Have you ever heard the expression ‘Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper?’ This emphasises breakfast being the most important meal of the day and the fact that it should be the largest, most nutritious meal you consume.
When we start our day with a high sugar, processed breakfast, this sends our blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster throughout the whole day. Imagine your energy levels being like a burning campfire, and overnight the flames have dwindled. If you throw on a piece of paper (representing refined sugars) first thing in the morning, the fire will burst for a few seconds, before quickly dying back down. This process is happening inside our bodies too, when we consume things like sugary cereal, sweetened fruit yogurt or coffee and a muffin, for breakfast. They make us feel energised and satiated temporarily; however come 10am we find ourselves crashing, reaching for a chocolate bar and another coffee. If this continues to happen for a long period of time, we put our bodies at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. When we throw a big log of wood onto the fire (representing protein and healthy fat) the fire burns bright for hours, as will our energy levels.
Not consuming a healthy breakfast doesn’t just affect our energy levels, but it can also affect our whole body health.
When trying to lose weight, many people focus on calorie counting and therefore believe that skipping breakfast will help them slim down. Caloric intake is important when it comes to weight loss, however the quality of your food, meal timing and your hormonal balance are more important, in my opinion. People who skip breakfast tend to overeat later on in the day, often consuming more calories due to low energy levels and cravings, caused by skipping breakfast. Many studies have found that breakfast eaters are more likely to lose weight and maintain the loss, compared to those who regularly skip breakfast. Eating breakfast every day may reduce the risk for obesity and insulin resistance (an early sign of developing type 2 diabetes) by as much as 35-50%, according to a study presented at a 2003 American Heart Association conference.
If you skip breakfast or consume high sugar foods in the morning, you are more likely to crave junk food, caffeine, chocolate and sweets all throughout the day. Eating these foods produce reward signals in the brain, such as dopamine, which gives us the feeling of pleasure in the short term, however this can lead to cravings and addictions in the long run.
Imbalanced blood sugar levels during the day can affect the quality and duration of our sleep, as the spikes and crashes can continue on into the night. If you find yourself waking up several times during the night, this may be an indication that your blood sugar hasn’t been well managed during the day. We wake up due to the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which are produced in order to control our blood sugar levels when they become too high or low.
When we naturally fast overnight (unless you’re a secret night snacker!) our body goes through a process of detoxification, repair and autophagy. This allows our healthy cells to regenerate or be destroyed if they are ‘faulty’. Even though we are sleeping and unaware of this happening, it is quite an energy intensive job for our bodies to perform. In the morning we need to ensure we ‘break-the-fast’ in the best way possible, in order to recover the building blocks and nutrients that may have been depleted.
When our body feels nourished and satiated it doesn’t constantly seek and think about food. This can be beneficial in the workplace and allows us to be more productive because we will be less likely to snack every couple of hours or constantly be distracted by the thought of food. If our blood sugar levels are stable, we are also able to focus for longer, think more clearly and be more efficient in our work.
Consuming a healthy, nutritious breakfast helps to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels which are naturally elevated in the mornings, in order to wake us up and get out of bed. When we skip breakfast, this stress hormone remains elevated until our next meal. Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, hormone imbalances and skin breakouts, among many other symptoms.
Our breakfast should contain a source of protein, healthy fat and fibre in order to boost our energy levels, stabilise our blood sugar, improve our focus and manage our weight.
Some examples of a healthy, ‘nutritionist approved’ breakfast are:
- Unsweetened dairy free yogurt with homemade granola, blueberries, goji berries and cinnamon.
- Superfood smoothie packed with vegan protein powder, avocado, nut butter, hemp seeds, green powders and non-dairy milk.
- Homemade pancakes or muffins made with coconut/almond flour, with added berries or honey for sweetness.
- Porridge or ‘overnight oats’ topped with walnuts, raspberries, honey, cinnamon and coconut shreds.
Timing, work schedules and appetite can all affect our morning meal, however getting into the habit of preparing and consuming a nutrient dense brekkie can provide benefit to almost every system of our body. Do yourself a favour and eat breakfast daily, as you will be providing your body with the tools it needs to have a happier, more energetic and productive day.
A Prospective Study of Breakfast Consumption and Weight Gain among U.S. Men
Eating patterns and portion size associated with obesity in a Swedish population https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666308005254?via%3Dihub
Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults
4 Reasons why you should never skip breakfast
The Many Benefits of Breakfast