Haven’t we all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Unfortunately rushed schedules, lack of appetite, early practices and the snooze button often overshadow the desire to eat in the morning.
Breakfast jump starts the metabolism and boosts your blood sugar providing fuel to exercise, concentrate, focus and learn. This is why many schools go out of their way to offer breakfast programs for kids called “Breakfast for Learning”. The morning meal however is not just “kids stuff”. Research shows that adults who miss breakfast are more likely to be overweight. Without food in the morning, your metabolism remains slow thus burning less calories and leaving you with little appetite until later in the day. Unfortunately the hunger usually kicks in at full force by the end of the day and most breakfast skippers compensate by overeating in the evening leading to excess fat storage.
Think of your metabolism as a campfire. As you sleep through the night your “flame” burns low. In the morning you need to stoke the fire by adding some fuel to get you burning strong again. Don’t be surprised if breakfast leaves you hungrier before lunch. Hunger is a good sign indicating that your metabolism is burning through your food. A good breakfast and a small mid-morning snack will often mean increased energy and less eating at nighttime.
So what makes up a breakfast of champions? Look for food combinations that will be long and slow burning – just like adding hardwood on a fire. Sugary cereals, poptarts, nutella and white bread are examples of fast burning foods that act like “dry leaves” on your metabolic fire. They give you a big flame that dies out quickly. For lasting energy choose a Hardwood Breakfast that has a source of protein and complex carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, oatmeal and cereals with less than 8g of sugar and at least 3 grams of fibre, will give you a better boost in energy. Protein (and fats) such as eggs, cheese, peanut butter, ham, yogurt and even the occasional bacon, burn more slowly, helping you feel full for longer. A Hardwood Breakfast could be as simple as a piece of cheese and an apple on the way out the door or a scrambled egg burrito with veggies and cheese.
What about breakfast before exercise? Everyone has different preferences when eating before exercise. The main goal is to just boost your blood sugar enough to get you on the ice without feeling overfull. Once you start exercising, your energy stored in your muscles takes over. If you have at least 2 hours before a workout, choose a hardwood breakfast. If you have only 30-60 minutes, you might choose something lighter and low fat such as a smoothie, a bowl of cereal or some toast and fruit.
Hardwood Breakfast Ideas
3 minute Lean Breakfast Sandwich Ingredients
1 toasted whole wheat English muffin
1 egg or 2 egg whites whisked
1 slice lean ham or bacon
1 slice light cheese (<21% Milk Fat)
1 tsp non-hydrogenated margarine
Optional: baby spinach leaves, sliced tomato
Toast the 2 halves of the english muffin. Whisk the egg in a small glass container, add a pinch of salt and microwave for 30 seconds, stirring halfway through the time. Add additional 10 seconds until cooked. Butter one side of the english muffin. Add egg to the buttered side. Top with 1 slice of light cheddar cheese. Add one slice of bacon/ham and top with english muffin. Wrap in wax paper or paper towel if on the run!
Tip: lower sodium by using no added nitrate bacon or a slice of lean ham. These can be cooked in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel, cooked in 20 second increments until desired doneness.
Make Ahead Tip: You can also use a microwave safe muffin container (ie: stone or silicone) to cook 6 at once. Whisk 2 eggs, ½ cup of eggwhites and 1/8tsp of salt. Divide between 6 muffin cups. Cook in 1 minute intervals until almost set, add ham and cheese for the last minute. Eat immediately on toasted English muffin or freeze individual egg portions for a quick 1 min reheat on a busy morning.
Per 1 sandwich serving: 270 Cal, 28g Carb, 8gFat, 2.5g Saturated Fat, 21g Protein, 4.4g Fibre, 500mg Sodium.
Did you know? A drive through breakfast sandwich – can be 20-35g of fat. Not ideal before a morning workout! Look for meals under 15g of fat for quick digestion.
Heidi Smith is a Sport Dietitian and Head of Nutrition at the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph. She has worked alongside some of the worlds top hockey players including NHL, National, Olympic, Junior, and Rep. She is the author of the practical sport nutrition handbook entitled "Nutrition for the Long Run". Heidi is also a mother of 3 rep hockey players and understands the demands faced by todays sport focused families.