A breakfast for cycling champions

Here’s our fifth instalment of a series of handy two-wheeled tips written by cycling journalist Hannah ReynoldsThis week she talks about what makes a good cycling breakfast and how it is different around the world…

Eating a good breakfast will fuel your day of cycling and help you to feel fitter and stronger.

One of the great joys of a cycling holiday is the food, particularly if you are pedalling in a different country to your home. You can relax and relish new dishes you may not have tried before and with a full day of cycling you can eat and drink without guilt!

Our mothers were right, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, particularly when you are on a cycling trip. At home we get used to same monotonous meals every morning; porridge, cereal, toast but on a trip you will be offered a whole host of different foods for your breakfast. Different cultures also put different emphasis on breakfast, many skipping it in favour of a mid-morning snack. This can feel strange if you are used to starting the day with a large meal, but we can guarantee a light breakfast has never slowed down Italian or Spanish cyclists! Here are typical cycling breakfasts from some of the many destinations Skedaddle visits.

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What makes a good cycling breakfast?
Fluids – If you are cycling in a hot country make sure you start drinking with your breakfast as you will have become dehydrated through the night.

Carbohydrate – Slower releasing carbohydrates ensure that your energy levels stay topped up for longer. Whilst porridge is a main-stay for UK cyclists you can also try rice, beans and some fruits or vegetables.

Protein – A little bit of protein helps you to feel fuller for longer and when you are cycling day after day is important for maintaining your muscles.

Caffeine – Not essential but nearly every culture in the world has some form of caffeinated drink to help wake them up in the morning!

When in UK…
Most places you stay will offer you the ‘full English’ or ‘full Scottish’ once you are north of the border. Fry-ups have a poor reputation but a cooked breakfast doesn’t have to be a bad start to the day. Select a few items instead of ‘the works’, eggs poached or scrambled instead of fried are a great protein source, tomatoes and baked beans increase your fruit and veg intake and granary toast is a good way to get slow release carbohydrates.

Scottish accommodations might offer your smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast, a winner as far as healthy breakfasts are concerned thanks to the healthy fats in the salmon.

When in France – Petit déjeuner…
Breakfast in France is generally very simple compared with the rest of the day’s food options with many people skipping breakfast and opting for a mid-morning pastry and coffee instead. A coffee and pain au chocolat on its own will leaving you buzzing with caffeine and sugar but could see you running out of gas mid-way up the first climb.

In many French homes breakfast will be little more than bread, jam and coffee. Hotels however will offer breads, cheeses, cold meats, jams and preserves and of course croissants. You may get a boiled egg or yoghurts and almost always there will be fresh fruit. If you go easy on the pastries but make sure you eat some of the more savoury items and fruit as well then your protein and carb needs will be taken care of until picnic time!

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When in Spain – Desayuno…
Spanish aren’t hugely keen on breakfast first thing but will eat a bit more around mid-morning. A typical food to start the day off is pan con tomate – bread rubbed with the pulp of fresh tomatoes a bit of garlic and olive oil. It is simple but the fantastic olive oil and ripe tomatoes means it is bursting with flavour, vibrant and colourful. A little bit of meat or cheese might be added to this if you need some extra substance. Tortilla, omelette with potato and onion might also be served cold.

In Spain you are also allowed to enjoy cake for breakfast with little magdalenas often served with coffee. Churros are long donuts, sprinkled in sugar while still hot and then dipped into thick, rich hot chocolate. Delicious at any time of day and a favourite street food for the night owls on their way home in the early hours of the morning.

When in Italy – Colazione…
Italy is another country famed for its cuisine who opts to take it easy at the breakfast table. With larger meals at lunch time than we are used to in the UK Italians are reputed to go to work on nothing more than a coffee and a cigarette and it may not be that far from the truth!

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Breakfast is the only time it is really acceptable to drink your coffee milky, accompany it with bread or pastries and you have a fairly typical breakfast, that would often be eaten at the counter of a bar or bakery on the way to work. If you are asking for coffee avoid saying ‘Americano’ even if you want a long black coffee, in most instances asking for this will get you a jug of filter coffee that has been left to stew. Freshly made Italian coffee is one of the perks of a trip to Italy.

When in Costa Rica – Desayuno…
Breakfasts in Costa Rica are proper meals with vegetables, rice, beans, meat and fish on the menu. Delicious fresh fruits such as bananas and pineapple are freely available and the perfect way to round of your meal. Gallo Pinto is the most common dish for breakfast, although you may get different variations the key ingredients are scrambled egg, rice mixed with beans and stir fried plantain. This is one of the healthiest and generous breakfasts you can get with a great combination of slow release carbohydrates, protein, fibre and vitamins from the fresh fruit. If you are more used to a coffee and croissant type of breakfast this larger meal may seem unusual but as the day heats up, you will feel less inclined to eat a big meal at lunchtime.

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