If you want to succeed as an endurance athlete, you need to pay close attention to your diet, and that includes no skipping or skimping at breakfast. A healthy breakfast not only gives your body the energy it needs to get up and go, but it also supplies the fuel you need to get through your workout or race. Knowing what to eat can help you make the right choices and improve your athletic performance.
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It's All About Timing
If you work out in the morning, eating breakfast may be a challenge. Eating right before a workout or race can impede your athletic performance or cause stomach pain, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You should eat breakfast one to three hours before working out. Everyone is different, so you may need to experiment with the timing of your breakfast to see what works best for you. If you work out later, you still need to eat breakfast 30 to 90 minutes after waking to break the overnight fast and get your body going.
You Need Those Carbs, and Protein and Fat, Too
Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy and should be the focus of your breakfast meal, says AND. To maximize your nutrient intake, stick with healthy carbs such as whole-grain breads and cereals, fruit and low-fat dairy products. To prevent your body from burning muscle as fuel, make sure you include some protein with your breakfast meal such as nut butter or eggs. Dairy products are also a source of protein. When you're working out for a long period of time at a moderate intensity, you may want to add some healthy fat to your breakfast meal, such as vegetable oils, fatty fish like salmon or nuts -- it can help you stay energized through the workout, according to AND.
Breakfasts for Early Morning Workouts
When you work out early, you want to eat a breakfast meal that is made up of easily digestible carbs, such as bread and fruit, and some protein. Foods high in fat, fiber and lactose -- milk, for instance -- take longer to digest. A bagel with almond butter and a banana makes a good pre-workout breakfast. Or, toast and low-fat cheese with a glass of orange juice. If you're short on time, a fruit smoothie with peanut butter can fuel your muscles on the go.
Breakfast Meals for Afternoon or Evening Workouts
When you workout later, your body has more time to digest your meal, so you can eat a breakfast that includes more complex carbs, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, along with some protein and healthy fat. For example, you can make a two-egg omelet filled with low-fat cheese and spinach and served with a whole-wheat English muffin, or whole-grain berry pancakes with a cup of low-fat milk. A whole-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese and lox also makes a healthy breakfast option for late-day workouts.