Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of An Athlete's Day

Without question, breakfast is the meal that makes champions. Unfortunately, many active people follow a lifestyle that eliminates breakfast or includes foods that are far from champion-builders.

I commonly counsel athletes who skip breakfast, grab only a light lunch, train on fumes, gorge at dinner and snack on "junk" until bedtime. They not only rob their bodies of the nutrients needed for health, but also lack energy for high-quality workouts.

A satisfying breakfast tends to invest in better health than does a grab-anything-in-sight dinner. Sarah, a collegiate athlete, learned that fueling her body's engine at the start of her day helps her feel more energetic and also able to choose better quality lunch and dinner foods.

That is, when she has granola, banana and juice in the morning, as well as a sandwich and yogurt for lunch, she stops devouring brownies after dinner.

Excuses to skip breakfast are abundant: "No time," "I'm not hungry in the morning" and "I don't like breakfast foods." Weight-conscious athletes pipe up, "My diet starts at breakfast."

These excuses are just that, excuses; they sabotage your sports performance.

Here's a look at the benefits of eating breakfast. I hope to convince you that breakfast is the most important meal of your sports diet.

Breakfast for Dieters

If you want to lose weight, you should start your diet at dinner, not at breakfast! For example, do not eat a meager bowl of Special K for your "diet breakfast." You'll get too hungry later in the day and crave sweets.

A bigger breakfast (cereal + toast + peanut butter) can prevent afternoon or evening cookie-binges. An adequate (500 to 700 calorie) breakfast provides enough energy for you to enjoy your exercise, as opposed to dragging yourself through an afternoon workout that feels like punishment.

If you are trying to lose weight, you should target at least 500 to 700 calories for breakfast; this should leave you feeling adequately fed.

To prove the benefits of eating such a big breakfast, try this experiment:

1. Using food labels to calculate calories, boost your standard breakfast to at least 500 calories. For example, add to your english muffin (150 calories): 1 tablespoon peanut butter (100 cal.), 8 oz. orange juice (100 cal.) and a yogurt (150 cal). Total: 500 calories.

2. Observe what happens to your day's food intake when you eat a full breakfast vs. a skimpy "diet breakfast." The 500+ calorie breakfast allows you to successfully eat less at night and create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

Remember: Your job as a dieter is to fuel by day and lose weight by night. Successful dieters lose weight while they are sleeping; they wake up ready for another nice breakfast that fuels them for another high-energy day.

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