The importance of breakfast for runners
Posted by Tia Patel | Jan-14-2021
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we’re led to believe that this is indeed even more beneficial for runners, who need a well-balanced breakfast to fuel —or recover from—that tough morning run!
We’ve been thinking………...there are so many questions surrounding running and nutrition, such as when you should eat breakfast if you’re going for a run? Should you run fasted?? What should you be eating for optimal energy and recovery???
We thought we’d try to unravel the mystery without all the waffle! 😉
What happens if you run whilst fasted?
Whilst you may worry that there is no fuel in your body to get you through a run first thing in the morning, on the sunny side, running fasted may bring some science backed health benefits.
To begin with, the body uses glucose stores from dinner the night before, so if you plan on running fasted it's important to eat a hearty nutritious meal rich in protein and carbohydrates, the night before.
From improved competitive performance to positive changes in body composition to enhanced economy of movement, fasted running also enhances mitochondrial biogenesis and increases the number of mitochondria in the body. These are the batteries energising our muscles, so a greater number of mitochondria is one of the main adaptations we seek through training to improve our physiological potential.
All training has a positive impact, but to varying degrees. Fasted running has been shown to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis more effectively than non-fasted running.
Additionally, fasted running improves our fat-burning potential – the ability to mobilise and convert fat for fuel, offering the potential to change body composition. At the same time, our regulation of insulin, the hormone which allows the mobilisation of carbohydrates for fuel, is improved, lowering our resting blood sugar levels.
However, too much fasted running can hamper your carbohydrate metabolism, hindering performance at higher intensities. It can also prolong your recovery from exercise, effect immune function, reduce muscle mass and disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Our advice, save your fasting for your shorter runs and don’t attempt an endurance run without proper nutrition on board!
Should I eat before my morning run and when?
When we wake up in the morning our blood sugars are at their lowest because we haven’t eaten since the night before. Most of us need to eat something to kick our body and brain into action!
The problem we runners have, is that eating anything too close to a run may impair our running and play games with the gut. If you do choose to eat before running, it's recommended to eat 1-2 hours before the run to give the body enough time to digest the food so that it doesn’t feel like it's about to come back up when we do start to run, or worse, paralyse you with stitch in the middle of nowhere! What’s more, getting up an hour before a 7 a.m. run to give enough time to digest breakfast properly is not exactly practical!
GPD Top Tip eat something as soon as you wake up, before you bother getting your kit on, to give yourself maximum digestion time.
Top 5 breakfast ideas for pre or post morning run...
1. Porridge with sliced banana - Porridge is low in fat and has plenty of carbohydrates. If you’re running a lot during the week, then porridge is a highly recommended choice. The slow-release carbs are the reason why you don’t feel hungry right up until lunch and are perfect for bringing out high performances in your runs.
2. Spinach Omelette - Protein in eggs is good for any runner, just because you’re not body building or getting ‘ripped’ doesn’t mean you don’t need it. You’re using so many muscles when running that using protein will help them recover quicker and help build them up even stronger. Spinach not only restores energy, but also increases vitality and improves the quality of blood. It also includes a large amount of iron, which holds a primary role in transporting oxygen around the body.
3. Yogurt and Fruit - Simple, yet effective. Greek yogurt holds not only plenty of calcium, but boasts double the protein of your everyday yogurt. Preferably choose the plain and non-fat variety. Adding the right fruit will bring a better taste, but also a variety of vitamins and nutrients which are great for your body. Bananas, oranges, blueberries, grapes and grapefruit will all do the world of good.
4. Poached eggs and salmon - Eggs Royale anyone? Packed with protein, eggs are always a great kick-starter to the day. Salmon is packed full of nutrients, high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Not forgetting potassium, selenium and vitamin B12. We layer ours on a slice of wholemeal toast.
5. Smoothies - We love taking our smoothie out with us when we’re on the go and need an energy boost. Make the perfect recovery shake with a mixture of bananas and peanut butter. The perfect blend of protein and carbs for that magic 4:1 recovery ratio. Adding some Calcium-packed natural yoghurt also makes a substantial shake. You can even get inventive with what's in season, or think ahead and stock up on summer fruits when they're fresh and cheaper. Freeze berries and chopped fruit ready to tip into your blender for a little summer sunshine – and vitamin C – on a dark winter morning.
Treat breakfast as a reward for your run! It’s more important that you replenish glucose sources after running. Eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein will aid recovery whilst keeping up energy levels throughout the day.
That’s all yolks!