by Will Sutton
I recently finished reading Christopher McDougal’s Born to Run, an iconic text in the running world. While much of his running science has been criticized, one piece of advice caught my attention. McDougal explains that, as part of his training for a 50-mile race through Copper Canyon in Mexico, he began eating salads for breakfast. McDougal doesn’t provide a wealth of scientific research to back up this dietary choice; intriguingly, he simply explains that it works for him, and suggests that readers try it for themselves.
So that’s what I did.
For three weeks now, I have been making myself a salad for breakfast. My go-to is a base of spinach with cucumbers, strawberries, pistachios, and feta cheese, but in a pinch I can settle for any combination of leafy greens and some fat and protein. Besides coffee and water, I don’t have anything else until lunchtime.
I did not undertake this experiment as part of a diet program, or to eat more healthily. I had no concrete goals-- no weight to lose or gain, no target for veggie intake. I just wanted to see if breakfast salads could make me feel better in general. And, I’m happy to report, they have.
In comparison to my days before (when I ate eggs, cereal, and a banana for breakfast), I feel much more alert after breakfast. I can usually wolf down a salad and start my day’s work immediately, when usually I need a walk outside to wake up. Maybe it’s just a psychological response to a healthy breakfast, but my mornings are more productive. It’s like the edible equivalent of a cold shower-- nothing quite jolts you awake like an influx of vitamins, natural sugars, and a bit of healthy fat and protein.
What’s more, a salad is… enough. When I began this experiment, I expected to become hungry well before lunchtime rolled around, but that hasn’t really been the case. I can consume a salad at 8:30 and not eat again until noon. And my running-- usually 10-12 miles per day, immediately after breakfast or right before dinner-- has been unaffected by, if not improved from, this experiment. Cravings for the heavier breakfasts I ate before subsided after about four days; by now, my body is content with chowing down greens first thing in the morning.
Would I (as a writer, not a nutritionist) recommend this experiment? Well, yes. You shouldn’t expect tremendous results, but the moderate boost in focus and the obvious nutritional benefits make breakfast salads worth it, in my view. And you can always have your eggs and bacon for lunch.