Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Well a quick google search reveals studies and reports that show breakfast both may and may not be the most important meal of the day.
Those in favour of breakfast say that it is important to eat breakfast because:
- You are breaking your overnight fast.
- It sets your body up for the day ahead.
- It provides essential nutrients.
- It provides energy.
- It helps you to focus (cognitive function) and be productive.
- It satiates you for a long time and you don’t need to snack or eat again until lunch or sometimes even the afternoon.
- It kick-starts your metabolism which makes you burn fat throughout the day.
- Lowers cortisol which is a hormone associated with stress and leads to fat storage. [1. Takahashi]
- Breakfast and meal times are linked to our circadian rhythm
Those not in favour of eating breakfast said:
- It doesn’t impact on weight loss (based on studies), people who eat breakfast or don’t often weight the same. [1. ACJN] [2. ACJN]
- You just need to eat when you’re hungry, whether this is frequently or not, is up to you. [3. EAS Academy]
- That fasting increases your ability to fat burn.
- It’s about food choice, not food timing. [4. Born Fitness] [5. Takahashi] [6. Deshmukh-Taskar] [7. Timlin] [8. Siega-Riz]
- That eating in a smaller window of time is better for your health, making you burn more fat.
Other important things to note:
- Did our need to consume breakfast just come from the cereal companies? (possibly)
- One study said you actually eat more at lunch when you skip breakfast. [4. Web MD]
- One study said women who skipped breakfast more often were overweight and suffered from T2D. [5. Web MD]
- One observational study found children (in China) who ate breakfast had a higher IQ, others have shown they generally outperform other students. [6. Web MD]
- Another study showed UK kids to have less risk of T2D if they ate breakfast.
- Another study showed that men had a lower risk of heart disease and T2D if they ate breakfast [6. NCBI].
- Given that a calorie is NOT a calorie, what people are eating is important as to weigh gain or loss, satiation or hunger.
- Studies that are noted are often conducted over a short period of time or observational – these can be unreliable
- Maintaining a high blood cortisol level (reduced by eating), promotes fat storage.
So overall, what do I think? Let’s see…
- Food choices matter
- Hunger matters
- Current status of health matters
- Exercise level matters
Food choices matter:
So for the first point, food choice is really important. Eating a breakfast cereal (that we all grew up eating), laden with sugar and highly refined carbs is going to really mess you up. You will end up hungry soon after (fructose has no impact on leptin – the hormone that makes us feel full/decreases our appetite). In addition, you will be eating food that has very little nutritional value, even if fortified with iron or calcium etc.
Food that should be eaten includes protein and fat. We don’t actually need carbs to survive but take away protein and fat and we will die. So with that said, foods such as eggs and bacon cooked in fat such as butter or coconut oil is ideal. Of course veggies are always encouraged, mainly the green ones.
I think there is room for this argument. I sometimes wake up and I am not so hungry so I wait until I am. However, if I have to go to work, I would rather eat at home than pick something up along the way as I know it will not satisfy me the way breakfast does. If I can prepare something to go, then that would work too and I could eat it when I did feel hungry. On the other hand, I often wake up and feel a hunger pang so I will eat almost immediately and feel instantly better.
I have, at times, fasted. I will do a 16:8 fast where you eat your last meal at dinner, around 6pm, sleep, then don’t eat again until lunch time. Half the fasting is done while you are sleeping (normal) and you add on the additional morning fast, eating at lunchtime. For a body that is already burning fat for fuel, this can be effective at shocking the body into burning your stored body fat. Jason Fung would also suggest that for someone who’s weight has plateaued, it is effective in kickstarting that fat burning again, resulting in further weight loss. For fat adapted athletes, it is suggested that this can be a way to produce a lot of ketones and train fasted and fat adapted (but you may want to build up to this, rather than train on an empty stomach).
Current status of health matters:
This last point about hunger leads me to this point: health matters. One of the points above suggested that food reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which reduces fat storage as stress induces insulin our fat storage hormone. So in a world today, full of stress and therefore bodies pumping on cortisol, do we want to be in this constant state? No! So eating breakfast can reduce this and help our bodies to regulate cortisol and additional stress on the body. If we can get the health of our body back on track, control our stress with some yoga, meditation, exercise or other activities that relax us, then we can get our hormones all operating well and this will encourage our body to heal. Once healed, then we can look at our hunger signals and whether fasting is an option for us.
Is there an ideal time for this? No, every body is different and needs to work on fat adaption before changing this pattern.
Exercise level matters:
(In a healthy body) Do more exercise = need more food. Do less exercise = need less food. Everyone has a required caloric load each day for general body and brain function but push your limits beyond that with exercise, stress, long work hours etc. and you will need to intake more. That doesn’t always mean that you will put on more weight should you eat more food that you expend because it depends on the health of your body (Does your body know what to do with that food ie. Burn it for fuel or store it as fat?), as well as the fact that a calorie is not a calorie. Eat a donut and you will likely store fat because your body has to metabolise the fructose/sugars/carbs and as there will be an excess to what your body can cope with and use (it’s a massive dump of sugar in one hit), storage of fat will often occur (only so much can be used as energy and stored as glycogen). Eat fat and protein (eggs, bacon and avocado) and your body will use it for fuel for the muscles and brain as well as production of hormones etc.
So you exercise on a donut and you may burn the energy portion but the overload of fructose in the liver will still likely cause some fat storage. Exercise on bacon, eggs and avocado and you’re getting the fuel benefits without the storage of fat. Why? Because of the lack of insulin response when eating the food.
Basically speaking though, the more exercise you do, the more fuel your body requires for muscle growth and development. If you fall in a heap after exercising, you will need to ask yourself if you have fuelled your body enough that day (or what other factors may be at play, such as stress) or what fuel your body now requires to give the muscles what they need to continue to be strong and energetic for you for the day.
When I am talking to clients who are wanting to go low carb high fat, I always recommend to eat breakfast. Why? Because people who are coming to me, more often than not, have metabolic issues such as obesity, pre-diabetes, hormonal issues etc. I don’t want people to immediately stop eating meals just because they are feeling satiated from all the fat they are now eating. The body’s response will still be to get stressed and produce insulin as a result, raising blood glucose levels and causing further fat storage. However, once adapted, clients can then begin to alter their eating habits and may opt for intermittent fasting if they are wanting to produce other results.
- I do honestly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day though, especially living in the world we live in today full of deadlines and rushing here and there, never having enough time to tick off our duties for that day.
- My advice: get up early and meditate or do some yoga. Spend some time in the morning for yourself, cook your breakfast. Sit and eat in and enjoy it. Then go about your day.
- Eat fats as this will lead to energy, focus and satiation, not to mention stable blood sugar. You won’t need to eat again until lunch, around 1-2pm and sometimes, (as mentioned earlier) if you are already fat-adapted, you may even be able to get through without any further food until dinner.
- A breakfast high in refined carbohydrates will see your blood glucose go up quickly and then drop quickly again, leaving you hungry and needing more food come 10/11am. This can often see people reaching for snack foods that are high in sugar (more refined carbs) leading to a vicious cycle that will continue on all throughout the day. This means that blood sugar is not stable and you will continually need to refuel, eating frequently throughout the day which can mean you take in a lot of unnecessary calories.
Eating fat in the morning should come from the following foods:
- Veggies (need fats for vitamins/minerals to be absorbed)
- Animals fats like butter or lard
So this is why today’s recipe is so awesome as a breakfast option, especially for one that is on the go which happens to us all from time to time. However, I love to eat these for any meal really because they are so quick to grab and take with you.
EGG AND BACON BREAKFAST CUPS
- 6 eggs
- 6 rashers of bacon (sugar and preservative free)
- Goat’s cheese (optional)
- Fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander (cilantro that is)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Coconut oil/butter/olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Using a muffin tin (preferably silicon), brush down the insides of the tin with fat of choice: coconut oil, olive oil or butter. If using a hard tin, you can line each one with paper liners.
- Line each section with one rasher of bacon. One rasher, depending on size, will usually go around the space and then you may need to cut off a piece to line the bottom.
- Crack in one egg to each muffin mould.
- Crumble some goat’s cheese over each egg.
- Sprinkle on some fresh herbs.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pop in the oven for around 20 mins or until the eggs have cooked to your preference.
- Pop out of the muffin mould and eat immediately or put in the fridge for a later snack.
Top with some more butter or coconut oil and you have yourself a tasty treat! Comment below if you have tried this one before!
Love (and healthy fats) Bianca x