Studies have linked being overweight with a 45% increase in heart disease risk. So, if you’re overweight it’s in your best interest to shed a few pounds. One simple way to promote weight loss is through a well-balanced breakfast.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again - breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There’s just no way around it.
I frequently hear “I don’t have time for breakfast” and “I’m not hungry in the morning”, neither reason negates the importance of eating breakfast every morning. Maybe it’ll be easier to make breakfast a priority if you understand why it’s so important.
First, breakfast occurs after about an 8 hour fast (think how many hours are between your last meal of the day and breakfast). When you wake up in the morning, your blood sugar and glycogen stores (carbohydrates stored in your muscles and liver) are depleted and the body is searching for fuel. If you don’t feed your body it goes into conservation mode, drops your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories throughout the day), preserves your fat stores (the body is thinking “starvation”), and will turn to muscle for the energy it seeks.
Second, when you skip breakfast you’ll frequently grab snacks mid-morning to tide you over until lunch. A mid-morning snack is good, but when you skip breakfast the snacks that tempt you tend to be high in fat, sugar, and calories. A breakfast that includes a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber reduces these mid-morning cravings.
What’s Going on Physically
Your body is primed and ready to go in the morning. Your metabolism is boosted and your hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and serotonin are highest first thing in the morning.
This hormone promotes the breakdown of lipids (fancy name for fats) which is a good thing; however, it also promotes the breakdown of muscle. It blocks muscle from taking in more amino acids (muscle building blocks) and inhibits new muscle formation.
Your “fight or flight” hormone increases your blood sugar to give your body immediate energy by breaking down glycogen in the liver and mobilizing amino acids stored in muscles. However, I’ve already stated that by the time morning rolls around, your glycogen levels are depleted. This means there’s not a reserve glycogen supply and muscle receives adrenalines full attention for the fuel it’s after.
Just to throw an extra hurdle into your morning routine, serotonin is at peak levels first thing in the morning. Serotonin reduces your appetite. There’s a reason you don’t feel hungry
A recent weight loss study reinforces the importance of breakfast. Two groups of women were compared. The first group followed a low calorie diet (1200 calories) that included a balanced protein/carbohydrate intake. This group ate 50% of their daily calories in the morning (600 calories). The second group followed a low calorie (1000 calories), low carbohydrate diet and ate 25% of their calories in the morning. The first group lost ~40 pounds over 6 months, while the second group lost ~10 pounds (28 pounds first 4 months, followed by 18 pound regain). These results support the fact that a substantial, well-balanced breakfast is essential for long-term weight loss success.
Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas
What can you do if breakfast doesn’t appeal to you? If you’ve been skipping breakfast for years, changing your habits will be hard, but not impossible. Take it slow and add something small, working your way up to a good breakfast with a balance of carbohydrates and protein.
Here are some examples of quick and easy breakfast meals that include a balance of protein and carbohydrates.
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
- Low fat cottage cheese with canned peaches (light syrup)
- Banana with handful of mixed nuts
- Whole grain cereal with low fat milk
- Apple with hard-boiled egg
- Low fat yogurt with granola
By eating a well-balanced breakfast you provide your body the fuel it needs, protect your muscles, boost your metabolism, and reduce cravings throughout the day. Final result equals weight loss and heart health!
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Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.