If you want maximum bang from your morning meal, steer clear of the breakfast aisle at your local Shop-N-Bag. Sure, Pop Tarts and sugar puffs qualify as food—barely—but they're no way to start your day. (Unless, of course, your day is spent watching Judge Judy reruns in your parent's basement. In that case, feel free to indulge.) For everyone else, whether you're heading to an A.M. workout, a busy day at the office, or recovering from a night of partying, you need more. You need one of these eight meals, custom-designed for every morning ritual.
Before your morning workout
If you're running out the door, grab . . .
2 Kraft Polly-O String-Ums
light mozzarella cheese sticks,
1 medium whole-grain bagel,
and 1 medium pear
OR: If you have five minutes at home, blend together . . .
1/2 cup strawberries,
1/2 cup egg substitute.
1 cup low-fat yogurt,
1/4 cup cranberry juice
And finish the meal with . . .
1 slice whole-wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon almond butter
Why? Most guys skip breakfast before hitting the gym because they don't think they have enough time to eat. Yet a quick, high-protein meal before a morning workout is one of the keys for maximum muscle gain after lifting weights, according to William Evans, Ph.D., a metabolism expert at the University of Arkansas. In addition to the protein in yogurt, eggs, and cheese, eating whole grains and fruit provides you with immediate fuel for lifting, plus fiber to help regulate blood-sugar levels and keep your energy high.
Before a big presentation
If you have five minutes . . .
Beat two eggs together in a bowl. Pour the eggs on a plate coated with nonstick spray and nuke for one minute or until the eggs are fully cooked. Dump them into a whole-wheat pita pocket and top with hot sauce.
And wash it down with . . .
1 (8-oz) glass of orange juice
OR: If you're eating at work . . .
Dump one packet of plain instant oatmeal into a bowl. Microwave according to the manufacturer's directions. Then stir in one Skippy Peanut Butter Squeeze Stix plus one small box of raisins.
And wash it all down with . . .
1 (8-oz) container of orange juice
Why? You could chow a couple of Krispy Kremes with a java chaser for a quick brain jolt, but you'd regret it mid-presentation, when your energy levels tanked faster than the Chicago Cubs in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.
Instead, for long-term mental performance, you need protein-rich foods like eggs and peanut butter. Plus, studies show that eating eggs can help to improve brain function, while orange juice and raisins are high in potassiumÂwhich helps keep blood pressure under control during times of stress.
Before a busy day at work
If you have five minutes . . .
Fill a bowl with 3/4 of a cup of Cap'n Crunch, and the same amount of bran flakes, and blueberries. Top with 1% milk.
OR: If you're eating on your commute, grab . . .
1 Stonyfield Farm yogurt smoothie,
1 whole-wheat bagel,
1 cup fresh, whole strawberries
Why? When your Daytimer is crammed to capacity, you need a breakfast to help calm your nerves and counter stress. "Complex carbohydrates are the ultimate feel-good food," says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Food and Mood.
Whole grains are ideal for fighting anxiety, she says, because they stimulate the production of serotoninÂa natural brain relaxant. And the berries?
According to Tufts University neuroscientist James A. Joseph, Ph.D., eating strawberries and blueberries can help improve communication between cells in the brain, helping you think more clearly.
After a night of partying
If you have five minutes at home . . .
Sandwich two slices of whole-grain bread around a one-ounce slice of cheddar cheese and microwave for 15 seconds.
Wash it all down with . . .
1 (8-oz) glass of black-cherry juice
OR: If you're on the go . . .
Toast two Eggo Special K waffles and spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on each.
Round out your meal with . . .
A cup of fresh cherries
Why? You're suffering, dude. Between the throbbing head, sore muscles, and upset stomach, you've got only one option: to face your pain with foodÂspecifically complex carbs, which provide your tired brain with energy while helping to soak up the stomach acid from last night's binge. Bread and waffles also help to increase serotonin levels in the blood, naturally boosting your body's ability to withstand pain. As for the cherries, they're packed with headache-fighting pain relievers plus vitamin C, which can help to counteract some of the damage to your lungs you get from hanging out in smoke-filled bars, pool halls, and prisons.