Breakfast is the very first meal consumed at the beginning of the day, usually in the morning. It is considered as the most important meal of the day for most people but certainly an essential part of an athlete’s day. An athlete’s diet differs from a regular person, in terms of the amount and interval for food intake. Athletes require proper nutrition and sufficient food to provide their body with the fuel to perform at an optimal level.
Aside from training, proper attention to nutrition is crucial because both aspects work hand-in-hand to produce results. In order to achieve the desired result, an athlete must adhere to a strict exercise and diet regime, tailoring their nutrition intake to help boost performance. It requires knowledge and discipline as an athlete to monitor food types, portion, and timing to fit their training regime.
It is interesting to note that an athlete eats with purpose; they strategize their food intake to meet certain objectives which may range from setting the body up for a high energy day, stabilizing blood sugar throughout the day, prevent sweet cravings and unwanted weight gain, among others. The ideal composition for an athlete’s breakfast should contain a great source of carbohydrate, protein, fiber, and electrolytes.
Carbohydrate is the main source of energy that allows the brain and body to function properly. Upon consumption, carbohydrates are digested and broken down into smaller sugar molecules called glucose. These glucose molecules are stored in the liver and muscles to be used for fuel, especially during physical activity and intense training. This process helps improve athletic performance by delaying fatigue and allowing an athlete to compete at higher levels for longer. Milk, yogurt and chocolate milk are loaded with carbohydrate and protein, which makes it a great post workout drink for muscle recovery. The caffeine found in chocolate dilates the blood vessels, helping them to relax after a workout. Interestingly, consumption of carbohydrates and protein simultaneously helps aid muscle tissue recovery at a faster pace.
Protein on its own, play an important part in the energy and muscle preservation needs of endurance athletes. It is mainly known for its role in the repair, maintenance, and growth of body tissues as well as supplying energy throughout the body. A few excellent sources of quality protein are fish, dairy, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds as well as tofu and soy products. Consumption of fish like salmon, which is packed with lean, muscle-building protein and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation that occurs with continual athletic activity. As athletes normally exert their body much more than a regular person, the tendency to experience inflammation is much higher. Including nuts as part of the meal plan is also great as nuts contain anti-inflammatory nutrient and are abundant with healthy fats.
Insoluble fiber stays intact and helps promote healthy digestion. Apart from prevention and relief of constipation, fiber has many other benefits too including regulating healthy weight and lowering the risk of heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. A good way to kickstart the day would be with a bowl of steel-cut oats as it is an excellent source of fiber and carbohydrates. Why is fiber important in the diet of athletes? Fiber keeps athletes feeling fuller for a longer period and aids in weight management. Including oatmeal into the diet plan is certainly a delicious way for athletes to achieve their goal weight. This is extremely crucial as athletes need to monitor their weight to maintain muscle mass.
Electrolytes are minerals that have an electrical charge and play a central role in our body's fluid balance. They are necessary for proper hydration, acid-base balance and preventing muscle cramps. Athletes in training will require much more dosage compared to a regular person as intense training will result in more loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are important, especially during and after exercise to replenish the sodium and potassium that is lost by the body through sweat. There are other sources to obtain electrolytes other than sports drinks. Other sources of electrolytes can be found in bananas, coconut water, watermelon, and even avocado!