Breaking The Fast: What to Eat In The Morning
How many people have the same breakfast every morning?
Perhaps you are a coffee and muffin person, or maybe you go for a bagel with cream cheese - either way, this may not be the healthiest options to choose on a regular basis.
Traditional breakfast foods in North America are notoriously high in sugar. In recent articles we have discussed the role of sugar, as it relates to carbohydrates - so we know sugar is not necessarily the enemy when it is consumed correctly.
With that in mind, dropping 2 sugars into your coffee each morning, having a sugary cereal or sugar-rich breakfast dessert is not going to be the best option if you have goals of weight loss or strength.
Carbohydrates are the lifeblood of human performance - when they are eaten in their true form.
Carbs are not meant to be sugar-rich, rather they should contain high fibre and moderate starch. Foods like oatmeal are the perfect example of a complete carbohydrate that is perfect for breakfast - but how many of us really eat it?
Look, we get it, oatmeal is boring, and sometimes, rather tasteless. Finding the right foods for breakfast can be even more challenging when there is conflicting information and opinions.
Before we get into what you should eat and why, it’s important to have an understanding of what breakfast is - from the perspective of human physiology.
What is Breakfast?
Everything you need to know about breakfast is in the actual name. BREAK-FAST, you are literally breaking your fast.
Before you eat breakfast in the morning you would have been sleeping for upwards of 7-8 hours, and before that, you may have eaten dinner or a snack, perhaps 2-3 hours before that. This puts your body in what's called the post-ascorbic state.
This state is defined when your body has been “fasting” for more than 4 or 5 hours. In this case, your body will have emptied the stomach, and more of the small intestine leaving you with little to no available food as energy - other than what is stored.
That last statement is important.
Before you eat your breakfast, most of all the energy you are using is from stored nutrients - either in the form of stored glycogen (from carbs) or ketones (from fat).
Of course, this will differ from person to person, but the fundamental idea behind breakfast is that you are breaking this cycle.
If you want to effectively lose more weight and build more muscle it is important to ingest food that will help your body to break the cycle without interrupting too much of your energy metabolism.
Traditional high sugar breakfast foods are not the best option because they will provide your body with a temporary boost in fuel without utilizing your stored nutrients. This leads us to our next question.
What Should You Eat For Breakfast?
The debate for great breakfast foods has always been open to discussion. While some may say that it's important to eat high protein, others will say that high fat can be beneficial.
From the standpoint of optimal health, we are always looking for a balance of all macronutrients with an emphasis on protein and fibre-rich carbohydrates.
Protein For Breakfast
We must not forget that we are breaking our fast anytime we have our first meal of the day. Yes, you can extend the time at which you are in the post-ascorbic state in an effort to increase fat loss, but this also may slow your metabolism.
For these reasons, protein becomes one of the most effective morning foods.
Why Eat Protein Rich Foods?
Protein, as we may remember from our earlier article, is a macronutrient that cannot be stored. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, protein is used by the body and then released either as energy or waste.
This means you can essentially eat protein-rich foods to help ingest calories to feel full, yet overconsumption may not directly influence weight gain - especially if you are eating lean sources of protein like beans, chicken, turkey and especially fish.
Generally, protein is also much lower in calories and contains a far lower effect on insulin sensitivity (depending on the protein) than other foods such as carbohydrates.
The Amino Acid Effect
The last, and perhaps most important reason to eat protein rich in the morning is that all proteins will contain amino acids - which are the building blocks of muscle tissue.
During our fast, the post-ascorbic state leads our body to look for amino acids - especially if you have been exercising hard and trying to build muscle.
Eating a sugar-rich breakfast cereal will not provide your body with very many amino acids, and will not serve to start the muscle recovery process.
Protein-rich foods like oatmeal, beans, meats, nuts and seeds are perfect foods to provide sustainable energy and a wide spectrum of amino acids to help heal muscles and promote wakeful and strong energy all day long.
Some Foods to Avoid
There are some foods we all love, but deep down know that we shouldn't be eating. Here are some of the most common breakfast foods that you should avoid, and what you can eat instead.
Bacon and Eggs
Many people have a go-to breakfast of bacon and eggs, and although it tastes great - it may not be the most effective breakfast if you have weight loss goals.
Yes, bacon and eggs are high in protein, and this could assist you in the development of muscle, but the high fat from cooking oils or bacon is not the best option.
A simple fix is to switch to egg whites and turkey bacon. Add some hot sauce or salsa for some extra flavour.
Cereal and Milk
Everyone loves a good bowl of cereal. Let us start off by saying there are cereals that are very healthy for you - namely bran and whole grain, but most cereals such as corn flakes and frosted wheat are not the best options.
Especially when paired with a high-fat milk, you definitely have a food that will help you to feel full and awake (because of the high sugar) but is not beneficial for your overall health. Even if you substitute a low-sugar cereal, all milk contains lactose, which is a simple sugar and will have the same effect as glucose or sucralose.
Instead of a high sugar cereal, try bran flakes with either skim milk, soy milk or almond milks - they're not as protein-rich, but they taste great and can come in zero-sugar forms.
Protein Breakfast Ideas
Now that we’ve walked through what breakfast is, and how it has an effect on your personal physiology, let's delve into some of the best protein breakfast ideas.
#1 - Meat and Nut Breakfast
First popularized by strength expert, Charles Poliquin, this breakfast has you eating lean meats and nuts. The idea behind this is to obtain the highest amounts of amino acid and the lowest carbohydrates.
The best options for this protein breakfast is to eat meats such as bison, venison or turkey, combined with nuts like cashews, pistachios and almonds.
#2 - Protein Pancakes
Whether you have a recipe you found online, or you grabbed yourself an easy-mix, pancakes taste great and you can grab a bunch of protein to help sustain growth and development of muscle tissue.
#3 - Oatmeal and Fruit
Perhaps the best of the best foods when it comes to meeting the demands of breaking a fast in the most proactive way possible. Oatmeal and fruit will not contain the same amount of protein as other foods but they will provide a great source of complex carbohydrates and, more importantly, high sources of fibre to start your day off right.
For a simple and easy alternative to the daily grind of making oatmeal in the morning, you can try overnight oats. It's simple to make, easy to take with you and super nutritious.
#4 - Peanut Butter and Toast
One of the most simple and effective breakfast ideas is a basic peanut butter on toast. For added benefits be sure to grab a dense bread such as rye or sprouted grains. If this doesn't fill you up to feel free to slice some banana onto your toast for some added fibre and essential micronutrients like potassium.
#5 - Avocado and Hummus Breakfast Wraps
Very tasty and even easier to make. Simply combine avocado and hummus in a blender and add to a whole wheat tortilla wrap. Throw some lettuce, diced tomatoes and onion in for a hearty and wholesome breakfast rich in protein, healthy fats and dense carbohydrates.
Breakfast, The Most Important Meal of The Day
At a young age, we are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this saying still holds up.
Breakfast is not just about grabbing a quick bite to eat on the go and chugging down a coffee, breaking your fast is an important time and the food you eat should always reflect your personal goals.
Ask yourself; is a donut and a coffee going to get you closer to achieving the body you have always dreamed of? Perhaps not. Yet putting an emphasis on the start of your metabolism by breaking your fast with high fibre, high protein foods is essential for your personal growth, weight loss and even development of muscle tissue.