Did you know that…

Jan Heldstab / Andreas Gonseth 27. February 2024

Foto: iStock/fabiomax

...although wholegrain bread is healthy, you shouldn’t always eat it for breakfast?

Bread is a breakfast staple in many households. There are many types to choose from, with more than 200 varieties in Switzerland. However, not all bread that looks good, smells great and has a nice crust is suitable for a healthy lifestyle. Particularly for athletes, wholegrain bread isn't always better than white bread.

Why flour makes all the difference 

The main difference between wholegrain and other types of bread lies in the production method and ingredients used: bread made from white flour mostly contains simple carbohydrates in the form of starch and sugar. When the grain is being milled, most of the husk layers and seeds are completely removed so that only the pure, white kernel remains which consists almost exclusively of carbohydrates.

The opposite applies to wholegrain bread, as at least 90 percent of it is flour that still has all parts of the grain. The more husk that remains after grinding, the more fibre, vitamins and minerals contained in the flour.

Wholegrain bread for a healthy lifestyle

Wholegrain bread has five benefits that make it a great choice for a healthy diet.

  1. Slow-release carbohydrates: Wholegrain bread is rich in complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest. This means that energy is released more evenly over a longer period of time. This is ideal for everyday life and light exercise such as hiking.
  2. Dietary fibre: Wholegrain bread contains more fibre than white or refined bread. Fibre is important for a healthy digestive system and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  3. Nutrients: Wholegrain bread is a good source of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc, which are important for energy production, muscle regeneration and general health.
  4. Protein: Certain wholegrain breads are enriched with protein or naturally contain more protein, which is advantageous for building muscle and recovering after training.
  5. Healthy fats: Wholegrain products often also contain healthy fats that support heart health.

In addition to choosing the right bread, our entire diet should be tailored towards a healthy lifestyle. If you're eating wholegrain bread for breakfast but then drinking lots of sweetened fruit juice and/or too many sugary foods, this then counteracts the positive health benefits of the wholegrain bread.

Digestibility matters in sport

For athletes, it is particularly important to remember that while whole foods are generally healthy and recommended, this can look a little different in a sporting context. Prior to a tough training session or competition, we need to supply our bodies with carbohydrates and go easy on the stomach. For two days prior to strenuous and endurance-based physical activity, it is therefore important to place less strain on your digestive system and avoid foods rich in fibre such as wholegrain bread.

The following rule applies during exercise: the more intensive and longer the activity, the less capacity the stomach has to digest food, because oxygen needs to be transported to the muscles instead. Likewise, a liquid-based diet is usually better during a marathon run, as the stomach doesn’t need to work as hard. Even when it comes to bread, you can swap healthy wholegrain bread for white bread prior to intensive exercise as this delivers carbohydrates faster and places less strain on the gut.

A final tip: our stomachs all respond differently to physical exertion. It’s best to test your ideal breakfast before sport several times before heading into a competition.