Wake Up to Wellness
Not a breakfast person? Try starting your day with a shake full of vitamins, minerals and good foods. Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Edition, says a morning smoothie is a great way "to front load your calories for the day." That's nutritionist jargon for getting some of the fuel you need for the entire day when your body first starts to need it.

Clark sees a number of folks for whom a hearty breakfast beverage is ideal:

  • Busy people rushing off to work. She recommends putting the shake in your travel mug instead of your usual coffee that you can pick up on the way or will be waiting for you at the office.

  • Early exercisers. If you work out in the pre-light a.m., you probably are not ready to chew food. A morning smoothie can deliver the carbs, proteins, and good fats you need to get through your workout routine. Especially if you are training for an event, you'll need the calories to complete a long run or intense pumping iron session.

  • Recovering athletes. After an exhaustive early morning dash or iron pump, you need to refuel your depleted muscles ASAP. A breakfast shake can supply nutrients to repair the little muscle injuries that can happen when you exercise. Plus, rapid refueling reduces post-exercise muscle soreness. And, getting a "shake" meal in your tummy prevents the ravenous rebound effect of tough routines that leads to overeating.

  • Calorie controllers. Whether you are cutting your calories or trying to increase them for endurance training, a morning shake gives you exact control over your calories. In addition, Clark points out that that the a.m. beverage helps keep dieters satisfied. The weight loss goal is to create a daily calorie deficit at the end of the day, not starve all day long.

  • Race day athletes. Marathons, triathlons, even 10ks tend to start when the rooster is crowing. Bacon, eggs, pancakes, and other typical crack-of-dawn foods are tough to digest. You can make a breakfast shake that gets you the fuel you need while being easy on the tummy.

  • Moms with teenagers. Getting them up and out the door for school is a challenge. Try to throw breakfast in that mix and you have a volatile recipe for crazy. Hand those teens a delicious, fruity or chocolate shake as they walk out the door, and you'll know you've started them on a healthy path for the dayÂ…even if they don't say thanks

  • Fruit haters. Getting enough daily servings of fruits can be a challenge. A morning smoothie is the perfect place for berries, bananas, and other fruity choices.

Clark suggests making a breakfast shake with ingredients you personally find delicious. Typically you start with a protein powder or milk from soy, almonds, rice, or cows; or, you can use orange, apple, or another juice of your choice. Put it in a blender and, to give it a shake texture, put in frozen fruit. You can add chocolate, instant pudding, peanut butter, or whatever flavor floats your morning boat. If you are weight training, you should go heavier on the protein. If you are heading for an aerobic or endurance work out, more carbs are recommended.

Even if you pick up a pre-packaged, instant breakfast and don't add the extra goodies, Clark points out that nutritionally you are way ahead of just chowing down on a donut, bear claw, or gooey Danish.