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Breakfast with the team nutritionist, presented by Rocky Mountain Health Plans


For many of us, we've heard since a young age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why is breakfast so important?
"Well, when you sleep at night, your blood sugars drop. Your body is craving kind of a jumpstart, and by eating breakfast it kind of will jumpstart your metabolism for the day. There's a lot of research on back-loading calories when you skip breakfast and then you eat primarily then a lunch and a dinner. It can really have an impact on your body fat or how well or how poorly you lose weight. So eating breakfast kind of jump starts your metabolism and allows you to help with not only your energy levels for the day but also will help you lose weight if followed by the rest of your meals being good."

On the importance of protein in breakfast foods
"I think that, like anything, and not just necessarily for breakfast but for your snacks and your lunches and your dinners, I think it's important to really balance out your meals and it doesn't make sense to eliminate protein or to not have anything for breakfast and then load up on it for lunch and dinner. I always tell people they need to build their plate for breakfast around a protein. The leaner the protein, the better so if you did turkey bacon or turkey sausage, or chicken sausage or, you know anything but the really high fat-type proteins, eggs or egg omelets are a really good way to start your day. So I always tell the people I work with to build their plate around their protein and then do your eggs or do your omelet or whatever it might be—your turkey bacon—and then build around that with your healthy carbohydrates like fresh fruit and low-fat dairy products like yogurt and low-fat milk and things like that."

What do you recommend for people to balance out those proteins and grains?
"Well, I think that you kind of take the same approach where you can look at the eggs, bacon and toast and you know that eggs and bacon are primarily just proteins and that's all they consist of: animal proteins. What I typically say, again, is if you want to do your eggs, that's fine, do your eggs and your bacon, but make sure that your toast—you really want to make sure that the carbohydrates that you put on your plate are healthy carbohydrates but they're not like the white breads or things like that. Make sure that they are whole grain or whole wheat bread. And there's a lot of ways, too, if you don't want to do bacon. You can do whole wheat toast with peanut butter. You still get protein from that way, too, instead of kind of doing the same thing over and over again. There's lots of ways to get healthy protein. Like I said, there's proteins in low-fat dairy, there's protein in a lot of different things. I think that you just start with your eggs. You can do bacon or not do bacon, but I prefer the leaner sources of protein, really going to the healthier carbohydrates in the morning, which is the fresh fruits and the complex carbohydrates: the carbohydrates like whole-grain toast that's going to have a lot of the nutrients in it."

For people with more active lifestyles, do you have to adjust the breakfast meal for that?
"A lot of people, especially if they're trying to lose weight, they're trying to get healthy—I see guys, and most people, skip breakfast altogether because they see it as a way to cut back on calories from the beginning. That's something that it doesn't matter what you're weight goals are or what your lifestyle goals are, breakfast should never be something that's eliminated because of the impact that it has on your metabolism and your blood sugar. It really depends on when you're working out. So if you want to work out in the morning, I always tell people to eat something before you go and work out. It doesn't have to be a big breakfast, but often times people prefer to get up in the morning and eat breakfast then go work out. You really want to just keep the same thought process in mind. You still want to have protein in there because you still need something that's going to fill you up, but you alse really want to focus on the healthy carbohydrates because the carbohydrates are what's going to give you energy. So the carbohydrates like the fruits and the whole grains and the low-fat dairy, those are going to provide your body energy for your workout. And then once you get done working out, then it becomes about recovering and making sure you're getting something again in 30 minutes of working out."

Obviously the diets for a punter or even a running back are going to be different from that of a lineman. How do you adjust for their different diets?
"A punter and some of thee guys that are lower rep guys are more like you or I. They're not expending a lot of calories. Therefore their calories are more like the average Joe. So like some of our special teams guys who aren't getting a lot of reps, they might be 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day, whereas a lineman—who's a high-rep guy usually, a lot more muscle mass and a lot bigger—their calories could be 5,000 to 6,000 calories just to meet their basic needs. So it's kind of all over the board. The leaner that your are or the bigger that you are, the more calories that you're going to take in because you're burning more calories. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you have to take in, as well. So that's usually the linemen, defensive backs, running backs, which is different than our special teams guys or our guys who are just not high rep guys. Their calories are going to fall more like the average Joe."

What is the biggest misconception about breakfast?
"The biggest misconception is, it doesn't matter if you're a pro athlete or the general public. There's a big misconception on sugar. I think sugar gets a really bad rap where people are trying to eliminate sugar from their diet. It's really hard to eliminate sugar from your diet, and I think there's healthy ways to cut back on some of the processed foods and some of the things that are added sweeteners in juices and things like that. I have a lot of guys who say 'Well, I'm just going to have three bottles of juice in the morning' and it's not the same. It's only recommended that you get a cup a day from 100 percent juice. The rest should come from, as far as fruit, from whole fruit. I think there's a misconception on being afraid of sugar and saying fruit contains a bunch of sugar, which it does, but the benefits outweigh the downsides of sugar, especially for breakfast when it comes to fruits. That's the biggest misconception, even with low-fat dairy and yogurt. People look at the back and say 'Oh my god, there's a lot of sugar in there' and that's not something that we're concerned about, especially for breakfast because you need that in the morning to get your blood sugars going, to get your metabolism boosted and the benefits of getting probiotics from yogurt and the benefits of getting antioxidants from fruit far outweigh the downsides of having a little bit of sugar in the morning for breakfast."

Plus, with juices, you're completely missing out on the fiber in the fruits
"Right. All fruit has fiber, which is different from the fruit juice, and that's the biggest thing. The juice doesn't have any fiber. It almost becomes a bad sugar if you have more than a cup a day of the fruit juice. It's recommended that you get your fruit from whole fruit. I'd rather you eat a whole apple because there's a lot of fiber, like you said, in the skin of the fruit than having an apple juice or something like that."

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