Breakfast for Runners

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

We all know “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” You’ve heard the cliche since childhood. However, loads of websites lately are posting new information about  your first meal of the day.

I’ve rounded up some breakfast rules for runners to follow. You’ll need your energy to fuel your early-morning workouts.

Eat when you first wake up. You should try to eat within 30-60 minutes of first waking to keep your metabolism boosted, especially because your body’s starved all night. If you are someone who finds taking in heavier foods in the morning difficult, try smoothies. I prefer green smoothies that are sweeter in flavor. Try the following and mix to your liking:

2 C spinach or kale
2 C fruit, such as bananas, sliced apples or watermelon (or a mixture of the above)
1 C water or coconut water
1 T protein powder

Add in the liquid first into a blender, then add the fruit, then greens and protein to make it blend more easily.

Bananas are a runner’s best food. Potassium is key to runners and bananas are chock full of them. Plus, they are easy on the stomach, so it’s no surprise you find these at the finish line of races and sometimes even at aid stations. They are best at breakfast, providing you your necessary potassium and resistant starch.

Best breakfast to try:
1 C steel cut oats
1 C banana slices
1 t honey

The oats and banana provide resistant starch and burn fat for fuel.

Add in protein. If you run first thing in the morning, sometimes protein sits heavy on your stomach. I recommend trying synthetic protein such as powder into a smoothie to make it easier to digest. If you don’t run in the morning, try out egg whites mixed with spinach for your breakfast. It’ll make you feel fuller longer.


According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of those who keep weight off eat a morning meal every day. Your diet makes a difference.


Breakfast for Runners

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

When you arise each morning, your body has starved for 9-12 hours–your glycogen and blood-glucose levels dropped and you need to replenish your body to revitalize it for the day. But for morning runners, what can you eat? You don’t want a large breakfast to cause gastrointestinal problems but you need some calories to get you through a workout.

I conducted some research to find out options. As we all know, what may work for some, may not work for another. But eating breakfast will prime your body for a good run, provided you choose wisely with a proper mix of good carbohydrates and protein. Here are a few to test out that do not overload you with calories:

Carbohydrate Lovers
Steel cut oats provide healthy carbs and make you feel fuller longer. You should test this out on a smaller run (i.e., less than three miles) to make sure your body can handle something as substantial as oats. Try adding berries to the top and a drizzle of honey for flavor. Also, the honey can provide a sugar spike to get you running longer–with the same effect as a gel.

Protein Fanatics
A small package of trail mix is easier on your stomach than heavy eggs and sausage or bacon. You can even make your own by adding in oats, nuts and a little chocolate if you can take sugar in the morning.

Sensitive Stomachs
A meal replacement drink would work best if you can’t handle heavy breakfasts before you run. My coaches always recommended the product Ensure, but others such as Slim Fast would work–depends on your taste preferences.

Sweet Tooths
If you like your muffins/pastries in the morning, try a protein bar in a sweeter flavor. You’ll get your sugar fix plus some added protein.


Should You Eat Breakfast?

 Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/

We’ve all heard the exclamation, “Eat breakfast!” throughout our lives. Your mother toted breakfast as the “the most important meal of the day” and nutritionists and health enthusiasts alike stressed the importance of breakfast because you are literally “breaking the fast” after sleeping and not feeding your body. It gives you energy and helps you lose weight, as all evidence suggests. But is it as importance as once thought?

Maybe not.

A recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that researchers who studied dieters skipping breakfast lost just as much weight as dieters who ate breakfast regularly. The researchers do not deny that breakfast offers several health benefits. However, weight loss may not be one of them.

This is all counter-intuitive to everything we’ve heard about dieting.

How was the study conducted?

Researchers split 309 adults who wanted to lose weight into three groups:

1. The control group. This group received a USDA pamphlet titled “Let’s Eat for the Health of It” describing good nutritional habits, but never mentions breakfast.

2. The test group–eating breakfast. This group received the same pamphlet, but researchers instructed them to eat breakfast before 10 a.m. every day, not ever skipping it.

3. The test group–don’t eat breakfast. This group received the pamphlet, but was told to avoid consuming anything but water until 11 a.m. each day.

This test lasted for 16 weeks and researchers monitored weight loss of each subject.

What were the results?

A total of 283 completed the study. All three groups lost the same amount of weight on average.

“This should be a wake-up call for all of us to always ask for evidence about the recommendations we hear so widely offered,” David Allison, director of the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center, said in a statement.

What does this mean to you?

As runners, you need to be cognizant of what works for you. If you run in the morning, you may need to eat breakfast for the energy to get through your workout. It also provides a routine for your body–it knows when food is coming and will get hungry anticipating it. Bodies crave routine.

This study proves somethings don’t work for everyone. Everyone is an individual so you need to know your body.


Benefits of Peanuts for Breakfast

Peanuts or, more specifically, peanut butter, have long been part of the athlete’s bag of tricks. High in protein, healthy fats and fiber, peanut butter is a nearly perfect food to fuel your training. A new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, has found yet another reason to find some way to sneak peanuts or peanut butter into your diet.


What they found

Over the course of the study, the researchers observed something that they referred to as the “second meal effect,” wherein peanuts showed an amazing ability to regulate the subjects’ blood sugar even if they ate a carb-loaded lunch.

A peanut-based breakfast also helped to keep the subjects feeling fuller late into the day, therefore restricting the amount of calories they ate. For up to 12-hours after they ate peanuts, the subjects showed elevated levels of the hormone peptide YY, which makes you feel full.

While the exact mechanisms at work here aren’t completely understood, the researchers theorized that it’s most likely the combination of protein, fat and fiber that gives peanut butter all these benefits.


Why It Matters

Researchers are only just starting to fully understand the importance of blood sugar control for the athlete and casual exerciser alike but, it’s clear that the effects of this reaction are far-reaching. Besides the terrible, frustrating, sometimes debilitating blood sugar crashed we’ve all experienced, your insulin reaction can have a huge impact on your fitness levels.

Insulin, the hormone that’s released when sugar enters your body, acts a messenger to let your body know that it’s time to use some nutrients and store others. That means that, under insulin’s direction, any calories that don’t have an immediate use get stored as body fat. If your insulin levels are consistently high, your body will continue to build up more fat reserves.

You don’t want that.

On the other hand, healthy insulin levels make sure that your muscles get all the nutrients they need to recover and rebuild from exercise. Clearly, then, maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day is important to, not just your energy levels, but your overall health.


Picking The Right Butter

It’s true that the above-noted study said that you could eat either peanuts or peanut butter to get these benefits, but chances are pretty good you’ll want to opt for the butter since it’s easier to pair with other foods or mix into recipes. When selecting your peanut butter, go as natural as possible. Avoid low-fat options, since these typically have unreasonably high levels of fat and sugar. Plus, the fat in peanut butter is highly beneficial and partly responsible for the benefits we’ve discussed. As unattractive as it might sound, or look, you want a butter that has a layer of fatty oil collected at the top of the jar.



IDEA Fitness Journal: Peanuts Can Curb Appetite