For many runners, breakfast before the early morning run pertains to that shot of espresso you down quickly before heading out the door. When you’re trying to squeeze in a run and make it back in time to shower, put your “Zoom” face on and perform some kind of foam-rolling recovery routine, breakfast before a run just pushes everything back further. The solution is to forego it completely, and given that it’s an early start, most runners have no qualms doing just that. But while many have jumped on the fasted cardio bandwagon in recent years, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society suggests doing so might have a ripple effect that leaves us short on nutrients.
Study researchers analysed some 31,000 US adults who were part of the National Health and nutrition Examination Survey, where participants reported on dietary consumption during different times of the day. Researchers then calculated their daily overall micronutrient intake.
The study found that those who skipped breakfast, representing about 15 per cent of participants, consumed significantly more calories, carbohydrates, saturated fat, and added sugars during lunch, dinner and snacks, compared to those who regularly ate breakfast. They were also less likely to meet daily recommendations for essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, calcium, iron, vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D.
For runners, this is a particularly concerning detail. Given the specific vitamins and minerals noted in the study, there are evident ties to physical exertion and performance. Take the fact that research has found a correlation between folate and better blood flow through muscles while exercising, while iron has been shown to improve athletic performance, and B-vitamins are imperative for energy metabolism and cell regeneration after exercise.
Those who skipped breakfast consumed more calories overall, but even so they didn’t make up those lost nutrients. Speaking to Runner’s World, dietitian Kristin Gillespie, M.S., R.D., explained: “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 maximise your nutrition.”
Gillespie recommends focusing on healthier cereals, such as those made from whole grains with minimal added sugars. For those who simply can’t fathom running on a full stomach or one that has consumed breakfast, you can adjust by including some of those breakfast foods later in the day. Simply choosing eggs, milk and oats in snacks or meals could do wonders to boosting nutrient density.