Breakfast Suggestions for Top Performance

April 1, 2005 | Featured in the April 2005 Issue

Must See Nutrition Videos

Research by: Jen Ochi, PT, ATC

Every cliché is based on a fact. Ever heard the "whole 9 yards?" This comes from the fact that the best suits are made from 9 yards of fabric. What about a "hat trick," which now generically refers to any three accomplishments in a designated time? In Cricket, an English game, a bowler who could retire three consecutive batsmen with three consecutive balls—a major triumph in the game—was traditionally rewarded with a hat.

Here's one. "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times. Jen Ochi, certified athletic trainer and nutritionist at The Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Department, sat down with STACK to unfold the truth of this cliché. Ochi explains why breakfast is especially important to an athlete and what to eat to make this meal the most effective.

Q: Why is eating breakfast important to athletes, in and out of season?
A: As an athlete, whether you are looking to lose a few pounds or gain muscle, eating a good breakfast is one of the most important things you can do to perform your best. Breakfast provides some of the essential nutrients needed to sustain energy levels through hours of practice, intensive weight training and even a long school day.

Eating breakfast in the morning helps stimulate the metabolism, which can be helpful for an athlete trying to lose weight. For an athlete looking to add a few pounds, the additional calories consumed at breakfast can help achieve that goal.

Q: What are potential negative effects of not eating breakfast or eating the wrong foods at breakfast?
A: Potential drop in blood glucose levels due to lack of glycogen (carbohydrates) can lead to fatigue, shortened attention span and a general feeling of sluggishness, all of which can be serious disadvantages to athletic performance. Glycogen is also the main fuel source for the brain. Without an adequate supply, an athlete can have problems with schoolwork.

Eating the wrong foods for breakfast, such as a meal high in fat and low in carbohydrates, can cause GI distress, stomach cramping and a feeling of heaviness—all of which can prevent an athlete from performing at his or her best.

Q: What types of food should an athlete eat for breakfast? Any differences in-season or out?
A: Breakfast should be composed of high carbohydrate foods such as pancakes or waffles, oatmeal, fruits, cereals and breads. Foods with protein also need to be included. This can be attained with skim milk, lean meats, yogurt and eggs.

For an athlete who is in season, consider the time of the event. For an early or mid-morning game, avoid foods that stay in the stomach, which may lead to feeling full or heavy. These foods, often high in fat, require a longer time to empty from the stomach.

If the athlete is out of season, food choices should depend on his or her caloric requirements and whether the athlete's goal is to gain, lose or maintain body weight/lean body mass.

Q: How many calories should be consumed at breakfast?
A: 500 calories is a good general number to try to eat at breakfast.

Q: What percentage of calories should be from fat, protein and carbs?
A: Carbohydrates should comprise 50 percent of calories, protein 30 percent and fat 20 percent.

Q: Any specific foods that make for great breakfast choices or terrible breakfast choices?
A: An easy, healthy breakfast can be something as simple as a can of Slim Fast or a nutritionally balanced protein bar.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A:
Athletes should remember that carbohydrates are the major source of energy for your body. Without an adequate supply of carbs, you will not perform at your best on the field or in the classroom.

Breakfast is also important for athletes who are looking to help achieve their weight gain/loss/maintenance goals. Eating a good breakfast will help set the tone for the rest of the day. Any healthy breakfast that provides energy for your workouts, games and practices is better than one that will slow you down or hinder your performance.

Good Breakfast Choices Include:
Carbohydrates—Grits, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, whole grain breads, fruitsProtein—Eggs, peanut butter, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, lean meats (i.e. Canadian bacon)Bad Breakfast Choices Include:
Carbohydrates—Candy bars, Pop Tarts, donuts, highly sugar-sweetened cerealsProtein—Fast-food breakfast sandwiches, high fat meats (bacon, sausage), sausage gravy

Featured Videos

Adrian Gonzalez Rope Plank Adrian Gonzalez Rope Plank Views: 632,441
Ronda Rousey Shows Off Intense New Bag Drill Ronda Rousey Shows Off Intense New Bag Drill Views: 68,124
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 5: Fundamentals Training Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 5: Fundamentals Training Views: 1,524,960
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,164
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,831
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,057,815
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,082,676
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 11,974,019

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Are 'Healthy Chips' Really Healthy? 5 Popular Options Examined

Are 'Healthy Chips' Really Healthy? 5 Popular Options Examined

J.J. Watt Eats More for Breakfast than You Eat in a Week

J.J. Watt Eats More for Breakfast than You Eat in a Week

STACK Simple Cooking for Young Athletes: How to Cook Eggs

STACK Simple Cooking for Young Athletes: How to Cook Eggs

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

Fuel Up Properly for Soccer Tournaments

Fuel Up Properly for Soccer Tournaments

11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

High-Protein Snacks for Athletes With Nut Allergies

High-Protein Snacks for Athletes With Nut Allergies

The Best Times to Drink a Protein Shake

The Best Times to Drink a Protein Shake

Fuel Your Performance with Peas

Fuel Your Performance with Peas

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

Pro Bowl Nutrition Plan from NFL QB Andrew Luck

Pro Bowl Nutrition Plan from NFL QB Andrew Luck

The Soccer Tournament Nutrition Checklist

The Soccer Tournament Nutrition Checklist

Quick On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

Quick On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

12 Grab-and-Go High Protein Snacks

12 Grab-and-Go High Protein Snacks

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Pizzeria Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Pizzeria Menu

Why Your Gut Might Be the Most Important Part of Your Body

Why Your Gut Might Be the Most Important Part of Your Body

Big Breakfast, Small Breakfast, No Breakfast: Which Is Best?

Big Breakfast, Small Breakfast, No Breakfast: Which Is Best?

What is Whey Protein?

What is Whey Protein?

The Healthiest Ways to Prepare Your Vegetables

The Healthiest Ways to Prepare Your Vegetables

8 Recovery Foods Recommended by Sport Dietitians

8 Recovery Foods Recommended by Sport Dietitians

Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

How 100 Pro Athletes Like Their Eggs

How 100 Pro Athletes Like Their Eggs

Is Fast Food Effective for Recovery? A New Study Says So

Is Fast Food Effective for Recovery? A New Study Says So

Is It Okay to Eat the Same Thing Every Day?

Is It Okay to Eat the Same Thing Every Day?

Why Every Athlete Should Drink Tea

Why Every Athlete Should Drink Tea

Performance-Boosting Snacks with a Satisfying Crunch

Performance-Boosting Snacks with a Satisfying Crunch

Sun-Blockers: 8 Foods to Eat for Sun Protection

Sun-Blockers: 8 Foods to Eat for Sun Protection

Feed for Speed: 5 Foods and Supplements That Make You Faster

Feed for Speed: 5 Foods and Supplements That Make You Faster

Fuel Up for Soccer Like the U.S. Women's National Team

Fuel Up for Soccer Like the U.S. Women's National Team

5 Changes Fast-Food Restaurants Are Making to Become Healthier

5 Changes Fast-Food Restaurants Are Making to Become Healthier

How to Stay Hydrated With Food During Your Summer Runs

How to Stay Hydrated With Food During Your Summer Runs

How Can Zero-Calorie Diet Soda Be Bad for You?

How Can Zero-Calorie Diet Soda Be Bad for You?

Surprising Muscle-Building Snacks

Surprising Muscle-Building Snacks

4 Endomorph Diet Strategies to Accelerate Fat Loss

4 Endomorph Diet Strategies to Accelerate Fat Loss

9 Foods You Didn't Know Have as Much Protein as Peanut Butter

9 Foods You Didn't Know Have as Much Protein as Peanut Butter

Eat Like a Champion, Part 3: Post-Workout Nutrition

Eat Like a Champion, Part 3: Post-Workout Nutrition

The Right Way to Gain Weight During the Off-Season

The Right Way to Gain Weight During the Off-Season

Why Are People Drinking Charcoal?

Why Are People Drinking Charcoal?

Halftime Snacks for Quick Refueling

Halftime Snacks for Quick Refueling

Are Chokeberries the Next Super Food for Athletes?

Are Chokeberries the Next Super Food for Athletes?

YardBarker