The Importance of Breakfast for Runners, According to New Research

Skipping this meal may leave you short on nutrients essential for powering your runs.

importance of breakfast

  • Skipping breakfast could have a ripple effect that leaves you short on nutrients, a new study suggests.
  • Those who don’t eat breakfast regularly are less likely to meet daily recommendations for essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, calcium, iron, vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D—all of which are important for better running.
  • Foods such as eggs and oats are great breakfast options that will fill you up and provide essential nutrients to power your performance.

Whether you’re a big fan of fasted cardio to start your day or if you’re simply running late and opt for a larger coffee for “breakfast,” skipping your morning meal could have a ripple effect that leaves you short on nutrients, a recent study in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society suggests.

Researchers looked at about 31,000 adults who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants reported on dietary consumption during different times of the day, and researchers calculated their daily overall micronutrient intake.

They found that breakfast skippers—who represented about 15 percent of participants—consumed significantly more calories, carbohydrates, saturated fat, and added sugars during lunch, dinner, and snacks compared to those who regularly ate breakfast. Also, they were less likely to meet daily recommendations for essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, calciumiron, vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D.

That’s particularly important for runners, given the specific vitamins and minerals noted in the study. For instance, research has connected folate with better blood flow through muscles while exercising, iron can improve athletic performance, and B-vitamins play a big role in energy metabolism and cell regeneration after exercise.

Even though the breakfast skippers had more calories overall, they didn’t tend to make up those nutrients. That’s likely because breakfast foods are particularly nutrient-dense, said dietitian Kristin Gillespie, M.S., R.D.

“While it’s possible to make up these nutrients over the course of the day, many of these foods like eggs, oats, and some breakfast cereals that are fortified can maximize your nutrition,” she said.

That said, of course not all breakfast choices are healthy options, Gillespie added. Despite the claims about vitamins and minerals on those sugar-bomb cereals, eating that much added sugar in the morning—or anytime during the day—can negate many of its alleged health benefits.

“Focus on healthier cereals, such as those made from whole grains with minimal added sugars,” she said. “Basically, pick the ‘boring’ ones.”

If you’re simply not a breakfast enthusiast or you feel like you run better in the morning on an empty stomach, you can adjust by including some of those breakfast foods later in the day, Gillespie suggested. For example, choosing eggs, milk, and oats in snacks or meals can help boost your nutrient density, she said.

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