Breakfast is that first meal of the day when you are literally breaking your fast from dinner the night before. Typically, people fall into one of two categories when it comes to eating breakfast: They are either vehemently devoted to breakfast or quite indifferent to the meal with a “take it or leave it” attitude. Most of the time, the faithful breakfast fans have a few ‘go-to’ breakfasts that tend not to vary very much.
Some people feel the need to eat immediately when they wake up whilst others prefer waking slowly and eating an hour or two, or more, later. Much of this is due to habit, hunger signals and even satiety hormones. It has also become common and popular in the Paleo community and elsewhere, to skip the traditional timing breakfast all together as part of an Intermittent Fasting protocol.
Is intermittent fasting for you? Learn here
While intermittent fasting can be healthy and even serve as a great jump start to a cleanse or weight-loss plan, how you break your fast, and thus breakfast, is pretty important.
The Importance of Breakfast
In the health and wellness space it is commonly said that skipping breakfast is strongly correlated with the chances of being obese. You might have heard that breakfast sets you up for the day and boosts metabolism.
The obsession with breakfast is the result of a variety of cohort studies which have linked obesity and diabetes to skipping breakfast. These primarily focus on the behaviors and dietary trends in children, which have shown that there are strong links between the two. These epidemiological studies were designed to measure the trends seen across whole populations and to provide guidelines for the same macro-approach to dieting and health.
These studies however, fail to address a few concerns:
- They are associative, and do not demonstrate causal connection between ‘eating breakfast’ and ‘reduced chance of obesity’.
- They are society-wide studies which tend to show the differences seen across a whole society, but don’t consider the individuals and the variations inherent in their diet and lifestyles.
- Eating, or skipping breakfast, is a single variable in a diet. Diet, which as a follower of a Paleo lifestyle you understand, is a large and complicated system of lifestyle choices, all of which are relevant to weight management.
The real-life implications of these studies are more complex than the simple assumption that skipping breakfast increases your chance of becoming overweight.
Similar studies performed on adults may represent the same trends, equally conflating them with other effects and variables and continuing to suggest that the eating of breakfast has an impact on weight management by itself.
The studies also demonstrate that circumstances can determine whether skipping breakfast can be beneficial or not. In particular it has been shown that those who are overweight and skip breakfast would are more likely to lose weight over the long-term, whereas those who continued to eat breakfast would be more likely to gain weight. This suggests that there are many factors that impact weight management and the connection to breakfast is far from direct.
The trends seen in these studies and the correlation between obesity and breakfast routines can be best explained by assessing routine - those who tend to skip breakfast are more likely to have a poor routine of eating. They will often have an increased tendency to overeat, disregard or be unaware of satiety signals and graze mindlessly throughout the day. Instead of being associated directly being overweight, the consumption of breakfast is associated with a higher overall quality of diet.
Eating breakfast has the ability to improve the quality of your diet which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of being overweight.
Benefits of Breakfast
Research suggests that breakfast is a great way to set yourself up for the day in ways that are not easily measured in numbers. One particular study in children found that those who never ate breakfast reported significantly lower levels of energy during long play whilst higher energy levels were observed in the long-term in children that consistently ate breakfast.
This makes even more sense for the adult population. A good breakfast can provide you with the energy you need to perform to your best potential in academia, work, training, or any other area where maximum focus and alertness are necessary.
Eating breakfast may also have important protective effects for heart health. It has been shown that obesity and cardiometabolic markers were improved by eating breakfast. This holds true even when controls were put into place for overall dietary quality and waist circumference.
There is an obvious overlap between obesity and cardiometabolic markers, but those who eat breakfast may experience improved health and longevity.
Your body does a lot of repair and detoxification work while you sleep. Hunger and satiety hormones have daily patterns that correlate with these processes and your sleep-wake cycles (circadian rhythm). When you have a nutritious, high quality breakfast you help regulate key hormones like leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol, each important in maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Leptin and ghrelin are also responsible for signaling to your brain when you are hungry and full. Balancing these two hormones and ensuring they are functioning optimally is critical to having a healthy relationship to food and weight maintenance. One way to start regulating leptin and ghrelin is to eat a healthy, filling breakfast with protein and fat.
Making Breakfast Work For You
What becomes evident through all the studies of breakfast is the need to control for dietary quality. This is because the type of food you eat plays a large role as a variable above and beyond the choice to eat or skip breakfast. Dietary quality is the primary means to improve or reduce both cardiometabolic and body composition measures.
Instead of worrying about the less-than-stellar benefits of eating breakfast for body composition and health, it is important to focus on how you can use breakfast to modulate the larger concern of dietary quality.
A nutrient dense, Paleo diet focuses on the quality as opposed to the quantity or timing of the food you eat. Breaking your fast with well-sourced proteins, healthy, naturally occurring fats and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables is the perfect prescription to gain the energy and metabolic benefits of eating breakfast, no matter what time you choose to do so. These choices further to boost satiety throughout the first half of the day, reduce overeating and serving to combat cravings.
Breakfast is a great way to improve your short-term energy stores, focus, athletic performance, and other key lifestyle factors and a way to fuel up and set the tone for the day ahead.
What To Eat
The only thing you have to have for breakfast is a breakfast works for you. There is no sense in forcing down a meal you do not like or that leaves you feeling less than your best. It may take a little time and some trial and error to find your breakfast groove but a good rule of thumb is to find a breakfast that combines protein and healthy fats with a little fruit or vegetable.
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If you are wanting to make your own, here are a few ideas to help
- Breakfast smoothies are fast to make, nutritious and satisfying.
- Eggs are a Paleo staple and you can prepare egg muffins and frittata ahead of time and enjoy for a few days.
- Paleo pancakes are a fun treat and are sure to convince even the most suspicious or picky eaters that Paleo eating is enjoyable and delicious.
- Last night’s leftovers are a great and quick way to have a healthy breakfast.
- If coffee is your breakfast of choice or you are following a low carb/ketogenic Paleo diet, a coffee boosted collagen protein and some healthy medium chain triglycerides and healthy fats from coconut oil and grass-fed butter (if consuming) will keep you energized all morning.
Finding the best breakfast for you may take a little experimentation, but you will know you have hit your breakfast stride when your morning meal leaves you energized and ready to tackle the day.