Breakfast may just be the most important meal of the day... especially if you're hoping to increase muscle mass, get stronger or simply improve your fitness.
The temptation for skipping breakfast in the morning can be strong. An extra five minutes in bed before dashing out the door may seem worth it, but aside from missing out on all the brain boosting benefits, any physical activity you plan to engage in before your midday meal will suffer too. If you're a dawn exerciser and are hoping to increase muscle mass, get stronger or simply improve your fitness, make sure you fuel your body correctly to get the most from your morning routine.
The body's preferred source of energy is carbohydrates, so if you're going to be working at a medium to high intensity first thing in the morning, it's important to eat something before setting out. Give your body an energy boost with some fresh or dried fruit. The natural, simple carbohydrates will help give you the kick-start you need to get out the door, without filling your stomach. If you can't face food first thing, try a fruit-packed smoothie - still high in natural sugars but easier to digest and handy to sip en route to the gym.
Use your favourite fruits and top with honey - a natural energy gel
Mangos are high in quick-release, natural sugar and bananas are high in potassium - a mineral believed to help prevent muscle cramping
Mango & banana smoothie
You have about 30 minutes after exercising to optimally refuel your body to aid recovery. To do this, you'll need a balanced breakfast, consisting of protein and carbohydrates; protein to help repair and build muscles, carbohydrates to replenish fuel stores and to provide a steady supply of energy throughout the day.
The following suggestions are perfect either after your workout or a few hours before. Try to substitute any simple carbohydrates, such as white breads or muffins, with complex carbohydrates such as whole-grains, as these will leave you feeling fuller for longer:
Veggie breakfast bakes
Smoked salmon & lemon scrambled eggs
Full English frittata with smoky beans
Dippy eggs with Marmite soldiers
Spinach & smoked salmon egg muffins
Asparagus soldiers with a soft-boiled egg
The importance of amino acids...
Amino acids (particularly one called glutamine) act as building blocks for the muscles in the body, forming the proteins that muscles require for repair. Your body naturally produces glutamine, though supplementing your levels with the right foods may assist muscle recovery after exercise.
Cooking destroys much of the glutamine in foods, so while good sources include beef, chicken, fish and eggs, to maximise potential benefits, try eating dairy products such as natural yogurt.
Sticking with cereal...
If all you have time for in the morning is a hurried bowl of bran flakes, try adding the following ingredients to give your cereal a muscle-building boost...
Findings from a study in New Zealand have indicated that blueberries may help muscles to recover faster after exercise.
As already discussed, natural yogurt is a great source of protein. Try adding a dollop on top of cereal to get the benefits. The probiotics in the yogurt will also help your digestion.
Flaxseeds are high in protein and also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to aid protein metabolism, which in turn may help increase muscle mass with training.
A sprinkling of nuts will help boost your intake of omega-3 and also magnesium, a mineral needed to keep muscle tissue healthy throughout the body.
Is your breakfast well balanced and packed with protein or do you struggle to eat first thing? Let us know below.
This article was last reviewed on 6th December 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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