Breakfast of Champions: Your first meal of the day may also be the most important

04.25.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN Redskins Team Dietitian

Redskins Park is buzzing with energy again with the return of the players for the Offseason Strength and Conditioning Program (OSSCP)! This is the phase of training where the athlete is focused on optimizing his body composition and working on his strength and endurance so that he enters training camp in July in the best athletic condition of his life.

As the team dietitian, the OSSCP is my "In Season" because body composition, strength and endurance cannot be maximized without the building blocks of protein, carbohydrates, essential fats, vitamins and minerals. As I was developing my nutrition material for the players, I thought about WOW members and how the same dietary principles apply to all of us. I'd like to share with WOW members the nutrition goals I will be working on with the Redskins Players during the next eight weeks. We can all be training for the season together!

5 Nutrition Principles to Maximize Body Composition:

     - Eat Breakfast
     - Refuel 5-6 Times per Day
     - Consume a Post-Workout Recovery Beverage/Snack
     - Eat a "CLEAN" Diet
     - Stay Hydrated

I will take one principle a week and discuss the importance of practicing the dietary pattern and help you apply it to your life. Think of each principle as a building block and in 5 weeks you will have constructed a better diet with the results of optimizing your body composition and fitness level! Incorporate Becky Johnson's fitness tips to address both components of fitness - diet + exercise (one of my favorite blogs from Becky is her post about conquering excuses).


Jump-start your metabolism - Upon awakening your body is in calorie conservation mode because it has been at least 8 hours since receiving fuel. To kick start your body into burning calories freely, consume a balanced meal (see below) within one hour of wakening. Rev that engine!

Provides energy to stay active throughout the day and fuel your workout - Low level energy (no gas in the tank) is a sure fire excuse to take the elevator instead of the stairs, to put the dog in the back yard instead of walking him in the park, or skipping your workout. Don't make it harder to motivate by skimping on fueling your tank!

Manage "night time" binges - it may be hard to relate a behavior at 8:00 am effecting a reaction 12 hours later but studies have shown the connection. Skipping breakfast allows the brain chemicals and hunger hormones that effect our ability to control food choices and portions to increase throughout the day. You may not feel the hunger because adrenaline released during your busy day suppresses the hunger signal. But believe me, the hunger team is working in the background! Eight o'clock at night hits, you have settled down from the day (adrenaline decreases), you are tired and carrying the stress of the day and voila: a perfect storm to dive into the box of Oreos! It takes more than will power to fight this storm, by skipping breakfast you have created a biological environment that is hard to ignore. I have had many clients report back to me that the pressure of nighttime eating was significantly relieved when they ate breakfast.

I find there are two main reasons people skip breakfast:

         "I don't have time to eat breakfast in the morning"

Be a multi-tasker - I bought myself one of those big thermoses with a handle and I fill it with my cereal and milk or oatmeal and carry it around while I get ready for work. If I'm not done before I leave for work, the thermos has a lid so I grab the lid and take it with me. Here are some other breakgast options you can put in a thermos or that are good for eating on the go:

- Yogurt + granola + berries
- Cottage cheese + apple butter
- Pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and banana the night before. Portable version: Take a 100% whole wheat hotdog bun, spread a good dose of almond butter and add a whole banana (in place of the hot dog). This is my favorite post workout snack too!
- Two hard cooked eggs + whole grain bagel + orange juice

   "I'm not hungry in the morning and I feel nauseous if I eat"

Many tummies aren't very accepting of food first thing in the morning, including many of my athletes. But do you know that you actually trained your stomach to have that reaction through the very habit of not eating breakfast? The good news is you can re-train it to start asking for breakfast!

During training camp, it is essential for Redskins players to eat breakfast to fuel their morning practice and keep them alert and focused for morning meetings. It would be close to impossible to get all the nutrition they need for the day if they pass up this morning fueling opportunity. However, some of the players deal with the same issue many of us experience: nausea when they eat early in the morning. This is the time of year I work with them to train their stomachs to be able to accept breakfast once training camp hits.

Why do some people experience nausea in the morning?

Two main reasons:

If the stomach is not accustomed to getting food upon awakening, the body compensates by releasing less digestive juices during that period of the day. If you dump a huge breakfast into the stomach without enough digestive enzymes it struggles to digest the food and causes discomfort.

How to "fix" this issue? Begin by consuming a small breakfast (i.e. start with small granola bar or a yogurt or a piece of fruit) and work up to a full meal (see above). Consistency is key for the body to adapt, so make sure you put something in your stomach every morning and soon your stomach will be looking forward to it's first meal of the day!

The second reason people don't wake up hungry is because they "binged" the night before BECAUSE they didn't eat breakfast (recognize the cycle here?). So by slowly building a breakfast habit you will be reducing the need to over eat at night and you will wake up hungry.

I hope this blog has convinced you of the importance of breakfast and provided motivation to take the steps to incorporating this healthy habit into your daily life.

I'd love to hear WOW member successes, ideas and challenges around breakfast, so please share in the comment section below!

Stay healthy,

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