It’s a cliché, but a valid one. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
During sleep, you are going through a short period of fast, and the first meal after this is there to literally “break” that “fast”. It is common, though, for people – especially dieters – to skip breakfast or to just have something really light or low in calories. This is completely the wrong thing to do.
When you fast for a significant length of time, the body starts working to preserve the energy stores that it has. To do this it drops the metabolism significantly (slowing calorie burn) and protects its stores of energy (body fat) while utilizing energy from a store that is often not needed (muscle).
Now the body can handle the 8 hrs of sleep time without panicking, but regularly extending that out into 12 hours or beyond by skipping breakfast means that you are starting to put your body into panic mode. To reiterate this causes it to try to
- Preserve fat stores
- Metabolize energy from muscle stores
So what *do* I have for breakfast? Well it depends on your fitness goals, but in general you need this to be a fairly substantial amount of energy from a slow burning energy source.
Personally my breakfast consists of a lot of protein, a small amount of fat and very few carbohydrates. Typically I will eat 4 eggs, a couple of (low carb) veggie burgers, some Josephs low-carb pita bread with butter and a dash of salsa.
Eating mostly protein for breakfast has a number of effects. First off the energy burns off slowly and keeps you full for longer. Also, unlike carbs (especially simple carbs) there is no insulin rush produced that causes a crash later in the morning. Finally if you are strength training it provides the fuel needed for muscle repair. Studies have also shown that a high protein breakfast can help weight loss.
If you do eat carbohydrates for breakfast it is crucial that they have a low glycemic index. Look for foods high in fiber and low in sugars as a key indicator.
Some great and filling breakfast ideas are
- A couple of eggs, half a whole wheat muffin or bagel and some salsa
- A small omelet, with ham, spinach and onions and a little Swiss cheese (it is higher in protein than most cheese)
- A power smoothie – blend together whey protein, a little yogurt, ice, a little fruit
- Some unflavored/unsweetened steel cut oatmeal (1/4 to 1/3 cup dry) with blueberries, walnuts or raw almonds. Avoid quick cook oats if you can
Other advantages of a great breakfast are a much higher concentration level during the day. I no longer need coffee to get me out of a morning or afternoon lull and am regularly full of mental and physical energy.
So there it is. Be sure to make time for a good breakfast, and the rewards will come in the form of greater energy, better concentration levels and probably a few pounds lost.