Good morning! Once again, I woke up feeling alive and refreshed this morning! I didn’t begin my day yesterday with my green smoothie (we’ll get to breakfast in a minute) but I did enjoy one later in the afternoon, just before I spoke to the Running Room Marathon Clinic. It was a perfect pick me up, as I knew I’d need something to sustain me until a later dinner. I used to fade in the late afternoon or early evening hours….not happening any more!
Often when I speak at the running clinics, I get a lot of questions about breakfast. Should I eat before my run? What should I eat? How soon before my workout should I eat? It’s marathon season and many runners are paying particular attention to their fuel sources. Let’s not forget though, that you deserve to feel great every day so making good choices should become a lifestyle, not a just temporary race season habit.
Breakfast sets the tone for the day. As my dear friend Rita put it “good habits beget good habits”. It does somehow seem harder to snack on cookies and chocolate if you started your day with a balanced nutritious breakfast.
North Americans love their sweet grains in the morning, don’t they? But grabbing a muffin or croissant as you fly out the door is bound to send your blood sugar soaring and set you up for mid-morning cravings and hunger. Foggy brain, headaches, lethargy can all be symptomatic of a hypoglycemic reaction. Nutritionally void pseudo-foods, including sugar-laden breakfast cereals (go on, check the label of your Kashi or Mueslix or Vector boxes), won’t provide any of the vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients that are key to fuelling you up and keeping you alert and energized. All those “fortified” nutrients in cereals and granola bars are synthetically manufactured and later added (because they were stripped in the processing of the product in the first place). The sugars contribute to acidity and inflammation in your body and the lack of protein and fibre will ensure that you’re hungry again in an hour or two. I hope you don’t need any more convincing!
So what should breakfast consist of? Remember, you are breaking the over night fast. When you get out of bed, you are probably slightly dehydrated and have a low blood sugar level. Whether or not you’re training or racing, you need to re-hydrate and top up glycogen stores that have been depleted overnight. Not doing so increases your risk of diminished mental clarity, physical energy and may set your body up to go into “starvation” mode, which can make weight loss an elusive dream.
Protein slows the release of the carbs into your bloodstream and provides amino acids that are necessary for the repair and growth of all cellular tissues in your body (including muscles, blood cells and antibodies for immune protection). I also love to include some form of healthy fat in my breakfast as well…omega-3 fatty acids will improve delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, reduce inflammation throughout your body and help give your skin that vibrant, healthy glow.
Here’s one of my family’s favourite breakfast recipes. It’s a homemade granola inspired by Eva Cabaca, one of my instructors at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Serve it with plain organic yogurt or almond milk and add some fresh fruit and you have a yummy energizing meal or snack any time of the day. This does not last long in my household.
Morning Sunshine Granola
3 cups oat flakes
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (you can buy them already chopped)
1 cup dry coconut flakes (no sugar added)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries or raisins
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
optional: cinnamon or ginger, to your taste (I use both!)
1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 3 tbsp olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients plus the spices if you are using. The beauty of this recipe is you can play around and add whatever you have in your cupboard. You can use hazelnuts or walnuts, add flax or chia seeds, dried dates or apricots. Use whatever you enjoy.
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the maple syrup, coconut oil, olive oil and vanilla. Blend well.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and oven-dry at 150 degrees until lightly browned and crisp, about 4 hours. Do not mix during drying.
Cool, then stir and store in air-tight containers or jars. Will stay fresh for several weeks, if it lasts.
Join me tomorrow for more breakfast options and tips on timing breakfast around your workouts . Have a fabulous day!