a group of men and had them fast overnight. Half continued the fast until lunch time, while the other ate a regular breakfast. Both groups ate lunch, and then 90-minutes later did 30-minutes on the bike at half their maximal oxygen uptake or VO2 max, followed by 30-minutes of fast biking. The group that ate breakfast performed 4.5 percent better than the fasted group, which is significant given that the testing was done 5.5 hours after their missed meal.

Your brain runs on glucose. So you need it. In fact, the brain burns through 20 percent of your daily energy haul.  Those who missed breakfast consistently reported feeling lethargic, unfocused, and experienced a decreased level of activity. Skipping breakfast has the unfortunate side effect of making us less smart.

For a lot of athletes the idea of getting out of bed any earlier than they have to fills them with a sense of revulsion. When it’s 4:57 a.m. and another 3-minutes of sleep feels like the difference between life and death, breakfast is instantly sacrificed with zero guilt for a little more pillow time.

There’s an easy way around that. It starts with the word “meal” and ends with “prep.” The night before, put together a quick and balanced breakfast to shovel into your mouth when you get up. You don’t need to have a five-egg scramble every morning when you wake up but you should get some a mix of carbs and protein in you before heading to the gym.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month each March to teach people of all ages how good nutrition can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

The Academy offers several tips to help you have better nutrition. You should make sure to eat breakfast every day, and to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. Make sure to watch your portion sizes and keep healthy snacks on hand. Finally, get educated on food labels and food safety guidelines so that you will know how to make the best nutrition decisions for yourself and your family.

Make National Nutrition Month the catalyst for self-reflection and a healthier you. Give us a call at the Nutritional Medicine Clinic at (813) 827-9357 and let us help guide you to a healthier life.