Skipping breakfast may be just what the Dr. ordered
I’ve been a lifetime breakfast eater. When I was a kid, my mom would wake us at 6:00 sharp. I still remember laying balled up over a heat vent in the winter waiting for breakfast to be served. It only took a few minutes, but that few extra minutes to awaken slowly were great to a kid like me. “OK, it’s ready, get to the table.”
The Most Important Meal of the Day
My brother and I would get up, dress, and head to the kitchen. There, we’d typically find the same few things. Frosted Flakes, King Vitamin, Apple Jacks, or Corn Flakes with a bowl of sugar ready for sweetening (which I suppose makes Corn Flakes into Frosted Flakes). Occasionally, the cereal was replaced by pancakes or oatmeal, but usually, it was sugary cereal.
As I got older, out of the house and on my own, breakfast took a new form. Buying completely into the “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” shtick, breakfast got even bigger. Bacon, eggs, toast, sometimes oatmeal or pancakes. Always milk and/or orange juice and an occasional breakfast cinnamon roll. In the past few years, breakfast has taken on a very prescriptive tone: 3 eggs over medium, 2 slices of bacon and a 12 ounce Fitaid to wash it all down. That’s my regimine, 7 days a week. 395 calories total: 65% fat (thank you bacon), 10% carbs, and 25% protein. Now, I was “powering up” properly for my day. Or at least I thought.
Recently, the CrossFit journal had been zeroing in on intermittent fasting and the value of breakfast. I’ve been following these articles. My favorites have been written by Dr. Terence Kealey, MD, Ph.D., and here are a few nuggets gleaned from them. Enjoy.
Insulin Resistance and Blood Sugar
First, I need to set the table (pardon the pun). When we awaken in the morning, our blood levels of cortisol have spiked. This spike makes us insulin and glucose resistant. Insulin, for those not familiar, is a hormone that the body produces to keep your blood sugar levels from getting to high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, body fat and liver start resisting or ignoring the signal that the hormone insulin is trying to send out—which is to grab glucose out of the bloodstream and put it into our cells. Glucose, also known as blood sugar, is the body’s main source of fuel. So insulin resistance leads to high blood sugar and a host of health issues.
Back to breakfast… Many people are NOT hungry in the morning. But wait, the food industry has pumped us for years with the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It provides fuel for the brain enabling our kids to focus and learn at school! In 1928, an American dietician declared that we should “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.” Why did he say that? Because blood sugar falls in the morning unless we eat breakfast. This is true! He naturally thought that we should quickly replenish those blood sugar levels each morning.
But modern metabolic chemists have found that nothing could be more healthful than falling blood sugar levels. As Dr. Kealey states, “We should skip breakfast and rejoice in our blood sugar levels falling gently yet safely over the morning.”
Myths and Scientific Research
The main myth: “Breakfast is filling, so we eat less at lunchtime”. Experiments have shown that a light breakfast has no impact on what we consume at lunch. A heavy breakfast, decreases the amount we eat at lunch, but on total, the heavy breakfast + modestly smaller lunch are higher calorie than the small breakfast and unchanged lunch. So breakfast fails to deliver the satiety we expect.
What should we do with Breakfast then? Skip it?
The answer, according to Dr. Kealey and supported by the CrossFit Journal through publishing his writings, is that for most, we can skip it! If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat! Your body will tell you when it’s time to start eating. For our kids, if they aren’t hungry, let them skip breakfast (but send them a mid-morning snack for school).
There’s lots more in the articles and I encourage you to take time to familiarize with the great health section in the CrossFit main site. For me? I’m going to make some changes.
Emily and I are going to start fasting, yes, complete fast from Sunday night, to Monday night dinner, about 20 hours. Beyond that? I’m a breakfast eater, my body IS hungry in the mornings after a 5:00 a.m. workout, and Dr. Kealey says, if you are hungry, eat, but be very intentional about your intake. So I’m making a change. I’m going to try 2 eggs and 1 slice of bacon (still with a FitAid. I like the “vitamins in a can” approach to supplements). Dropping 1 egg and 1 strip of bacon will take me from a 395 calorie breakfast down to 263 calories. I’m going to give it a try and see how it feels. I’m also going to see if my lunch consumption increases as a result, which I don’t want.
CrossFit states as one of its mantras, we should eat enough to support activity and no more. Calorie in, calorie out, a one-to-one daily exchange.
If you have questions about intermittent fasting, ask one of our coaches. They can turn you on to some good reading sources that can help you make the right adjustments for yourself.
Additional resources: Dr. Kealey 5 minute youtube video on breakfast