"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," goes the old adage. Research continues to show that carving out time for a nutritious breakfast before heading out the door can benefit your health, performance and waistline.
Studies demonstrate breakfast eaters who consume foods like whole-grain cereals and low-fat dairy typically have higher daily intakes of fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium and other must-have nutrients.
Skipping breakfast can also lead to inadequate caloric intake, says Jackie Dikos, RD, a competitive runner and founder of Nutrition Success in Indianapolis. "And consuming too few calories can impair performance and eventually contribute to running-related injuries."
Here's the skinny on the importance of this vital meal and the nutritional bell ringers that up the health ante.
Stay TrimEat a well-balanced breakfast to stay on good terms with the scale. One reason: A morning meal squashes diet-derailing cravings. Using MRIs of brain activity, scientists at Imperial College London determined that people who forgo breakfast are activated more by the sight of high-calorie foods (pizza, cake and chocolate) than low-calorie foods (vegetables, fish and salad).
Breakfast skippers rated pictures of high-calorie foods as more appealing than those of low-calorie foods. When breakfast was consumed, no strong preference for high-calorie foods was shown. "Doing without breakfast sends your body into starvation mode, bringing your metabolism and fat-burning to a slow crawl," says Felicia Stoler, a New Jersey-based sports dietitian and exercise physiologist.
Boost BrainpowerDuring sleep, blood glucose (the main fuel for your brain) drops. So when you reach for the snooze button, your brain is signaling a need for an energy boost. "Breakfast, better yet a healthy breakfast that's not pumped full of sugar, helps to maintain normal blood sugar patterns, which supports concentration and mental activity," says Dikos. Now, can you remember that?
Run HarderIf you run first thing in the morning, don't overlook the importance of eating something beforehand."Exercising on an empty stomach and low blood sugar is like trying to run your car without gas," offers Stoler. "You need fuel in your system to not only start your engine, but to keep it going strong so you can run harder."
Stoler recommends consuming easily digestible carbohydrates such as fruit juice, chocolate milk and yogurt drinks about 30 minutes before a morning workout. "This also cuts down on post-exercise hunger and the overeating that may result," she adds.