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Ask Stacy: I’m Terrible at Eating Breakfast. How Can I Improve This Bad Habit?

If you don’t top off your tank in the morning, you’ll lack the mental and physical energy you need to get through your workout and your workday.

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You know you should eat, but it’s hard if you are facing a 5 a.m. swim squad or rolling out of bed and into your running shoes. You know that breakfast really is important and that the right foods in the morning really can help you focus and keep on task all day. The question to ask is: Why aren’t you hungry?

Breakfast matters – a lot

Figuring out why you can’t face food in the morning can be tricky. Sometimes it’s just a long-standing habit—you just never got into the breakfast routine. Since you manage to get through your morning okay, you just tell yourself you don’t really need to eat. Maybe you aren’t hungry in the morning because you routinely eat an enormous dinner and snack all night until bedtime. Maybe you are falling into the trend of fasted training or breakfast falls into your fasting window, and you are trying to alter your body composition.

Those who don’t eat in the morning have likely heard all the reasons they should try to break the breakfast-skipping habit. But just in case you need a reminder—here’s a quick recap.

When you get up in the morning, you’ve gone a long stretch without eating. Even though you’ve been sleeping, your body has been tapping into stored fuel to keep your systems going. If you don’t top off your tank in the morning, you’ll lack the mental and physical energy you need to get through your workout and your workday. For those of you locked into fasting training, here is a heads up: research shows women actually adapt and perform better in a fed state than a fasted one; and there are no differences in body composition and weight changes between women who fast and those who do not fast. And for both men and women, recent research into normal weight individuals shows that fasting and alternative-day fasting did not improve body composition or other health metrics compared to slight energy restriction; but it does significantly reduce lean mass.

Fueling for your morning session (or just your morning!) improves training load and adaptations (you can hit higher intensities and polarize your training better with available glucose), plus the breakfast habit is associated with a reduced risk of falling into a low energy availability (LEA) state, having better weight management and a better diet overall. The vast majority of athletes who keep progressing and remain relatively injury-free, fuel for their sessions and include breakfast nearly every day.

RELATED: Ask Stacy: Should I Fuel Before a Morning Workout?

Making the most of your morning meal

Start small and light

Ease into the habit with small portions of easy-to-digest foods that are nutrient-packed. Try a protein-packed smoothie, or a dab of lowfat cottage cheese or a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit on the side. If you are facing an early morning session and really cannot stomach the idea of food, try a 4oz smoothie, a ½ banana, or even just a cold brew coffee topped up with milk alternative and 1 tablespoon protein powder.

Include some protein

Protein is important because it not only helps to keep you satisfied, but it also helps keep you mentally alert. One study has shown that those who eat a high protein breakfast take in 200 fewer calories during the evening.

RELATED: You’re Probably Not Getting Enough Protein at Breakfast

Break your meal into small snacks

You don’t need to eat your entire meal at once. Sip on your smoothie throughout the morning or have your cottage cheese or egg first and your fruit an hour or so later.

Eat what appeals to you

There’s no rule that says you have to eat ‘breakfast food’ in the morning. A few bites of leftover chicken and veggie stir-fry might just do the trick.

Be prepared

Have your fuel ready to go in the fridge, so as you prep to leave, you can grab your smoothie, yogurt, PB Toast, or overnight oats to have ready to rock.

RELATED: The Busy Triathlete’s Guide to Meal Prepping