The morning is our first chance to break the fast of sleeping. Hopefully you stopped eating by 7:00pm or so and you were able to digest for 2-3 hours before bed so you got a good 12 hours of fasting through the night. Now the day is ramping up and you need some high quality fuel for yourself and your family. Let’s start by talking about what not to eat and then we will circle back around to what you should eat.
The worst thing you could eat in the morning is...You guessed it! Processed crappy cereal!
But I don’t want to make it quite that easy. It's one thing to start your day off right and it’s another thing to wreck the whole day with what you eat in the morning. Let's go to some data, a Harvard study of overweight young boys were fed the exact same amount of calories in the morning but varied their meals three different ways.
One breakfast was of traditional processed oatmeal, one of steel cut oats, and one of eggs and vegetables in an omelette.
Can you guess which breakfast was the most beneficial for their health? The participants were given a button to push whenever they were hungry so they could eat again. They also took blood samples of their insulin levels and blood sugar levels every hour. The kids that ate the processed oatmeal in the morning (which according to marketing is even better than how most of us start our day with a bagel, cereal, toast, pancakes etc…) ate 81% more food throughout the day because they were so much hungrier than the kids who had the omelette. Not only were they generally hungrier and ate more, but all their blood markers were worse in terms of blood sugar, insulin response, and stress hormones. The crazy thing is they had eaten the same amount of calories so quality and macros do matter..and yes the marketing industry lies to us about how healthy foods are for you if it makes them more money.
What does this mean for you and your family? Essentially the high carbohydrate load of bagels, cereal, pancakes, processed oatmeal, etc..(the glycemic index of the food, how much fiber it has and the other foods eaten with it) makes us hungrier throughout the day, stresses our bodies to deal with the sugar, and wrecks any chance we have of losing weight (or maintaining a healthy body weight). Yes, I do believe if you are in a calorie deficit you will lose weight BUT if you are creating a giant insulin reaction in your body by eating simple carbs and high glycemic foods for breakfast this is going to be a colossal struggle and take much longer than you want it to take.
Here is a basic picture of what happens in your body when you eat a big carb load in the morning with no or minimal protein, healthy fats and fiber. Your body has to respond to the onslaught of sugar that just entered your system. It does this by producing insulin, a storage hormone. This insulin reaction creates a stress response in the body leading to a cascade of events that cause you to store the circulating blood sugar (energy) because you don’t need it for fuel. The insulin response drops your blood sugar (sometimes lower than it needs to because it’s such a common cascade) and makes you feel tired as well as giving you brain fog. This triggers a hormone cascade that makes you feel hungry to bring your energy back up and all this takes about 2 hours. Does this cycle sound familiar? It’s the cycle that allows us to slowly gain body fat and perpetuates body fat retention because we are in storage mode all the time. Bottom line, if your breakfast makes you hungry in 2 hours then change it up. Even if the media says steel cut oats are the healthiest thing for your heart (which they aren’t) in the morning, how does it make you feel? How does your day typically play out? Do you get up, get ready for work, get the kids ready for school and then go sit at your desk for the next 8 hours? If so you don’t need a lot of carbs, you need protein and fats with a little high quality carbs (a.k.a. veggies). If your kids are going to school and they need mental awareness as well as satiety to make it all the way till lunch, then healthy fats and protein from eggs, quality carbs from veggies all made into a scramble with cheese and salsa would be a great start to the day. If you workout first thing in the morning then some quality carbs and some more processed carbs might be a good post workout meal, i.e.- steel cut oats with some plain greek yogurt and ham. Or a green smoothie with protein powder and fruit.
My point is figure out what works for you in the morning and design your day around it keeping your goals in mind. Experiment with your breakfast and what your kids eat in the morning. Breakfast is usually crazy at our house so that’s why it’s a staple part of our food prep. A common breakfast prepped on Sunday is 2 lbs of ground turkey sausage, a dozen eggs scrambled, some cut up peppers and then everyone can make their own breakfast throughout the week. The point is, it’s there for the family to choose from and it’s convenient. This greatly increases the chances they will make the healthy decision and eat a healthy breakfast.
Experiment with your family and your own breakfast this week. Let me know what fuels you best and optimizes your kid’s brain. I love to get new recipes and ideas. Just send them to my email at Brant@nutrition1stcoaching.com.
Fuel Well, Fuel Smart