The Breakfast of Champions

by Dave Hollinger

The recommendation to have meat and nuts for breakfast was first introduced to me by world renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin.  At first it didn’t sound appealing, but after I felt the effects and noticed a significant change in my body composition, brain function, strength and energy levels I was hooked.

A typical American breakfast often includes cereal, a bagel, pancakes, muffins or a breakfast bar.  I was watching comedian Jim Gaffigan the other night and he hit the nail right on the head when he said eating pancakes or muffins in the morning is basically a socially acceptable way to eat cake for breakfast.  He’s right, and it’s funny, but because of these social norms young athletes are more fat, toxic and malnourished than ever before.  If you are a serious athlete with big dreams please don’t overlook the importance of the food you eat.  Especially breakfast.

What you eat first thing in the morning will set you up for success or failure for the rest of the day.  Starting the day with a bagel (or other starchy carbohydrate) will release the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA making you lazy and tired.  Not exactly the way an athlete should start the day.  In addition to these neurotransmitters, your body releases the storage hormone insulin.  Insulin takes the sugar from carbohydrates to fat cells for storage, increasing your body fat.  Athletes need to earn their carbohydrates.  What I mean by that is carbohydrates should be eaten following intense training, game or practice.  After activity the body will better utilize carbohydrates by bringing the sugar to the muscles to restore glycogen (energy) levels.

Eating a meat and nut breakfast will have the opposite effect to the all-too-common breakfast-induced coma.  Consuming meat and nuts first thing in the morning will instead release the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetyl-choline.  Their release will elevate brain activity improving your attention span, memory, motivation and training drive.  This is exactly how athletes should feel in the morning – alert and ready to take on the rest of the day.  The protein and smart fats from this breakfast will also increase energy levels, lean mass, strength and improve insulin sensitivity.  Athletes who adhere to a meat and nut breakfast see significant gains not only on the field and weight room but in the classroom as well.

An athlete’s ability to perform at a high level is very much dependent on their nutrition.  Remember, food is fuel.  You need to eat real food with nutritional value to function and compete at a high level.

To give you an idea of where to start, here are 5 days of meat and nut combos:

» Hamburger with handful of Brazil Nuts

» Chicken Breast with handful of Hazelnuts

» Lamb with handful of Cashews

» Salmon with handful of Pecans

» Turkey Burger with handful of Almonds

****If you have a nut intolerance or allergy you can swap the nuts out for low glycemic fruit such as berries.