Written by Stacy Goldberg, Official Nutritionist for the NBA Coaches Association

While we know the importance of carbohydrates and B vitamins to drive performance and provide energy, is this the right breakfast for an NBA Coach?

Are other carbohydrate-based breakfasts the right choices for NBA coaches?

The perception in the sports universe is that starting your day with fruit, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, whole-wheat toast, a glass of juice or milk and coffee is healthy, nutritious and weight controlling.

Yet, this is one of the biggest mistakes males looking to maintain or lose weight make.  Often, these breakfast choices do not provide enough energy to last the day or provide satisfaction until the next “eating opportunity”. In many eating situations for NBA coaches, the meals, menus and food choices are geared towards powering the elite NBA athlete, not the coach. Coaches have very different metabolic needs and are less active physically.

Sound like your breakfast? Then it may be time for a switch. While there are nutrients, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals in the breakfast foods listed above; there is a lack of protein and healthy fats, which can contribute to healthier outcomes.

Adding sources of plant or animal-based protein and healthy fats (from nuts, seeds, healthy oils, fatty fish) in your morning meal can do wonders for your body and energy level.

The Benefits Of Making These Dietary Changes Include:

• Blood sugar stabilization, preventing crashes and cravings both before lunch and later in the day.
• A feeling of fullness and satisfaction for a longer period of time
• Sharpness and enhanced mental focus, making you less likely to need a snack during morning shoot around
• Efficient weight loss and weight maintenance
• Development and maintenance of lean muscle
• If the right proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants are consumed, these foods can help to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers and prevent nutritional deficiencies.

Skipping breakfast altogether? According to the most recent edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics[1], eating breakfast regularly is associated with better overall health, including healthier body weight, better diet quality, reduced risk for chronic diseases, and cognitive benefits.  The Journal also states that not all breakfasts are created equally in their contribution to nutrient adequacy, diet quality, or relationship to health.

[1] O’Neil, PhD, LDN, RD, Byrd-Bredbenner, PhD, RD, Jana, MD. Klinger, MS, Stephenson-Martin, MS. The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 2014: Supplement 3: S8-S26.

Have I challenged your current “healthy breakfast”? If so, it may be time to examine how you can gain the nutrition edge to enhance your performance as a coach, and make breakfast one of your best meals.

Tips For NBA Champion Coach Breakfasts

  • Try to eat breakfast within one hour of waking up to jump-start your metabolism.  If you are exercising in the morning, grab a light snack prior to exercise such as a banana, apple, handful of almonds or energy bar and water.   Follow up your workout with a champion breakfast within 45 minutes-1 hour.
  • Coffee is a necessity for many coaches but what you put in your coffee could be detrimental, in addition to the number of ounces you drink per day. Try to limit your coffee intake to no more than 16 oz. per day. If you add cream, sugar or consume sweetened coffee drinks you may be drinking more sugar than you need in one day. Beware of the Starbucks diet killers, such as the Pumpkin Spiced Latte. A Grande (16 oz.) has 380 calories, 13 grams of fat and 49 grams of sugar.  Try switching to So Delicious flavored coconut milk creamers, as they are lower in sugar and have no artificial colors or flavoring.  If you use artificial sweeteners such as Sweet & Low and Equal, consider moving to a plant-based sweetener such as Stevia or Truvia.
  • Oatmeal can be a healthy food option but is a high carb load, especially when paired with brown sugar, dried fruit and milk. Instead, add your team’s favorite protein powder, peanut/almond butter or raw nuts to your oatmeal. Opt for fresh berries instead of dried fruit or raisins to increase the dietary fiber, boost your antioxidants and lower your sugar intake.
  • The oldest, most inexpensive staple, peanut butter & jelly, is one of the best options either on the road or at home. However, you can make this a PBJ 2.0 by implementing the following tricks: Ask for 100% whole wheat bread (one slice or two if you are active), natural peanut butter and fresh banana instead of jelly if it is an option. If you use the jelly, keep your ratio to 2:1 (2 tbsp. of PB to 1 tbsp. of jelly).  You can even ask for almond butter at many hotels on the road and ask your chef at your training facility to get this superfood to boost your Vitamin E. Try sprouted grain breads as a even healthier option.
  • Egg white omelets and scrambles are a fantastic, easy choice both on the road and at home. While the yolk does contain excellent nutrition such as Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins & minerals, it can also contain artery-clogging cholesterol if consumed in excess. Often the eggs found on the road are in buttery, cheesy scrambles and omelets with 3-4 yolks. Eat your yolks in moderation-I recommend a 3:1 white-to-yolk ratio. Be sure to add immunity boosting veggies to your omelet such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms. You can also add low or medium-fat cheeses such as mozzarella or feta. Add sliced tomatoes, fresh berries and a slice of 100% whole wheat or sprouted grain bread with peanut or almond butter.  You are a champion in the making with this breakfast!
  • Turkey bacon or just sliced turkey? Smoked salmon or poached salmon? Chicken sausage or grilled chicken? Why must we always need to cure and preserve our breakfast meats, adding a pile of sodium and nitrates to our food? Adding protein in its most natural form is a great addition to breakfast. Ask for any of these foods in any location and you will be working towards lowering your blood pressure. No reason to drive that any higher mid-season!
  • Often coaches have limited or no time to sit down and eat breakfast. What can you grab in a pinch? Hotels, local coffee shops and even airport kiosks have higher protein options that will make your long exhausting days more productive.

Seek Out These Breakfasts On The Go:

o Lower sugar Greek or Icelandic-style yogurt parfaits (Greek yogurt is 2-3x higher in protein than traditional yogurt—but be sure to check the label for grams of added sugar. Some yogurts have more sugar than a Hershey bar) Top your yogurt with fresh berries, sliced almonds and lower sugar granola or add a tbsp. of peanut butter to your yogurt.

o Starbucks carries protein-packed energy bars (KIND bars lower in sugar such as Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, Cinnamon Pecan or Caramel Sea Salt) as well as Evolution Foods interesting nut mixes with an apple. They also have protein packs with cheese, hardboiled eggs and yogurt depending on the region.

o Banana or apple with 1-2 tbsp. almond or peanut butter.

o Egg white wrap or flatbread instead of a bagel with cream cheese.

o If you do go for the bagel, opt for 100% whole wheat and get almond or peanut butter on top instead of cream cheese or butter to boost the protein and healthy fats.

Need to improve your breakfast and want specific suggestions?

Contact Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN,
Official Nutritionist for the NBA Coaches Association
Cell: 248-563-2920