Sunday, January 31, 2010

Breakfast: An indispensable meal for soccer players

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, whether you are an elite athlete or a “regular” person. Although sometimes eating your breakfast may not seem convenient or feasible, the benefits clearly outweigh the difficulties. 
Breakfast eaters tend to:

  • Eat a more nutritious, lower fat diet the rest of the day;
  • Have lower levels of blood cholesterol;
  • Enjoy better success with weight control;
  • Are mentally alert and more productive – in school and on the field;
  • Have more energy to enjoy exercise either in the morning or later in the day.

Nevertheless, some soccer players frequently skip this meal. If you skip it too, you are likely to concentrate less effectively in the late morning, work or study less efficiently, feel irritable and short tempered, or fall short of energy for your afternoon workout.
Excuses like “I don´t have time” actually mean “I don’t make it a priority”… But you should!
Did you know, for instance, that breakfast is a key to a successful weight loss program?? Dieters who skip breakfast tend to gain weight over time, because they get too hungry and then overindulge at night! 
If you don’t feel hungry by morning, you probably ate too much the previous night. Just make sure waking up hungry for breakfast is your priority and eat a little less at night.
On the other hand, if your “not time for breakfast” excuse is having an early game or practice, there’s a solution too.  Eat at least part of your breakfast beforehand, to get your blood sugar on the upswing and avoid an energy crash, and then finish the rest of the breakfast after your workout.

So what should a breakfast consist of?

First of all, bear in mind that breakfast should represent one-quarter to one-third of your daily calories. For example, if you need 3600kcal a day, make sure you target about 900kcal in the morning.
A wholesome recovery breakfast that combines many carbohydrates with a little protein promptly replaces the depleted glycogen stores and helps refuel and heal the muscles so they’ll be ready for the next training session.
Here are some breakfast examples:

  • Low-fat yogurt with cereal, orange juice and a banana;
  • Blender drink (piece of fruit, low-fat yogurt/skim or low fat milk and cereal);
  • Whole grain bread with peanut butter/low fat cheese/sliced turkey and jam plus fruit juice;     
  • Skim or low fat milk with  crackers, peanut butter and an apple;                            
  • Low-fat yogurt/skim or low fat milk with crackers, raisins and almonds/peanuts.

Notice that my first two suggestions included cereal. Cereal is a popular breakfast option because it is quick and easy to prepare, as well as rich in carbohydrate, fiber, iron and calcium and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Also, some evidence points that cereal can be helpful for weight control.

Please realize you don’t need to be seated at a table to eat your breakfast. I often find myself eating my morning meal while walking to the train station!

Be creative. There are many ways to reach your goal of enjoying a high energy morning meal.

Recommended reading for more information: 

  • Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (
  • Food Guide for Soccer: Tips & Recipes from the Pros   (

Now I want to hear from you,
Do you eat breakfast regularly? If not, why so?
Which are your favorite breakfast foods?

Stay tunned!

Wishing you the best performance ever,

Diogo Ferreira, RD
Sports Nutritionist, Lisbon, Portugal
“Promoting best health and performance through nutrition”


  1. I train semi-pro soccer 2 hours a day 6 days a week and from my experience the best breakfast is a big bowl of corn flakes with sliced strawberries and banana with a glass of orange juice.

  2. Out of my four children who have and are still playing soccer none of them want to eat breakfast before a game, especially if it is an early morning game. They do eat plenty of carbs the night before though and will eat breakfast if game time is at lunch time or later. Maybe it's pre-game jitters?

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