If you are training for an endurance sports event, eg marathon, cycle race or triathlon, there’s a good chance that you will be training in the early mornings at least once a week, and this means giving careful thought to when and what you eat for breakfast after training. Consuming a mix of carbohydrates and protein at this time plays an important part in restoration of muscle glycogen levels and muscle recovery. I hope this article will provide some helpful ideas.
First, a quick word about whether to eat anything before your training session. There are two schools of thought here. Some people prefer to train fasted, in order to help their capability to burn fat as fuel. Others find that a small amount of easily digested carbohydrate is needed to fuel their training. My personal opinion is that it depends on the type of training session that you are undertaking. A swim, cycle or run done at easy to moderate pace could be done fasted, provided that the session lasts no more than an hour. But if you are undertaking a harder session, eg intervals or threshold, I would recommend having one of the following about 15 minutes before you start: a banana, a glass of fruit juice diluted with water, 250ml sports drink or an energy gel washed down with c 250ml of water.
Having finished your training session, I suggest taking on board some carbohydrate before heading for the shower, as the optimum time to start replacing glycogen stores is generally considered to be within 20 minutes. My favourite is to combine carbohydrate with anti-oxidants to help speed recovery by drinking a 250ml glass of fruit juice that’s high in polyphenols (usually red or purple in colour). Examples include pomegranate juice, grape juice, cherry juice or blueberry juice.
Try to then eat breakfast within an hour of finishing your session. Here are some suggestions, all of which combine slow release carbohydrates (to help give you sustained energy through the morning) with some protein and healthy fats:
- Homemade muesli: combine 50g of jumbo oats with a handful of mixed nuts (eg almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and macadamias), a tablespoon of dried fruit (eg raisins, currants, cranberries, chopped dates or chopped apricots), a teaspoon of desiccated coconut and a teaspoon of pumpkinseeds or ground flaxseed. Soak overnight in semi-skimmed milk or nut milk and add two tablespoons of Greek yogurt to serve. This muesli can be taken into work in a well-sealed container. You can also make up a week’s worth at one time.
- Porridge: cook 50g of porridge oats with 200ml of semi-skimmed milk or water (or a combination). Stir in a handful of frozen berries to sweeten, plus a tablespoon of chopped or ground nuts for protein. Add a teaspoon of honey, agave syrup or maple syrup to sweeten further if liked. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt for extra protein.
- Toast and nut butter: 1-2 slices of a good quality wholegrain or rye bread with 1-2 teaspoons of a good quality nut butter, eg almond, peanut, cashew (I recommend the Meridian and Biona brands, which contain nothing but crushed nuts). Add a little good quality berry jam (more anti-oxidants!) if liked for a sweet taste and extra carbs, or a little Marmite for some extra salt and B vitamins if you prefer a savoury taste.
- Eggs and toast: if you have a little more time and the facilities, two eggs with wholegrain or rye toast makes a great post-training breakfast. Choose boiled, poached or scrambled rather than fried eggs. Add some baked beans, cooked tomatoes, spinach or mushrooms if you want a side dish, rather than sausage or bacon.
I hope you find these suggestions useful for improved recovery and optimal energy.
Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, writing and giving talks about nutrition for endurance sport. Based in London, she also works as a Registered Nutritional Therapist, conducting one–to–one consultations with triathletes, distance runners and cyclists to help them eat well, be healthy and perform better through the creation of an individual nutritional plan. To learn more about these consultations, please visit www.nutritionforendurancesports.co.uk