How Young Athletes Can Turn Cereal Into A Champions Breakfast...

As the first meal of the day, breakfast represents an opportunity to provide vital nutrients and energy for the day ahead. Previously we have written about why the typical bowl of cereal just doesn't cut it as a true champion start to the day... However, with busy morning schedules, we also understand the lure of emptying a packet of cereal, adding a splash of milk, and just getting on with the day ahead

Cereal - The Youth Academy

Cereal is high in carbohydrate, providing the body with easy to use energy to fuel school, work and sport for the day ahead. Whilst carbohydrates are an essential part of any athletes nutrition strategy, the problem is the typical bowl of cereal is also fairly low in protein and healthy fats. By altering the amount of cereal vs. other ingredients, it's possible to turn the humble bowl of cereal into a more nutritious and satisfying start to the day. Below, we run through some simple food strategies that can be used to turn your favourite lazy brekkie up a notch!
 

Start with a Good Base

Alongside carbohydrates for fuel, one of the major benefits that can be offered by choosing the right cereal is gut-healthy fibre. Cereals based on whole grains contain fibre and require more work to be digested. By aiming for higher fibre cereals containing >10g fibre per 100g, you'll achieve a steady release of energy and feel fuller for longer.

Next, although sugar does have its role in an athletes diet, obtaining energy from quick digesting sugars in the morning sets you up for hunger mere hours after eating. However, sweetness also plays a big part in enjoyment and taste. To achieve moderation aim for 15g of sugar or less per 100g, or less than 25g per 100g if the cereal contains dried fruit.

Bonus points for cereals with less than 400mg sodium per 100g
 

Mix and Match

There's no denying that highly refined, sugary, chocolaty cereals taste so. darn. good. Yet, unfortunately, these are unlikely to fit into the guidelines for a good cereal choice. For those not quite ready to set the Nutri-Grain or Coco Pops aside, a compromise of sorts can be reached by using a tablespoon or two of these sugary cereals to "season" a higher quality cereal. In this way, you can reap the benefits of a higher fibre cereal and moderation with sugar whilst still enjoying the flavour of your favourite cereal
 

Yoghurt

At The Academy, one of our major gripes with cereals is that they just don't cut it protein wise. To promote muscle growth and recovery, a core nutrition principle for our athletes is to include a serve of quality protein at each meal. Yes, the milk added to your cereal counts, but, no, you're probably not adding enough. By switching milk out for yoghurt – particularly Greek yoghurt – you can turn a low protein bowl of cereal around to one that will achieve your protein goals without the fuss of a hot breakfast
 

Nuts - The Youth Academy

Nuts and Seeds

Cereals also tend to fall short when it comes to healthy fats. Healthy fats play an important role in heart health, and can also contribute to fullness and sustained energy release by slowing the emptying of the stomach. An easy way to reap the benefits of healthy fats is to top your cereal with a small handful of nuts or seeds, or to stir a tablespoon of peanut butter through porridge
 

Fresh Fruit

The choice to go with a sweet breakfast such as cereal provides a good opportunity to hit one of your two fruit serves for the day. Adding a serve of fresh fruit provides additional fibre, as well as health promoting vitamins and antioxidants.

There you have it folks, while we bet champions don't start the day with cereal... we're not so sure they'd turn down a revved up bowl with extra nutritional punch.

Nick Maier