By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
I would never miss my early morning meal, yet I’m a pretty boring breakfast eater. Every morning it’s the exact same thing – a mixture of 3 cereals (Shredded wheat with bran, Grape Nuts, and regular Cheerios) with non-fat milk and raisins on top. Day in and day out – my breakfast hardly changes whether I’m racing or just training that morning. Once in a while I’ll have a Power Bar for breakfast if I’m out of town for a race or a seminar and I have a limited time to eat because of an early race. Otherwise, I’ll eat my Power Bar as a snack during the day. It’s been this way for years, and I still crave my cereal mixture when I wake up in the morning.
But what is the breakfast of champions? Ever wonder what the top racewalkers in the United States eat for breakfast? I asked some of our best, and from a nutrition standpoint the tops in racewalking were getting the tops in nutrition. Here are their answers.
Curt Clausen, 32, a resident of Durham, North Carolina, currently living in California where he is training for the 2000 Olympic Team, is our current fastest American racewalker. He has been ranked #1 in the US at 20km for the past four years and #1 in the 50km for the past two years. He finished in 4th place in the World Championship Racewalk in late August, and is clearly a contender for a medal in Sydney. Clausen’s typical training breakfast is a “bowl of hot cereal, 1/2-1c cottage cheese, 16oz of OJ or mixed juice.” Sometimes he substitutes “granola and yogurt for the cereal and cottage cheese.” Clausen says, “I may add a little fruit to the above on easier training days. I of course eat again immediately following training and that's when I may add some potatoes or a muffin and more fruit.”
On race days Clausen says, “I tend to eat a little differently than most mornings as my stomach is usually a bit more on edge. A common race day meal might be a “Power Bar (malt nut), some isotonic drink 16-32 oz (Perform Plus by PowerBar is now my favorite as I have had no GI problems with it) and then near the start of the race - a PowerGel to top off fuel supplies. If I am up early enough or the race is longer I may add some cold or hot cereal and perhaps a banana to the above.”
When asked if racewalkers should eat before their morning walk, Curt say, - “You definitely need to eat something before working out in the morning. After eight hours of sleep without food the body demands some fuel to function at peak performance levels.” With all Clausen’s training, he says he eats around 2500-3500 per day and the struggle for him to eat enough. He accomplishes this with 4-6 meals per day.
Clausen follows the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations with an emphasis on eating more than 70% of calories from complex carbohydrates and less than 20% of calories from fat. He says, “The goal is high carbohydrates with a protein source for most meals.” Clausen recommends against high protein diets for serious racewalkers since these diets do not offer enough carbohydrates for endurance athletes. Clausen adds, “The body needs fuel to function at peak performance and what you eat will have a great impact on how well you racewalk.”
Jonathan Matthews, 44, is a three-time National Racewalking Champion and three-time American Record holder. He has walked the fastest times ever by any American over 40 at every official race distance. In 1999, at age 43, Matthews set a PR at 20km and broke the existing Masters American Record by nearly five minutes. Matthews, an Assistant Professor of Education in Montana is currently taking one last shot at the 50K Olympic Racewalk Team.
Like Clausen, Matthews always eats before training. His typical breakfast – “bread, fruit, yogurt, and water.” Before a race, his choice is a “carbo-loading beverage about three hours prior to race time.” His recommendation to us – “Eat as many servings of a variety of fruits and veggies as possible each day.”
Twenty nine year old Philip Dunn is another Olympic contender, who along with Clausen, is training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Dunn is a 1999 Pan American Games Medalist at 50km and a 2000 Olympic Trials qualifier at 20km and 50km. He’s been a USATF National Team member for the past 10 years and a two-time National 25km Champion.
Dunn says, “I eat something before every single morning walk.” He explains, “When you wake up in the morning, your blood sugar level is very low, and you don’t have much available energy. It is important to get something into your system before you head out the door.” Dunn usually eats a bowl of cereal along with some fruit. For a longer workout, “I’ll also have a yogurt.” “For a very short walk – a small, high carbohydrate meal will usually suffice. Typically, I’ll have a bagel and some PowerAde.” For Dunn’s longer walks (50km) his breakfast would be, “a CLIF Bar, a banana, a sports drink, toast with jelly or peanut butter.” Then, 20 minutes before the start of the race, Dunn eats a sports gel. He also reminds us of the importance of hydration – “At least every 10-15 minutes, I take in fluids.”
A few years ago, Curt Clausen won first place in a one-mile race in Mid-town Atlanta. My time was 9:12. Curt’s mile time was 5:48. Maybe these racewalkers’ breakfast of champions is worth a try before your next walk.