In a recent post on nutrition for collegiate athletes we discussed some of the benefits to cleaning up your diet (most notably, performance!), as well as showed some not-so-hot statistics and research that revealed collegiate athletes don’t eat nearly as well as they should.
We’ve been told the importance of breakfast over and over, to ad nauseum, to the point that when we hear it now it tends to go in one ear, out the other.
But when you kick off your day with a high performance meal the rest of your day, your practices, and the way you compete, are all impacted positively. Heck, even your grades will get better.
Here is why you should be paying attention to what you are eating in the morning.
Skipping Breakfast Leads to Binge Eating Later in the Day
The demands of training are high, especially with you athletes who have to train early in the mornings.
One of the more rueful aspects of my competitive swimming days were the early morning practices. Getting up at an hour before the crack of dawn, sometimes as early as 4:30am, to schlep my way down to the local pool to swim for a two hour swim workout, and then go to school all day and then swim for another two hours, wasn’t exactly my idea of good times.
The duration of the day and the early morning wake-up call aside, I found that getting up super early in the morning meant that I very often ended up skipping eating. When it comes to getting another 15 minutes of sleeping or making breakfast the choice was always easy when your body and brain were screaming out for those warm, cuddly sheets.
Skipping breakfast, however, means that you end up power eating massive meals later in the day in order to compensate for the calorie deficit that you start the day off with.
“Many athletes, especially college students tend to skip breakfast and load up on calories at the end of the day,” says Tara Collingwood, MS, RDN, sports nutritionist at the University of Central Florida. She also serves as team dietitian for the professional basketball team, the Orlando Magic. Her recommendation for loading up in the AM is a mix of complex carbs, protein, and some fruit.
Eating more in the front half of your day will also insure that you are training and competing at your best.
“Fuel early, and fuel often,” notes Auburn Weisensale, RD, LDN, and athletics nutritionist at the University of Pittsburgh. “I find that many athletes who don’t eat enough early in the day find themselves very hungry in the evening and night time.”
The problem compounds itself when you consider that by the end of the day our willpower is nearly non-existent from a combination of decision fatigue and general exhaustion from crushing our training routine.
At this point making poor food choices becomes particularly easy, especially if we short-changed ourselves on meals during the beginning of the day.
Skipping Breakfast Screws with Your Grades
Want an easy way to improve your grades this semester? Eat breakfast. Seriously.
Research has shown that academic performance was strongly linked to whether or not college students were eating breakfast. Which makes sense, as skipping breakfast ends up increasing time to exhaustion, increases rate of perceived effort, and even makes it more difficult to concentrate. (I heard that last thing is kinda helpful for university classes.)
Jill Joseph, MS, RD, LDN and sports dietitian at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that you don’t need to put together a massive breakfast to insure that you are getting the performance and academic benefits of the meal. Quick, easy-to-make meals like overnight oats, yogurt parfait, or scrambled egg muffins can serve as a foundation for your practices and classes ahead.
“Breakfast gets the metabolism revved up, primes the muscles, and feeds the brain, resulting in a high level of performance through the day,” says Joseph.