3 Reasons Why You Need Breakfast
I'm sure you have heard the old mantra that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I would say that this is actually true, but not in the way you might think. Breakfast is no more or less nutritionally important than any other meal you eat, but it does have the ability to affect your entire day! A good (i.e. nutritious and well balanced) breakfast can have a positive effect on your mood, your energy levels, and even your overall body composition. That seems pretty important to me!
Also, let's be clear that eating something junky just for the sake of eating breakfast might be as bad not eating breakfast. I might even argue that it's worse for you overall because you are not giving your body quality nutrition and likely contributing to inflammation and other undesirable health conditions.
Here are 3 reasons why you need to eat breakfast everyday:
1. Stable Energy
Whatever you eat for breakfast should be able to get you through the beginning of your day. However, you should be hungry again in a couple of hours. Not starving, but starting to feel hungry. When you eat is not the only factor here (within an hour of waking up). What you eat is also important. Breakfast (just like any other meal you eat) should be balanced and include protein, carbs, and fat from whole food sources.
Have you ever eating a Pop Tart or pancakes and syrup for breakfast and been starving within 30 minutes of eating? That's because eating sugar without an adequate amount of fat and protein causes your blood sugar to become elevated very quickly. Your body responds to this by releasing insulin which quickly decreases your blood sugar. This feedback mechanism (the one that tells your brain that your blood sugar is normal again) is quite slow and often results in what we feel as a "blood sugar crash" or hypoglycemia (literally, low blood sugar).
Your body needs to respond to this immediately so that your brain doesn't shut down (your brain needs glucose, or sugar, to operate), so your body releases cortisol (stress hormone) in order to get things moving in the right direction. Remember when I talked about how your body can't tell the difference between stress from starving or stress from exercise? This is one of the cases where you want your stress response to be working properly in order to keep you alive (and why it's important to reduce other areas of stress so you don't become out of balance or desensitized to this response)!
When your body is telling you that you are hypoglycemic, most people respond by drinking or eating something sweet. Can you see how this would create a vicious cycle of eating sugar all day long? These huge fluctuations in blood sugar can be avoided by eating a balanced breakfast, and then you can start your day knowing you won't be feeling that crash in an hour or two!
2. More energy & focus
Have you ever tried to workout on an empty stomach and felt like you were just going through the motions but not getting any actual benefit from your workout? Eating a nutritious breakfast about an hour before exercising can help maximize your time and your results.
The food you eat is turned directly into the fuel you need for your daily activities, but it also gives you the energy and fuel to complete a workout. Being properly fueled allows you to do your best during your workout. If you are distracted by hunger, or feeling weak from not eating, you won't be able to focus on your workout and your results will suffer.
I know that waking up extra early to get a workout in is hard enough. So getting up even earlier to eat breakfast before your workout may seem (or actually be) impossible. If you find that you have good energy throughout your morning workout, there is no need to change anything. Just make sure that you get an excellent breakfast in within an hour of completing your workout.
I get up a couple of times per week to swim in the morning and do not eat breakfast before most days. If I find that I'm extra hungry before I go, I'll grab a piece of gluten-free toast, but most days I'm fine without eating before...but I'm STARVING by the time I get out of the shower at the end of my swim.
3. Fat loss
Not only will a solid breakfast give you energy and keep your blood sugar stable, but eating it every day will ensure that you don't get the mid-morning hangrys and end up eating something like fast food or donuts from the break room.
Skipping meals does not help with fat loss. Many people who are trying to decrease their body fat percentages will skip breakfast thinking that it will help them meet their goals. This only leads to a body that thinks it's starving (remember, stress!) and decides to hold onto fat so it can survive longer as well as a huge appetite and poor food choices later in the day.
Skipping meals and eating sugary breakfasts also triggers the crazy hormone roller coaster we talked about in #1. Elevating our insulin levels like that repeatedly will, over time, cause insulin resistance and increased body fat in your midsection (part of a condition called metabolic syndrome).
If you want to lose fat and keep it off, you need to make eating a healthy breakfast a priority. You might be surprised what your body will do for you when you give it good fuel. Eating lots of nutrient dense foods will allow your body and your brain to have good communication, so if you start waking up hungry, it's a good thing!
If you don't feel hungry when you wake up or shortly after waking up, it might be because you are not prioritizing whole, real foods in your diet throughout the day. Processed foods and sugar mess with our hormone levels and the ability of our brain to communicate with our body. If your brain doesn't get the right signals in the morning, you won't be hungry and probably won't eat, which again, leads to eating more and making worse choices later in the day.
If you are struggling to come up with nutritious and delicious things to eat for breakfast, here are some suggestions:
Eggs, gluten-free toast, chicken sausage, and sauteed kale
Dinner leftovers (breakfast does not have to be "breakfast" foods)!