Diet: An Update on Breakfast

You may remember that I started doing a series of posts about "cleaning up" my diet while still running significant mileage.  Here is the post about breakfast, which I wrote in midsummer.  Looking back at the post really made me miss all the lovely berries and stone fruits that were in season back then.  It also made me want to write a bit of an update, because I have been changing up my breakfast routine lately.

Summer breakfast.
I think I've finally settled on the breakfast that works best for me.

Basically, I don't believe in clean eating, or assigning moral value to food, or overthinking diet.  I tend to focus on the performance side of my diet.  For example, I know that I recover faster from hard workouts if I eat more simple carbs.  More fat in my diet helps me regulate my body temperature during cold outdoor workouts.  Eating fewer calories for dinner can often translate into an agonizing workout the next morning.  Too much meat gives me nightmares (yes, seriously).  Caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating, sometimes dangerously so in the summer.

So, I really think there is value in identifying the foods that help you work out harder, recover faster, feel better, and maintain the body weight that works best for your sport.

Since this past summer, I have changed up my breakfast several times, searching around for something quick and easy to prepare, light (and carby) enough to eat right before running, and satisfying enough to last until a late lunch.  After summer ended, and I started training hard for fall races, my breakfasts started getting more and more focused on carbohydrate, particularly simple sugars.  I loved the rush I got from a cup of coffee with sugar, so I started dumping more and MORE sugar into my espresso.  Good times.  

My teeth hurt looking at this typical pre-long run meal.  That's probably 70g of sugar right there, not counting what's in the coffee. 

If I knew I had a hard workout, I would have just oats and fruit.  Sometimes only oats.  I sort of got into a rut where I was eating a full cup of oats cooked in water and a triple espresso with a heinous amount of sugar.  At a track club event, some friends watched in disbelief as I took the top off the sugar shaker to dose up my coffee.  Around that time, I experimented with tracking some "typical" days on My Fitness Pal.  I was eating close to 65% carbohydrate.  Obviously, that's too much for health (heart disease, stable insulin levels, teeth, etc.)

After the holidays were over, I told myself I was going to step away from all of the added sugar and see how my running fared.  

Experimental breakfast.

So, for about a month I tried a no-added-sugar breakfast.  Black coffee.  Fruit.  About a cup of pinto beans or lentils with savory spices.  I ran a trail half marathon in January, and I used a packet of gel for that.  Otherwise, I was very careful about simple carbs, processed foods, added sugar, and all that other stuff that had crept into my diet during the dead of winter.

I felt okay.  I was surprised that my workouts didn't suffer.  I decided that the "sugar high" that I had come to rely on during long runs and speed work was just a mental crutch.  I stuck with my weird bean breakfasts for the month of January and nothing bad happened.

The happy medium.

Recently, I have reached a nice compromise.  For this month, I have been eating half a cup of oats and an egg.  I cook the oats in water, using the microwave, and it is easy to crack a whole egg into the mixture at the very end, so that it poaches while I get my coffee.  I'm still doing black coffee 90% of the time, and I don't miss the sugar at all.  It's kind of nice to not have the crazy sugar high and crash in the mid morning.  I feel like this combination is easy to digest, and I haven't had any problems with going directly from the breakfast table to a workout.  If I have more time, I'll add a second cup of coffee.  If I'm headed out for a long run, or to the gym for leg day, I'll add a piece of fruit.

My Fitness Pal says this meal is about 230 calories.  That's only about 10% of my daily goal, but the ratio of macronutrients is perfect.  I think 50% carbohydrate is the sweet spot for me right now, and I don't have plans to go any lower.

I'm going to stick with this breakfast all the way through spring, and then see how I feel after the weather gets hot again.  I can see potentially not wanting to eat a hot breakfast and head out to run in triple digit heat.  But who knows???!

Do you eat the same breakfast every day?  Skip it entirely?  Have any other ideas I should try?