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Daily Wisdom: The Best Breakfast Carbs

Oatmeal in the morning can help with athletes' mental acuity.

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, and health stories.

TODAY'S TOPIC: YOUR BREAKFAST CHOICE MAY AFFECT YOUR DAILY DECISION-MAKING ABILITY

THE SCIENCE

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that eating a higher-carb breakfast, as opposed to fueling up on protein, may make people better at decision making throughout the day.  
EXPERT INSIGHT

According to the report, the study participants made a better financial decision after eating bread and jam for breakfast versus ham and cheese. The theory is that following a carb-filled meal, people tend to have lower levels of tyrosine (an amino acid that is linked to the brain's reward system). Conversely, eating more protein and less carbs results in higher levels of tyrosine, which might make an unjust offer seem more rewarding.

“I personally don’t think that this study is generalizable enough to be able to say that eating a high-carb breakfast makes you a better decision maker,” says Monica Auslander, MS, R.D.N., founder of Miami-based Essence Nutrition and University of Miami Adjunct Professor. A carb-filled breakfast could temporarily boost the “happy chemicals” in your brain, thus giving you a momentary increase in energy and possible mental acuity. However, this likely lasts for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the individual's metabolism and after a carbo-load there will be a subsequent crash where you could become irritable and mentally sluggish, she explains. "It would be interesting to test these people again a few hours later pre-lunch and see what happens," she adds.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Opt for slow-acting carbohydrates and “something that has fiber and protein that will raise your blood sugar enough so you feel awake and alert, but won’t spike you dramatically up and down,” says Auslander. "An ideal breakfast to sustain your energy and mental acuity throughout the day is steel cut or rolled oatmeal that has been boiled with some fruit and some protein via unsalted nuts or nut butter, topped with cinnamon and cardamom."