Skipping Breakfast: What's YOUR Excuse?
We've already talked about why eating breakfast is important for your energy, health, and weight. If you are NOT currently eating breakfast every day, why not?
Two common reasons I hear are that they don't have time or that they hate breakfast foods. But there are many others...that I'll discuss in just a bit.
No time? Most of the time I just pop a whole grain English muffin into the toaster oven just before jumping into the shower, by the time I get out, it’s done. Just smear some peanut butter and grab a banana and a glass of milk and you're good to go.
Hate breakfast foods? Who says you have to have eggs, toast, cereal, or other breakfast-type foods. What about leftovers from last night’s dinner? Eat what you like.
Very often audience members and clients tell me they avoid breakfast because they're simply not hungry. And they often add, "I'm trying to lose weight so if I'm not hungry at breakfast, why should I eat?"
I get what they're saying. As a PhD nutritionist who's focused on helping people improve their energy level, I'm always talking about how hunger is our fuel guage and that to keep energy up (and weight at a normal level), we need to eat when we're hungry and avoid eating when we're not. I realize that's not always possible to do this perfectly...but this is always the goal.
But consider this. Have you ever been so hungry but just can’t get any food? Perhaps when you were stuck in traffic or in a meeting?
Have you also noticed overtime, as you're still stuck without food, your hunger goes away? Why is that?
Your hunger goes away because the body starts cannibalizing its body's stores to fuel all the cells in your the body and brain. Often people share that they purposely avoid food so that they will burn more body fat. But does that really work? Do we burn more body fat by skipping meals?
The short answer is yes, maybe in the short run. But no, not overtime. If skipping meals worked, so many more of us would be thin.
Here's a detailed explanation of what's happening. Knowing this may just prevent you from skipping meals and ignoring your hunger.
When you skip a meal - or delay eating by ignoring your hunger - yes, your body does burn some body fat. BUT (and this is an important thing to know), your brain, red blood cells, and nervous system can't run on fat. It requires a carbohydrate called glucose - and a lot of it. In fact, your body burns a fuel that's roughly half fat and half glucose.
So, while skipping breakfast will cause your body to burn a bit more fuel, it also needs more glucose. And, unfortunately, the only glucose stores we have is about 300-400 calories worth in our liver.
And by the time you wake up, those glucose stores (technically it's called liver glycogen) are pretty much gone. And, since your body can't run on anywhere close to 100% fat, it has to find another glucose source.
Where? Oh, wait until you find out. And, it's not good.
It comes from breaking down your lean muscle mass. Ya, that stuff you worked so hard at the gym to get in the first place.
When you skip breakfast, your body breaks down lean muscle mass in order to turn it into the glucose your body needs.
And, that lhe longer you go without eating, the more muscle mass you burn.
Get Hungry an Hour or Two After Eating Breakfast?
Many people tell me that they avoid eating breakfast because it only makes them hungrier after eating it.
A well-balanced meal should fuel your body for three, four, or five hours. After eating a meal you should feel energized, but not sluggish. Satisfied, but not stuffed. And certainly not hungry right after eating it.
Do you avoid breakfast for this reason? Let's take a look at what might be going on.
Hunger is an indication that your body is running out of fuel. So one reason you might feel hungry after eating breakfast is that you didn't eat enough.
Your body requires about the same number of calories at each of your three meals. Too often people who are hungry right after breakfast report eating a tiny breakfast (a cup of yogurt or a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal). No wonder they're hungry a couple of hours later.
Don't be afraid of eating more at breakfast. Research supports that those people who eat more early in the day tend to be leaner than those who eat most of their calories later in the day.
If you get hungry after eating a larger meal than that, it's likely because your breakfast was a high carb meal. Food high in carbohydrates include cereal, bread, pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, and croissants. Carbs are a healthy piece of the meal planning puzzle, but it's not the only piece - and they can't fuel your body for more than an hour or two. Here's why.
All food has to be digested into smaller pieces in order to be absorbed from the gut and into the bloodstream and onto the rest of the body. Most carbs are broken down into smaller molecules of glucose.
Glucose is a very important fuel for the body - especially for the brain. But, glucose can't just float around in the bloodstream until the cells need it. It has to leave the bloodstream in under two hours. High levels of glucose are indicative of diabetes. So carbohydrates can only fuel your body for an hour or two...not longer.
For lasting energy (and to avoid getting hungry again right after breakfast), try adding more protein (20-35g) to every meal - including breakfast. Good protein sources include eggs, dairy, animal protein, beans, nuts and seeds.
A healthy breakfast will improve health, weight, and performance. Want some ideas for breakfast meals that won't leave you dragging an hour or two later? Read the "What to eat for breakfast?" blog HERE.
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