Breakfast like a King
There's a reason that breakfast has earned the accolade 'the most important meal of the day'. We all know we should start the day with a balanced breakfast but it can be hard to see beyond a bowl of branflakes when you're rising early to run, or feeling exhausted and uninspired after finishing a workout.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a breakfast rut, check out these pre- and post-run healthy eating ideas for a more nutritious and colourful way to start the day.
Before you run
HOW TO Whizz one large banana in a blender with a splash of orange juice. Gradually add 200ml more juice, pour in two tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt and a generous handful of muesli. Mix until completely smooth.
HOW COME Smoothies are the ideal pre- or post-exercise nutrition, as they give your body the nutrients it needs in liquid format, which is more easily processed for faster results. "This gives you 230kcals of both fast and slow-release energy to get you going, as well as top up energy levels when you start to tire," says sports dietician Jane Griffin. "The banana and orange juice will count as two of your five-a-day and provide vital antioxidants to keep your immune system from suffering due to hard training."
Fiery salmon bagel
HOW TO Slice a wholegrain bagel in half and fill with 130g smoked salmon. Take 30g cream cheese and season with black pepper, stir in chilli flakes to taste and spoon on top of the salmon before closing the bagel.
HOW COME The protein in the salmon and the whole grains in the bagel give this meal an extremely low GI (Glycaemic Index), which researchers at the University of Hertfordshire found increased running performance over 10-mile trials. "Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit your heart and circulatory system," explains nutritionist Carina Norris. Jolting your metabolism into gear with spicy food first thing will help you burn more fat both during your run and over the rest of the day.
Melon yoghurt pot
HOW TO Take a small cantaloupe melon, cut in half and remove seeds to leave a hollow. In a bowl, mix pumpkin seeds into half a tub (250g) of plain natural yoghurt then spoon into the melon. Eat, discard, run.
HOW COME While the simple sugars in the melon will give you the instant fix of energy required for your training, the combination of dairy, fruit and seeds will protect your joints from wear and tear on the road. Vitamin C is a major component of cartilage and encourages the effective action of anti-inflammatory lipids to prevent unnecessary soreness later in the day. Seeds contain a spectrum of essential fats required for proper joint health.
Dark chocolate porridge
HOW TO Pour 40g of porridge oats into a pan with 265ml of milk and a pinch of salt. Simmer for four to five minutes, stirring regularly. Top with a square of grated dark chocolate.
HOW COME 40g of classic oats provides 37g of slow-release carbs at the expense of only 270kcals, while the dark chocolate gives you antioxidants, a boost of sugar and, of course, flavour. "The salt will replace the sodium you lose through sweat while running," says Griffin.
Tiramisu on toast
HOW TO Toast two slices of wholegrain bread, top each with one tbsp of mascarpone cheese and two tsp of honey. Wash down with a 200ml glass of orange juice.
HOW COME A simple way to give your body and brain what it needs before exercise. The brain gets its fuel from the liver, which starts the day depleted of energy after a night's sleep. Eating a quick snack like this will help you feel mentally sharp and the small dose of fat from the cheese will control your appetite. "Honey is an excellent source of natural sugars," says sports dietician Karen Reid. "When coupled with the toast, you get two types of readily absorbed carbohydrate and a boost of fructose and glucose from the orange juice."
After you run
Banana and peanut butter smoothie
HOW TO Mix two tbsp peanut butter with 220g fat-free vanilla yoghurt and slice a banana over it, then add a small handful of high-protein, high-fibre cereal – bran flakes are perfect. Sprinkle with two tsp cinnamon.
HOW COME A study in the journal Appetite concluded that adults who eat high-fibre cereal daily feel less fatigue than those who eat cereal low in fibre. Bananas are full of potassium, which decreases muscle cramping. Yoghurt contains calcium and lactoferrin, a protein that helps maintain bone strength. Peanut butter provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and research shows that daily cinnamon consumption can help fight diabetes.
Mediterranean turkey bacon pitta
HOW TO Toast a wholewheat pitta. Spread two tbsp olive tapenade inside. Fill with three diced dried apricots and a few slices of tomato, red onion and red pepper. Add three pieces of turkey bacon and 40g low-fat feta cheese.
HOW COME Breakfast is an ideal time to eat antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. "When you exercise intensely, you create a lot of free radicals, which can attack your cells," says sports dietitian Tara Gidus. "Antioxidants can reduce those free radicals." Red peppers pack 60 per cent more Vitamin C (an immune-boosting antioxidant) than green peppers. Tapenade is rich in healthy fat, while turkey bacon contains protein – both of which help keep you fuller longer.
Peach and raspberry smoothie
HOW TO In a blender, combine one small pot of low-fat peach yoghurt, 60ml low-fat milk, 125g crushed canned pineapple, two tbsp dried coconut, a handful of plain porridge oats and 180g frozen raspberries. Blend until smooth.
HOW COME A 2008 Australian study reported that long-distance runners who take a strain of the probiotic lactobacillus (found in live yoghurt) every day suffer less severe bouts of respiratory illness. Oats can also help cut your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while raspberries are rich in quercetin which may help increase exercise endurance.
HOW TO Warm up two frozen wholegrain pancakes. Top them with 140g of fat-free vanilla Greek yoghurt, a big handful of blueberries and a tbsp each of crushed almonds and hazelnuts.
HOW COME The pancakes provide carbs to restock energy stores. Plus, research shows wholegrains help reduce the risk of chronic disease, "which is why it's important to make at least half your grains whole," says Jenna Bell-Wilson, co-author of Energy to Burn. Greek yoghurt contains twice the protein of regular yoghurt. Antioxidant-rich blueberries help fight disease and inflammation, and the nuts are high in Vitamin E, which may help reduce abdominal cramping and pain before and after running.
HOW TO Fill a wholewheat tortilla with 40g warmed black beans and 50g cooked brown rice. Add a scrambled egg, a handful of spinach, quarter of an avocado, 30g low-fat cheddar, two tbsp salsa and some coriander.
HOW COME A single egg contains 6g of protein, and black beans are also rich in the nutrient, "which helps promote muscle building right after a workout," says Bell-Wilson. The beans also supply fibre, and the brown rice has plenty of manganese, a mineral that helps convert the rice's carbohydrates into energy. The spinach has more than 90 per cent of your daily need for Vitamin K, which contributes to bone strength.