Your mother was right again – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Failing to optimally fuel your body first thing in the morning can leave you more prone to fatigue, low concentration and may even make it more difficult for you to lose body fat.
An optimal nutritional intake at breakfast will include at least one type of low glycaemic index, wholegrain carbohydrate as well as a source of nutrient rich protein. The slowly digesting carbohydrate will help regulate blood glucose levels throughout the morning while simultaneously re-fueling the muscles, while protein will provide both essential
nutrients including calcium and iron but also help to keep you feel full throughout the morning.
One of the most challenging issues when attempting to achieve this balance is that the large majority of breakfast cereals and bread readily available are high glycaemic index, meaning they are digested relatively quickly. Plain breakfast cereals such as corn flakes as well as flake style varieties which are sweet or contain dried fruits all tend to be high GI as does white and wholemeal bread. For this reason, your best carbohydrate choices at breakie will be oats, muesli or grain breads, teamed with low fat milk or yoghurt, egg or baked beans.
Breakfast skipping proposes an issue for metabolic rate as after 10-12 hours without food (the overnight fast), the body begins to slow down its burning capacity in an attempt to preserve fuel. This is the reason that you may find you get hungry 2-3 hours after eating your breakfast – as the body is kick starting the metabolism and burning food again. Remember, hunger is a good sign, it means that your body is burning food well. In fact, a large breakfast may be particularly important in optimal fat burning. A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that dieters’ who had large breakfasts, lost significantly more body fat on a energy restricted diet than those who had a small bowl of breakfast cereal only. So, if you have been having the same, small breakfast for as long as you can remember, it may be time to increase the size a little – try adding some extra fruit or yoghurt and then avoid snacking through the morning.
Two of the most common issues observed with individuals breakfast choices include eating too much carbohydrate without adequate protein and overdoing the coffee. For example, heavy muffins, pancakes, banana breads and large serves of muesli with fruit may contain plenty of energy rich carbohydrates but with little other nutrition. This significant energy load can result in a surge of glucose delivered to the body’s cells, followed by a drop, resulting in fatigue and low energy. Always remember to combine these breakfast choices with other protein rich foods such as low fat dairy to help prevent this response. Another issue is drinking extremely large serves of milk based coffee, especially if they are teamed with sugar based syrups and toppings. Keep in mind that a jumbo vanilla latte can have as many calories as the breakfast meal itself so always choosing small cup sizes, avoided added syrups and ask for skim or lite milk.
If you find it challenging to down a large breakfast before early morning training sessions try and at least eat a small amount of carbohydrate before you head out on the bike. Remember, the body is only able to access fat store if it has some carbohydrate readily available to do so. Try eating a couple of crackers, a small snack bar or even half a glass of low fat milk with a scoop of protein to provide the body with a small amount of fuel to allow it to access fat stores for energy during the ride. And most importantly, do not forget to enjoy a substantial breakfast when you finish your session.