That may explain why breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than skippers.
Researchers at Israel's Tel Aviv University found that women who ate half of their daily calories at breakfast lost almost 20 pounds on average over 12 weeks, while those who ate more of their calories at dinner lost just eight pounds (even though all participants consumed 1,400 calories a day).
The 2013 study also reported that those who ate a bigger breakfast dropped more inches from their waistline and lowered their body-mass index nearly twice as much as those who skewed their calories toward dinner. (Beware of the Top 7 Diet Myths That Derail Your Weight Loss, and learn how to fix your mistakes.)
And what about the idea that working out on an empty stomach promotes weight loss? That may work for some cyclists as part of a long-term and deliberate program that trains the body to utilize fat stores more efficiently, says Marrs. But for the majority of cyclists whose primary goal is fueling their rides, eating breakfast is the way to go. And according to the National Weight Control Registry, you should do so within an hour of waking to kick-start your metabolism before your body starts going into energy-conservation mode.
But not just any breakfast will do. Gulping a pile of refined carbs—such as a doughnut or a bowl of sugar-packed cereal—triggers a blood-sugar spike (and subsequent drop) that sends you reaching for fast energy all day long. Starting off with a variety of healthy fats, protein and unrefined carbs, such as oatmeal and whole-grain breads, delivers sustained energy that curbs cravings. The key is to tailor the meal to the kind of riding you'll do.
Use theses ideas to fill your plate wisely.
Moderately paced commute On days when your slow-to-moderate rides are sandwiched around an eight-hour desk session, avoid fast-burning fuel. Instead, reach for protein, healthy fats and high-fiber veggies, fruits, and grains, which will keep hunger at bay until lunchtime. Try Scrambled eggs with vegetables, mixed berries, and a slice of high-fiber toast with nut butter.
High-intensity race or ride: Your body will be left with little energy for digestion. "Top off your glycogen stores with extra carbs the night before," says Marrs. Two hours preride, eat a low-fiber breakfast with a small amount of protein plus fast-release fuels, which clear your system quickly. Try a piece of toast and a smoothie made with berries, banana and plain yogurt.
Century or other long ride: Long rides call for the slow-release energy offered by protein and whole grains. Try an egg burrito with sweet potato, spinach and salsa. Doing a multi-day ride? Include water-dense fruits for hydration and anti-inflammatory foods such as walnuts and berries, which help repair muscle tissue and alleviate soreness: 35 percent protein; 45 percent unrefined carbohydrates; 10 percent vegetables; 10 percent fats.
Weekend group ride: A 2- to 3-hour weekend ride on flat and rolling roads will burn through most of your energy stores, so eating a carb-rich breakfast is essential. Pair grains with fruit, advises Boulder, Colorado-based coach John Hughes: "You can digest more carbs per hour if they're from mixed sources." Try oatmeal (not instant) with milk, berries and banana.
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