Are you struggling with breakfast? Don't know what to eat, when to eat it, and if it’s even healthy to eat breakfast? Are you a breakfast skipper? Do you say “I’ve got no time for breakfast”? Do you eat your breakfast on the go?
If you answered YES to any of these questions then you’re in the right place. I also know what it’s like. I was confused about breakfast for a long time.
I grew up on Weetabix and a cup of tea. Then had nothing but Full English Breakfasts. Back when I started out in fitness, I used to eat my porridge in the car on my way to a 7 AM client - Yes, highly dangerous I know!
This article will help clear up some of the confusion around breakfast and we’ll find out whether or not breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
I’ll split this article into 3 sections:
What is breakfast?
Breakfast is simply breaking your fast. Most of us do this not long after sunrise having been asleep. That’s if we can even get out of bed in the first place! We’re in a fasted state, on average, for anything from 5-14 hours - depending on;
When we last ate
How many hours we slept and
When we ate our first meal
Simply put, breakfast is your first meal of the day and can literally be anything of sustenance. It’s very important as you’re supplying your body with nutrients, vitamins and minerals for the first time after a longer period of not eating.
People have been chowing down on breakfast since before Jesus was roaming around. The blokes that built the pyramids ate breakfast, the bearded philosophers of ancient Greece ate breakfast and Julius Caesar and his Roman buddies even ate it before they went to see the Gladiators do battle.
One thing’s for sure - none of these historical cultures ate Coco Pops or Cornflakes!
Breakfast, in its various forms, is consumed all over the world, predominantly early in the day. What we can see from analysing historical references and traditions from all over the world, is that breakfast is an important part of every culture. Even if the names and foods differ.
The problems with the modern breakfast
Ever heard the line “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?
It was invented in the 19th century by James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented breakfast cereal. You may have heard of Kellogg’s cereal - the company was founded by John Harvey Kellogg's brother - Will Keith Kellogg.
John Kellogg invented the flaked cereal as something that was easier to chew whilst promoting the so called health benefits of cereals and grains. His invention of Breakfast Cereal changed the western landscape of breakfast forever.
Since the early 20th century Americans have consumed primarily cereal for breakfast and this also spread to other parts of the world, including the UK. As time has elapsed, food technology, processing and development have progressed, making the modern breakfast cereals even more man made. Think Frosties, Lucky Charms and Golden Nuggets.
The modern Western breakfast is so far removed from what our ancestors would have consumed and from what many traditional cultures around the world still eat today.
The biggest problems with the modern breakfast are:
The foods are heavily processed and convenience foods - man made.
They’re low in nutritional value - high in sugar/starches for example and low in protein and healthy fats.
They can lead to many health issues - including weight gain.
Please remember that it’s not your fault if you’ve consumed cereals, toast, pop tarts etc. for breakfast for a long time.
The food companies' marketing departments have done incredible jobs, with eye-catching packaging, fancy slogans and using buzz words such as “healthy”, “low fat”, “gluten free” etc. for over 100 years.
Next time you go to your local supermarket, take a walk down the breakfast cereal aisle and you'll see exactly what I mean. Also notice that the big companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle etc. are positioned at eye level…
So you buy them!
Whilst you might have been taken in by fancy packaging and buzz words in the past you now have a choice. You can choose what you eat for breakfast and when you eat it!
What to eat for breakfast and when to eat it?
Breakfast should be just like any other meal that you consume. It should be healthy, nutritious, filling but not heavy, as natural as possible, and aligned to your health and fitness goals. It should include some fats, some carbs, and protein.
What your breakfast is made up of, food wise, is entirely up to you. For example, I often like to consume meat and fish early in the day, but many people can’t stomach animal proteins earlier in the day and may want to opt for more plant based options.
I could list many examples of healthy breakfasts but for this article I’ll give just one example:
Organic poached eggs and avocado with some French or Italian bread. (Fats, protein and carbs). If you're vegan you could substitute the eggs for haricot beans.
What’s equally as important as what you eat for breakfast, is the timing of your breakfast.
There are no hard and fast rules on this, it’s individual preference. I highly recommend listening to your body. This is a methodology I personally use every day and one that I promote to my clients.
If you wake up and you don’t feel hungry, then push your breakfast time to later in the day.
If you wake up feeling ravenous and your stomach is making noises like a howler monkey, then firstly hydrate (often thirst is mistaken for hunger). After hydrating, if you still feel hungry, eat your breakfast.
I’m also a massive advocate of intermittent fasting and the 16:8 method. A 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour eating window. If you are performing intermittent fasting then you have 2 options, eat dinner earlier or eat breakfast later.
What many people make the mistake of doing is eating really early in the morning and eating an unhealthy breakfast, which leads them to feeling very hungry by mid morning and reaching for the snacks.
Timing your breakfast and making sure it’s substantial, with the right balance of nutrients, will help you to feel fuller for longer and also balance out your blood sugar and metabolism.
Play around with what you eat for breakfast and when you eat it, and find what suits you, your body, your goals and provides you with the results you’re after.
Now go forth and eat breakfast! (Provided you haven't already)
You now know more about breakfast, it’s origins, and that it really is the most important meal of the day. But what’s more important is what you’re eating for breakfast and when you’re eating it.
Listen to your body, keep it natural and balanced, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals whilst living and sustaining a healthy life.
And steer clear of those choco-golden-frosted-flakes-nuggets - or whatever they’re called!
Yours in health,