Breakfast of champions

According to James Hunt it was sex. The humble egg - whilst being slightly less exciting is a good place to start!

According to James Hunt it was sex and who am I to disagree! But if that isn’t on the menu for breakfast we’ll have to look at some other options.

So, what are the healthier choices from the breakfast buffet?

If I offered you a supplement that I said contained 6 grams of high quality protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and the below list of vitamins and minerals, not to mention healthy omega 3 fatty acids, all in a highly bioavailable form that the body knew exactly how to break down and use, at a cost of about £0.75 you’d jump at the chance right?

Vitamin D – important in bone health
Vitamin B5 – releases energy from our food for our body to use
Vitamin B12 – for brain and nervous system functions and blood formation
Vitamin A – for growth and eye health
Vitamin E – antioxidant to protect our bodies against disease
Iodine – to ensure proper function of our thyroid gland
Phosphorous – helps build strong bones and teeth
Iron – to produce haemoglobin which carries oxygen around our bodies
Thiamine – to turn carbohydrates into energy our body can use
Zinc – helps in growth, wound healing, blood formation and maintenance of tissues
Selenium – antioxidant which protects our body and immune system
Folate –  for growth and maintenance of healthy cells
Biotin – helps cell metabolism and the utilization of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
Calcium – for building and maintain bones and teeth
Lecithin – contains acetylcholine which has been proven to help brain function
Choline – important in many metabolic processes, including those of the liver, heart and brain
Lutein – important for eye health

What I have always struggled to understand in the health industry is how fitness professionals order egg white omelettes and do everything possible to get rid of the yolk! It literally gets rid of most of the beneficial and tastier parts of the egg and it’s where you’ll find the majority of the good stuff:

The yolks of the egg contain more than 90% of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, B6, folate, and B12, and pantothenic acid of the egg. In addition, the yolks contain all the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in the egg, as well as all the essential fatty acids (EFAs). Eggs also have the highest nutritional quality protein of all food sources. Your average egg contains between 5.5 – 6.5 grams of protein.

Do you really want to be avoiding all this?

This is mainly due to bad press in the past about cholesterol and fat, but the reality is the fat in an egg is roughly 40% monounsaturated, 15% polyunsaturated, both of which are good fats and only around 25-30% saturated. Researchers have shown that eggs are relatively low in saturated fats and the effect they have on blood cholesterol is clinically insignificant.

Furthermore, studies conducted in healthy people show no effect of daily egg intake on blood cholesterol levels. In addition, the latest scientific evidence shows no association between increased intake of dietary cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

So, now we’ve got that bit out the way let’s look at the best ways to eat them!

Poached or boiled – there is nothing added, you just get all the benefits of the egg.

Omelette – this is most often my preferred way to have them in the morning and I can’t remember a hotel restaurant that didn’t make them. Even in the flower garden hotel at the Suzuka race track in Japan (not necessarily known for its cuisine) you get them with the added show of the chef making them with chop sticks!  The benefit of an omelette is you can load it with vegetables and a host of other natural healthy ingredients.

Scrambled – I love making these myself at home for breakfast as you can add in all sorts of other beneficial ingredients like garlic, herbs and spices (to heat things up a bit), but at the breakfast buffet you never quite know what’s gone into them. Do I still eat them? Yes! Are they the best option? Sometimes questionable but it’s definitely one of the better options!

So, the above, in my opinion are the better egg options! What are the options that should be used sparingly if at all?

Fried eggs – An egg is an egg, it’s poor cooking oil choices that the eggs are fried in that makes these a less healthy option. A poor oil choice will increase the overall saturated fat levels and calories.

Eggs benedict – they taste great, but the source that comes with them isn’t either waist or health friendly so better to skip them!

Always try and go for Free range organic eggs where possible. Quite a few hotels I travel to advertise the fact they use organic free-range eggs but that’s not always the case. They have a higher vitamin and mineral content and a better ratio of omega 3’s to omega 6’s.

The great thing about these egg options is they can be mixed with other healthy foods. Most hotel buffets have salmon in some form. This is a great source of protein and omega 3’s and can be easily added to scrambled eggs or an omelette. Salads and vegetables are also normally on offer and again make for a healthy addition to your plate.

For quality fats look at adding olive oil to salads, avocado slices if on offer, or add nuts or seeds as a topping. They provide protein, healthy fats as well as numerous vitamins and minerals.

What are our other healthy options?

Oats

Oats can be eaten hot or cold. At the breakfast buffet hot is the most common option. Oats are a complex form of carbohydrates meaning energy is released slowly over a longer period of time. They also contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre that helps boost the immune system which is important when travelling (and an important part of my immune system boosting protocol). Beta glucan also help lower cholesterol levels. Oats in general will help you feel fuller for longer.

I will soon make a video showing how I prepare the oats we use over the race weekends and how you can tailor them to help control blood sugar levels, increase the level of antioxidants or if you need, increase the level of protein. 

Fruit

There is nothing wrong with fruit in general, it contains a lot of vital nutrients, fibre and polyphenols and should be part of your overall diet. My preferred option when it comes to fruits are berries. The only issue with fruit is at the end of the day it’s still sugar, albeit in a natural form, but if you’re looking at reducing your sugar content overall, it’s something in my opinion that might be worth scaling back on. If it comes down to fruit or vegetables go for vegetables most of the time and use fruit sparingly.

So, what’s best to avoid:

The Bakery section

Many hotels have a bakery section. Smells great, looks great even tastes great! Why is it most things that are bad for you taste so good?? But the reality here is with doughnuts, pan o chocolate, croissants, plain white bread and bagels with all types of jams, marmalade and Nutella you’re getting nothing more than a quick hit of refined sugar with very little nutrient content. These spike insulin levels and are associated with weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Worth avoiding!

If you are going to add some form of bread to your breakfast try, if available, to make it rye or whole grain (in this form most of the nutrients are still in the bread unlike it’s white counterpart which has been stripped of all goodness)

Just to be clear, carbs are an essential part of our diet alongside protein and fat as macronutrients. I’m not anti carb, I’m anti crap, and people tend to eat the bad carbs and oftentimes miss-time the good ones. After a workout is the best time to have what are generally considered “worse carbs” as the resulting insulin spike will help shuttle nutrients to the muscles to start the repair and rebuild process. If you want to enjoy some of the less healthy options, this is the best time.

Cereals and muesli

So many people eat cereals for breakfast in the belief they are getting quality nutrients. The reality here is you are again getting another hit of added hidden sugar in most available options. Personally, I avoid all of them as there are much better options available. Some muesli is ok but again there can be a lot of hidden sugars in many muesli options that are best avoided.

 Processed meats and cheese

Many of these options taste great but the contents aren’t great for you. Yes, there is protein but as protein goes we have better and healthier options available to us! Numerous large-scale studies have been performed showing links between processed meats and various cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

There are also many cooked breakfast options including sausages, bacon, hash browns etc. I probably don’t need to tell you that these aren’t the healthiest options although they all taste good. The exception here are baked beans as they do have a good combination of protein and fibre.

It’s important to realise that we can still have a life. The options above are the best and the worst but we also need to live a little. If you are healthy 80% of the time you can enjoy the other 20% of your life. So, fill your tank on the good options most of the time and enjoy that fry up after a night on the town.

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