“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. We’ve all heard that, right? But how true is it? How important is it actually?
There has been a lot of discussion about breakfast’s role in weight management for a long time and the effects it has exactly. As with anything related to health and fitness there are things that work for some and don’t for others.
I think that breakfast is an integral part of anyone’s day and should be included regularly for a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Firstly, what exactly defines breakfast? After all, if you don’t work on a regular schedule you may find yourself eating at all times of the day/night without a consistent eating plan. So, for clarity’s sake, let’s think of breakfast as our first meal of the day within 2 hours or less of waking.
After sleeping your body is in a fasted state which we need to break in order to fuel up and tackle the day’s activities. This meal and the fuel you gain from it has many benefits that you just can’t ignore.
Not only will it wake you up and give you the required energy your body demands, you will also see improved motivation and adherence to your nutrition as you are more consistent with your routine.
This is the basis of habit building, an essential part of any weight loss, fitness or muscle gaining venture. You must build good habits and remain consistent to see the results you desire.
Breakfast also helps to improve cognitive function. This allows you to make better decisions, remain focused and improve productivity throughout the day.
It is also common to over-indulge later in the day after a skipped breakfast. You may compensate for the missed energy from breakfast by consuming foods containing more calories over the course of the day or even worse, fatty foods and snacks.
The fix to this problem is not simply “eat anything in the morning just to get something in my stomach”. A study found people who ate poor or very poor meals for breakfast suffered more from perceived stress and depression and experienced a lower health-related quality of life than those who ate a healthy meal. No brainer there, right?
But even those who ate a very poor meal for breakfast experienced the same consequences compared to those who skipped breakfast . This shows the importance of eating a high-quality breakfast, rather than just eating anything or not eating at all.
So, what does a good breakfast look like?
The type of food you eat at breakfast can have a direct impact on your total daily energy intake and BMI  so it is important to include a good balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) as well as a host of vitamins and minerals.
Cereals loaded with sugar should be avoided, as well as fatty meats and spreads. Foods that don’t fill you up can also lead to more calories eaten throughout the day so it’s best to eat foods that will satisfy you until your next meal.
Examples of foods that are great for breakfast include:
- Rolled oats
- Vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, tomato, etc)
- Protein Powder
- Almond milk
- Sweet potato
- Lean protein
You can use any combination of the above foods (there are plenty more as well) to create a healthy, nutritious breakfast.
But sometimes it is less about what to eat and more about the action of eating itself. You may struggle with eating breakfast because you feel it is too early, it’s too much effort, you don’t have time, you’re not hungry, or a whole host of reasons. Here’s how to increase your breakfast frequency:
If you aren’t used to eating breakfast you won’t be able to handle a massive breakfast combination with oats, eggs and vegetables (you probably wouldn’t need it anyway). So, start small with a piece of fruit or even an egg. Build the habit of eating breakfast regularly with small meals until you feel a little hungrier in the morning and like you could handle more food. Your body relies heavily on the habits you’ve built. As soon as you start eating breakfast more regularly you will find your body accommodates and will expect food and energy in the morning. This is a good thing!
Drink a smoothie/protein shake
A simple smoothie or a protein shake is another great way to add in a small meal in the morning. Not only is it easy to make, but you can take it on the way to work with you, driving the car or wherever you are. A lean protein powder mixed with water or even almond milk is a filling shake on it’s own. You can even make a smoothie containing protein powder, almond milk, spinach, oats and maybe a small piece of fruit to make a nutritious, whole meal.
Track your meal
Tracking your meal is a great way to stay accountable and ensure you hit your daily targets. Using a macronutrient tracker like MyFitnessPal, or something similar, allows you to see your macronutrient breakdown and figure out what needs to be adjusted to get the right breakfast for your goals.
If you’re short on time in the morning all you need to do is simply prepare your meal the day/night before. A speedy reheat of your eggs, spinach and sweet potato allows you to quickly eat your food and get on with your day.
Get up earlier
This is the option that I come back to more often that not. Simply set your alarm 10-20 minutes earlier and prepare it then and there. It doesn’t take that much effort to wake up a little earlier and prepare your meal.. it’s for your health after all. I get up at 4:30am most mornings and still cook 2 eggs, spinach, mushrooms and prepare a bowl of oats with protein powder. Don’t complain about having no time, make the time.
So, as you can see, breakfast can actually be a major player in the grand scheme of things. It can kick off your day in the right direction and gives you the energy to crush the day!
There are plenty of diets out there that may advocate for intermittent fasting or skipping breakfast.. and that might work for some. No matter how you structure your meals throughout the day, in the end it still comes back to the quality and quantity of food overall. I prefer and would definitely encourage eating more regular meals and stick to a more consistent schedule to keep your body and it’s functions in order… who wants to starve themselves everyday?!