For several months now I have been tweaking my breakfast for added energy and nutritional value. This has become even more important as my running mileage has increased for the past few weeks from an average of 20kms/week to 50km.
At the same time, I’m slowly training my body to perform strongly on a half marathon distance any day of the week, without needing to carb load. When I first started running, I carb loaded for 10k races. Now that I can cover that distance effortlessly, I’d like to run 21k with the same ease. This means that I need my body to become more efficient at storing glycogen, and aim for a slower release of energy throughout the day.
To accomplish this, breakfast is crucial. Breakfast time for me has become almost sacred. I get up extra early to make sure I have time to sit down and eat slowly, watching the sunrise while I plan my day. I used to go running before breakfast, but now that I’m sometimes getting in two workouts a day, I find that harder to do. So I’ll end up eating first.
I usually have steel cut oats or some type of cereal, but always modified. I have accumulated a bunch of things that I add to my breakfast for a variety of reasons. I switch them up depending on my plans that day, so no breakfast is exactly the same.
Here is my list of add-ons:
1. Chia Seeds.
These are an amazing source of Omega 3s. I find it is extremely rare for people to be eating an adequate amount of Omega 3s (particularly for breakfast), and because I don’t take it as a supplement, I go out of my way to get good food sources. Our bodies can’t produce Omega 3s, so Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are things we must actually consume for good health and brain development.
Chia seeds are part of my brain-food diet, and I always recommend them particularly for children because it’s easy to throw on cereal or yogurt and it doesn’t look disgusting. It’s also very hard for kids to get enough Omega 3s since they’re not typically consuming high amounts of fish, nuts, seeds, or oils. And yet this is the most important time for them to be eating healthy fats for strong brain development.
An additional tip for runners: If you soak chia seeds overnight, they will turn gooey as they absorb the water, but after you eat them they help maintain hydration levels during a run. I’ve recently stopped carrying water around with me, relying instead of pit stops for my really long runs. So this is a great tip for me.
2. Almond butter.
This is another healthy fat that helps control blood sugar while also being rich in antioxidants (both direct benefits for runners). It adds a nutty flavour to anything and it melts nicely on hot oatmeal. It’s very filling and warming and a true feel-good food. If I don’t feel like eating the buttered texture, I sometimes just add raw, natural almonds instead.
Almonds are a source of protein, which is something a lot of people miss at breakfast. Adding a protein source to your breakfast will slow down your body’s absorption and release of energy (you feel more full, and have more energy). They’re also a great source of vitamin E and contain more calcium than any other nut. I don’t drink cow’s milk, so I try to get most of my calcium from vegetables and nuts.
This is a runner’s food of course. And most runners know what it’s for. I have a banana especially when I’m going out for a run, for that quick surge of energy and potassium. Bananas are a source of natural sugar (glucose, fructose, and sucrose), but also contain fiber, which extends the absorption of that sugar. This means that a banana will give you both energy now, and energy later, making it the ideal food for runners.
If that weren’t enough, bananas also contain electrolytes, which maintain fluid levels and prevent dehydration. They also help with kidney function, stress relief, and blood pressure.
4. Ground Flax Seeds.
This was the very first thing I started adding to my breakfast. Kind of the no-brainer as far as nutritional benefits. This is also a source of Omega 3s, also mixes nicely in almost anything (when they’re ground, they’re very powder-like). On top of that they’ve been shown to promote bone health by reducing bone loss. This is important to me because as a runner, I break down and regenerate my bone more often than most people. Eating flax seeds makes my bones stronger and less prone to injury.
Ground flax seeds also help control blood pressure and have cholesterol-lowering benefits. They are very rich in fiber, which again helps keep my blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. I get them ground (instead of whole) to ensure proper absorption. If you eat them whole (they’re very tiny seeds), your body will most likely excrete them as a whole, without breaking them down. So you’re basically wasting your money.
There’s more to this list, which I will continue tomorrow. I love them all because they’re extremely easy to scoop into anything, be it salads or oatmeal or cereal or yogurt, etc. And they instantly improve the nutritional content of that meal. Besides that, when I eat this way in a relaxed state looking out my window it feels like I’m on vacation every single morning.
Coming up: Cinnamon, raisins, Kefir, Kamut flakes, and goat’s milk!