Written by Elsa Chu, P. Dt.
Elsa is part of Coast to Coast Nutrition - an Instagram page dedicated to helping Ultimate players navigate their nutrition
Every ultimate player opens their eyes (at an ungodly hour) on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of tournaments with the same question: what am I going to have for breakfast?
Hold on, they don’t? Just us dietitians?
Well, they should!
While breakfast will not make or break your tournament performance, it’s not something to be dismissed either. We all know players who don’t eat or drink a single thing except water and perform admirably, just like we all know players that cannot function unless they’re properly nourished. Both are listening to their bodies, and that’s what matters!
That being said, ultimate is a very energy-costly activity - none more so than during a tournament. We burn several hundred calories (if not more) per game. With several games in a day, running a calorie deficit is almost unavoidable! So, having breakfast is one of the first things we can do to slow that deficit, while making sure that we’re eating the right foods for the coming day.
WHAT TO EAT
Carbs and protein!
Carbs in fruit, grains, bread, bagels, oats, or wraps will give you vital energy reserves to start the day (you must keep replenishing throughout the day though!). Protein in meat, yogurt, eggs, nut butters, tofu, or protein powders will ensure your energy lasts a long time and your muscles can keep pushing.
What about fat?
Fat is an essential part of a diet, which helps everything from brain function to hormone regulation. Yet, it is incredibly long to digest and can cause cramping, bloating and gas if eaten close to exercise. High fat foods like avocado, cheese, oil, butter, sausage and bacon may satiate you in the moment, but they might make a reappearance somewhere around warm-up time. Avoid them if you can during breakfast!
IF YOU HAVE NO APPETITE
First things first - ask yourself why. Is it way earlier than you usually eat? Do you usually skip breakfast? Are you nervous? Did you sleep like crap? Do you dislike the food offered?
Alas, there’s no perfect solution here, other than some creative thinking and a little forcefulness. Liquid meals can be helpful, like a smoothie with protein powder, since they’re lighter and more palatable, while still giving you carbs and protein that you need to stock up for the big games.
If you can stomach something a bit more solid, yogurt mixed with applesauce or overnight oats with yogurt or protein powder can be prepared ahead of time and stored in your hotel minifridge. These have the added benefit of being portable, so you’re not stuck being the last one sitting in the hotel breakfast room.
Lastly, break down those breakfast biases! We knew a teammate that would have salmon, green beans and rice for breakfast. Why the heck not! As long as a meal is complete, it doesn’t matter if it’s traditional breakfast food or not. Consider thinking outside the box with food choices to see if it sparks any appetite.
IF YOU HAVE DIGESTION ISSUES
We published posts about common digestive issues (both the theory and some practical advice). In researching for those publications, we took a poll that found that 79% of players experience digestive issues during tournaments! Helping this problem starts at breakfast. Learn to identify the causes of your troubles through experimentation outside of tournaments. Many issues are linked to certain foods - such as high fat foods, high fiber foods or dairy. Yet, it can also be a mechanical or eating issue like too much food, eating too quickly or not leaving enough time to digest.
CHOICES TO MAKE
Ahead, we list common places to grab or eat breakfast and some ideas of what to eat:
ONE LAST THING: COFFEE
Hold on Coast to Coast Nutrition - you haven’t told me about coffee yet!
Coffee is a quintessential part of breakfast for many people, us included. Caffeine can enhance performance by affecting the brain to improve focus and energy, increasing adrenaline and increasing fat-burning (which spares muscles from using precious carb stores).
But watch out, caffeine is also a laxative and diuretic, which means it can easily lead to dehydration on a hot, sultry tournament morning. Make sure you’re hydrating with water and electrolytes early on. Not to mention, you need to allow time for bowel movements before you start warm-up and games!
BE Ultimate FUEL Nutrition Guide
Complete nutrition plan built for ultimate athletes