"There are sooooooo many rights and wrongs when it comes to what to have for breakfast that is filling and isn't going to chew up the quote of calories per day. I've heard fruit is best, then I heard oats are best and some say protein only is the way forward! Help!"
I'd say this question or something very similar is easily amongst the top five wonderments of my clients, readers and even my family - and it's long overdue for a post!
But where do I start? I'm quite certain you'd already know that the skipping breaky approach, or the muffin/croissant on the way to work is not ideal, but do you really know what's good for you when it comes to a healthy breaky? As Amy points out, there really is an overload of information out there. Here's what I've learned when it comes to the truth about that first morning fuel.
1. Fanning The Fire
You simply must eat something for breakfast. No ifs, no buts, no exceptions. This is a sure case of simple but powerful truth. The food that you eat at the start of the day fans the fire of your metabolism. When we talk about breaky 'getting you up and going' it means so much more than actually getting you out the door. Without that fuel, your metabolic furnace is doing squat, and your energy will be limited all day as a result. The lack of nutrition that comes with not eating till lunchtime or later means you're also more likely to binge out on junk food as the day progresses. Double whammy.
2. Calories Don't Count
Calories really don't count, not in the morning, and not at any time of day. So don't count 'em. Simple, really. You see it's not really about how many calories or kilojoules you eat, but what they're made up of. Even more importantly, what your body actually does with them. It's obvious that anything natural has to be better for you than anything processed, and yet the avid calorie counter easily deludes themselves into thinking they're doing the right thing by sticking with low-cal foods like skim yoghurt and salads. Fat-free snacks such as rice cakes and wheat crackers are also popular. Never mind the fact that these foods put your body into fat storing mode by releasing the hormone insulin and causing cravings. Follow the other steps in this post both for breaky and the rest of the day and you'll have a fail-safe recipe for weight loss and optimal wellbeing.
3. Protein Power
According to Charles Poliquin the first 50 grams of protein you consume each day sparks off Phase I and II detoxification, which is your body's natural daily cleanse function. Until you've gone through this process you can bet your body won't be burning much fat and your energy will be poor. Why would you leave it till lunch? No morning meal is complete without protein. Animal protein. And I'm not just talking eggs. But variety is the spice of a healthy metabolism and although you might think it sounds strange to eat steak or chicken or lamb for breakfast, have you ever considered why? Are we really that sucked in by cereal marketing? Do you think a caveman woke up and reached for the cornflakes? Trust me - once you try this, you won't go back.
4. The Carb Conundrum
If you think you need carbs for energy you need to think again. In fact, if you're serious about health and weight loss you really should be extremely careful with carbs. I'm not talking about all carbohydrates, you understand, just the starchy ones that come to most people's mind when they hear the C word. All grains (yes, even organic), including pasta, rice, noodles, as well as potatos and pumpkins fit into this category. As does fruit with the exception of berries. Fruit aside (which is just a no-no due to the high sugar content) these are all processed foods and should be avoided if optimal digestion, lasting energy, and a lean body are your goals. If you're not convinced, simply take the no-starch challenge for 2 weeks. You'll be a convert! Instead of grain-based foods load up on green vegetables and mushies for breaky. Now that really is the stuff of champions!
5. Be Smart About Fat
Fat is a classic example of a high-calorie food that actually helps your body to release stored fat. Sounds strange, I know, but it's true. The 'catch' is that this rule only works with the smart fats. Sorry, no hash browns or greasy sausages. Smart fats include avocado, raw nuts and seeds, organic coconut oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, and the absolutely vital omega 3's. Use coconut oil for your cooking and then liberally add olive oil or avocado for taste. You can eat up to an entire avocado each day as a great supplement to health and metabolism. Quality cheeses including goats or sheeps feta are also perfect smart fats for breaky.
6. 'Breaky Like A King'?
Don't be fooled into thinking that protein for breaky means fill up on the heavy stuff and load up on the extras. We're talking about a healthy breaky for fuel and function, not a big hangover breaky. The main differences are quantity and quality. Quantity's obvious. By quality I'm talking two main things - oils, and processed foods. The typical big breaky, particularly from a cafe, is chock-full of cheap and fattening vegetable oils, and - whilst it might include eggs and the like - is usually at least 50% processed grains. With some trans fats thrown in for good measure. Stay clear!
7. Caffeine - Good News!
For years I beat myself up on being hooked on my morning coffee. And why? Sure, there are over 200 chemicals in coffee, but you can solve that problem by going organic. Tastes better anyway. And yes, it does stimulate your nervous system into a state of 'fight or flight', falsely charging you with adrenaline and cortisol, but there's nothing wrong with a little boost if it fits in with your body's natural rhythms. Especially when you lead a fit and healthy lifestyle. What's more, and what's certainly most important, I just plain love the smell, the taste, and the experience. Reasoning aside, good quality coffee is chock-full of polyphenols, which are cancer-fighting antioxidants. In fact, one study I read indicated that those who don't drink coffee die five years earlier!
8. What If You're Not Hungry?
If you're not hungry in the morning it means your natural rhythms are out of whack. This could be from poor sleep quality, chronic stress, caffeine, alcohol or sugar late at night, poor nutrition, a lack of exercise or digestive dysfunction. If you listen to your body in this case and choose to skip breaky, you're perpetuating a cycle of poor health, low energy, and a slow metabolism. Sometimes you need to force change in order to bring about results. I understand that you may find the idea of eating first thing nauseating, but this is just another sign that your system is not right. When you're healthy you'll wake with great energy and a raging appetite. Starting to eat a small breaky as well as addressing any of the above-mentioned factors is the first step to getting to that point. Initially you may need to hold off for an hour (I wouldn't suggest much longer than that, and it may mean you have to take a pre-prepared breaky to work), and consume just a few bites of the required foods.You simply will not meet your health and fitness goals without fanning that fire every morning.
9. Something Extra
You're only human and there's sure to be times when you'll skip breaky, chow it down at top speed, or end up with a not-quite-right mix. It's basically impossible to consistently eat well enough to get all your nutrients from food. Especially when you consider that non-organic food has up to 56% less nutrients. And the unfortunate truth is that even if you were to eat an 100% all-organic diet, the quality of our soils coupled with the nutrient-zapping effects of stress and a busy lifestyle mean that you'd still be missing out. Quality supplements are a crucial part of any serious health and fitness junkie. The everyday basics include a good multi, omega 3's, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium and digestive enzymes. Tough though I might make this sound, I do have to stress that off the shelf is rubbish. It doesn't break down and typically does not contain the crucial active ingredients. I import all my supplements from a trusted source in the States. Contact me to find out more about choosing quality supplements, or consider having your BioSignature assessment done sometime soon to truly find out where you're deficient and exactly what your hormones are up to.
10. Best Way To Brunch
I totally get that you can't be expected to live the straight and narrow all the time. And why would you want to?! Weekends in particular can sometimes be all about the indulgent brunch, and sometimes you just have to go for the gooey sweetness of a big pancake breaky. This morning I went for french toast with mascarpone, bacon and maple syrup. Poached eggs on the side. I like to think of this as a 'smart' cheat. It certainly wasn't ideal, I won't try to argue there! But at least I still got some quality fuel from the eggs at the same time as fulfilling my protein needs. If you're out for a lazy cafe brunch every once in a while I'd encourage you to indulge. But you really will feel better about it if you include an element of nutrition alongside the carbs and sugar. And go easy on the fruit juice - one regular glass max ... even the freshly-squeezed stuff is a killer for waistlines!
Do you have any questions about breaky that weren't answered her? How about other meals? How about general nutrition, health and weight loss advice? Anything you're not sure of or anything that's frustrating you? Contact me with your queries and I'll try to answer it as a post.
Not just Food for Yoga. Food for Life.
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