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Running on insects

Net-zero bug-based Olympic breakfast is a vision for the future
Running on insects

While track stars such as Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Gemili are famed for devouring nutrient-dense, high-carb breakfasts to kickstart their days, these meals are far from environmentally friendly and have hefty carbon footprints.
To celebrate the opening of the Tokyo Olympics and mark the end of Net Zero Week (17- 23 July), UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) has supported the creation of the world’s fully net-zero breakfast. It’s fit for Olympic sprinters – and it’s a little bit different.

Breakfast of Champions

‘The Breakfast of Champions’ is an alternative morning feast centred around Britain’s most underappreciated nutrient-rich food group: insects.

A vision for the future, the breakfast contains all the minerals and nutrients elite-level sprinters need for their lung-busting morning workouts.
This is much more than a re-packaged Bushtucker Trial. The bugs are combined with traditional breakfast foods such as bread, berries and oats, many grown or produced using next-generation cultivation techniques that are carbon neutral.
Created for UKRI by leading nutritionist Rob Hobson, author of the Detox Kitchen Bible Cookbook and The Cheats and Eats Lifestyle Programme, the bug-based menu card comprises a Cooked Cricket Breakfast (20.8% Carbs, 13.4% Protein, 65.9% Fat); a Fruit, Oat and Cricket Breakfast Smoothie (55.3% Carbs, 14.3% Protein, 30.4% Fat) and Mealworm Granola with Oat Yoghurt (38% Carbs, 6.2% Protein, 55.9% Fat).

‘As a sprinter it’s important to start the day with a good breakfast to fuel your training or competition event. All these breakfast options contain a good source of carbohydrate to maintain energy levels and preserve precious glycogen stores in the muscles. Each dish also contains healthy fats and some protein which is sustainably sourced from edible insects such as crickets and grubs. 
‘These dishes can also be eaten as small meals during the day – their protein content will help to support muscle recovery and growth while the carbohydrate restores glycogen levels in the muscle. Bugs also offer a source of minerals such as calcium which is important for bones and also iron, which many female athletes can struggle getting sufficient levels of in their diet.’

Nutritionist and author


Our role in reaching net zero

Net Zero Week 2021 started on Wednesday 17 July and ran until Friday 23 July. The initiative, backed by government and business, was launched to raise awareness of the role everyone we all have to play if the UK is to reach net zero carbon emission levels by 2050.

Currently, the global food system contributes to a third of greenhouse gas emissions. 
UKRI is charged with putting research and innovation at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to tackle climate change. 

One way to help is by highlighting small, everyday changes we can all make to help achieve net zero.

Over many years it has provided funding to research bodies and institutions across the country, such as Jghc Limited and InFarm.

The former has increased the storage life of asparagus, used in The Breakfast of Champions, which will in turn reduce the import from overseas and carbon emissions, while the latter is a pioneer in vertical farming where crops like peas, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, chillies and carrots are grown indoors in stacked trays under controlled environments.

It’s technology like this that can allow ingredients in The Breakfast of Champions to be grown.

‘We all need to play our part in the fight against climate change and make changes in our everyday lives to help meet the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement. Food is a big part of that.

‘The Breakfast of Champions shows how some of the incredible innovations in carbon-free food manufacturing and production in the UK can be used to create a net-zero breakfast, packed full of all the nutrients our bodies need. That it’s suitable for an Olympic sprinter just goes to show what’s possible when we think outside the box.’

Director of the Global Food Security programme at UKRI

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