What to eat for breakfast?
Knowing what to eat for breakfast can be a challenge. You want to eat the right thing that will sustain your energy, not get stored as body fat and keep you full until lunch. Some people like to eat porridge, some eggs, some smoothies and others prefer to eat nothing at all.
Nutrition is such an individual thing. People lead different lifestyles, they have their specific goals and are at different stages of their health and fitness journey. I didn’t want to write a blog saying what you should or shouldn’t eat for breakfast, but instead inform you what physiological changes the body goes through in the morning and explain what happens when we eat certain types of food. You can then make your own decision based on your goals, lifestyle and readiness to change. I’ll also include some recipe ideas with a calorie breakdown of each.
What happens to our body in the morning?
Our bodies should follow a natural Cortisol curve throughout the day. Cortisol should be high in the morning and taper off at night where our sleep hormone, Melatonin starts to rise. Cortisol is essential in the body as this is what wakes us up, keeps us alert, focused and ready for daily challenges. The problem is that this curve can get skewed from things like late nights, excessive caffeine consumption, over training, high stress levels and certain types of food.
The food we eat can be classified as three macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrate and fat. Each macronutrient has it’s particular function and effect on the body and we’re going to look at the effects of a high carbohydrate and high fat/protein breakfast.
Carbohydrates are a primary fuel source for the brain and fuel for muscles. Breakfast carbohydrates are things like oats, oat brain, banana, raisins, types of bread and cereal. Processed breads and boxed cereal a very high in sugar and preservatives that will obviously not do you any favours for your waist line. Companies are very clever at marketing and advertise boxed cereal as being healthy, when it’s not. Read the ingredients list, and look at the sugar content. Boxed cereal with milk and a banana adds up to way over your daily sugar intake, all by 8am. If you’re serious about your health, then I strongly advise staying away from these cereals and go for oats instead.
Porridge and Oats contain carbs. This higher dose of carbs in the morning blunts the secretion of cortisol and can make you feel sleepy and lethargic or less alert and able to concentrate. Oats can also spike blood sugar which usually leads to hunger and cravings around 11am. If you do find it hard to concentrate in the morning or are hungry around the same time late morning then this could be the reason why?
If you eat Mc Donald’s breakfast or boxed cereal for breakfast then oats will be a healthier choice. If you eat oats or porridge on a regular basis then it’s good to balance the meal with proteins and fats as this will slow the absorption and won’t spike blood sugar as much. If fat loss is the goal, then be mindful that eating a higher dose of carbs in the morning then sitting at you desk will probably lead to stored body fat. If the body isn't using the carbs as fuel and your muscles have been stored then any left overs will get circulated into the blood stream which raises blood sugar and likely stored as body fat. This is why I always recommend placing the majority of carbs for after training.
High fat/high protein
A high fat/high protein breakfast obviously contains protein and fat. Protein has a high thermic effect which means we actually burn calories when eating it. Fat contains cholesterol which supports the growth of cells. A high fat/protein breakfast are food like eggs, egg whites, avocado, salmon, trout or mackerel. A high fat/protein breakfast doesn’t blunt the cortisol response, and sets the tone for stabilising blood sugar throughout the day. This keeps the majority of people fuller for longer and prevents cravings and hunger later in the morning.
This type of breakfast can be beneficial for people who have stalled on their fat loss or do sit at a desk for the majority of the day. As there is no blood sugar spike there is less likelihood of an energy slump and you should feel more satiated and less likely to crave sugary foods around 11am. Certain types of fat found in oily fish are also very beneficial for the brain and concentration is usually much better with this type of breakfast.
Some people don't like to eat in the morning. It was said that the first meal of the day is the most important and ‘sets you up’ for the day. New research shows that, that is probably not the case of the majority of people.
Fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity (how you handle carbohydrates) boost fat loss and can even slow the ageing process. Fasting is basically a window of not eating. Studies show that full benefits stat to happen around the 24 hour mark which is not appealing to most people. This is where time restricted eating is a good option, which is a window of not eating, usually for 12-16 hours. An example of this would be eating your last meal at 8pm then your first meal at 8am or 12pm the following day. This gives the digestive system a break, the body doesn’t use energy to digest food which lets the brain become more ‘active’ and can provide with mental clarity and improved focus. Time restricted eating can also benefit fat loss as you essentially skip a meal, and may eat less calories during your eating window.
So now you know what happens to the body in the morning and know what effects certain types of food (or not) have on the body lets look at some recipes.
Check out the breakfast bowl from Mike Dolce. This has a good mix of carbs, protein and fat. As I said before just plain oats, milk and a banana will spike blood sugar. Added protein and fat balances the meal, slows the digestion and you wont feel that sugar crash.
450 calories, 65g carbs, 20g fat, 30g protein
High protein/fat breakfast
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 egg white
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1/2 onion
- 50g Smoked salmon
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Lightly fry onions spinach and mushrooms in a frying pan. Whisk eggs in a bowl and make an omelette with coconut oil.
298 calories, 20g fat, 30g protein.
- 1 handful kale
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 pear
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 cup frozen berries
- Mix all ingredients together in food processor
507 calories, 65g carbs, 17g fat, 35g protein
Seeing as the full benefits of fasting start around the 24 hour mark, having some black coffee in your time restricted window can be good. Coffee stabilises blood sugar, improvs cognitive function and decrease risk of Type 2 diabetes. Adding coconut oil or MCT oil slows the absorption through the fat, sustains cognitive function and you avoid any caffeine crash. Check out the Paleo Chefs killer coffee recipe
292 calories 17g carbs, 25g fat, 2g protein
I hope you find some of these recipes useful. Find what type of breakfast works for you and pay attention to how you feel after eating breakfast. Are you hungry by 11am, how’s your mood, can you concentrate? These are all signals the body is giving you from the food you eat.
If you really want to have a meal plan specific to your goals and lifestyle, that will get you results then reach out to me for a strategy call. If you decide to change your breakfast, then reach out and let me know if you notice a difference.