Do you often skip breakfast? Or maybe you see breakfast as a waste of calories because you are not hungry?
You may have heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. If your weight and health are important to you, then this article explores some reasons why breakfast is an important meal to include in your day. A note before we begin, though: I’m a dietitian who focuses on a holistic approach to enable your body to be the weight that it is designed to be for you. This blog doesn’t explore that. Instead, I want to help you see why it is helpful and important to support your nutritional wellbeing to set you up well for the day.
Breakfast helps curb food cravings
Do you ever get to the afternoon and find you are craving a high energy food? Including breakfast can help you with this. Breakfast, especially one that includes protein, helps reduce the hunger stimulating hormone ghrelin. Maybe you are too busy in the morning, so decide to skip breakfast. After all, you aren’t very hungry anyway. When you do this, you are far more likely to have surges in the hormone ghrelin, which can continue to have an increased effect throughout the day. This results in an increase in your cravings for high sugar, high fat foods that can extend late into the late afternoon. If you are an emotional eater, then this natural response in your body makes it even harder for you to resist and that is not helpful for anyone.
Breakfast helps reduce overeating and regulate food intake
When breakfast is skipped, it has an effect on the neurotransmitter NPY. Without getting into too much scientific jargon, a neurotransmitter is simply a chemical messenger that sends messages through your body. This neurotransmitter plays a role in your appetite, and essentially encourages you to eat. Missing breakfast, or only having breakfasts that don’t include sufficient protein, increases the release of this neurotransmitter, can have a huge impact on your appetite for the rest of the day. We naturally have a surge of this neurotransmitter in the afternoon, so missing breakfast, exacerbates this. I regularly have clients say to me, “my eating feels like it is out of control by the afternoon”. If you can relate, try incorporating breakfast into your schedule. If you struggle to find the motivation, which I know many people do, then keep reading!!
Breakfast helps your circadian rhythm, sleep and food choices
Another word for our circadian rhythm, is your body clock. This is a natural process, that plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle and regulates various functions in your body. Your body uses internal and external cues to help keep this body clock regulated. One of the external factors that influences it, is your eating pattern. So, by starting the day with breakfast, you help send a signal to your brain that it is day time.
If you are prone to not sleeping well at night, helping your circadian rhythm is important. To read more about sleep, the circadian rhythm, and how it impacts your health, cravings and weight, click here
Breakfast helps support your metabolism
Metabolism is probably a word you frequently hear. Again, without going into too much detail, it is helpful to know that this simply relates to the breaking down of food into energy to be used by your body. Various things affect your metabolism, but your muscle mass is one of those. By including breakfast and especially one that has a protein component to it, helps preserve your muscle mass. Muscles use protein in their building process and if there is not enough nutrient intake, your body can break down its own muscles to release energy – a process called gluconeogenesis.
Muscles constantly go through a process of being built (synthesised) and broken down. Overnight, while you are sleeping, no muscle building occurs. Including breakfast, especially one that has some protein in it, helps trigger muscle synthesis. In fact, eating is the main trigger for the muscle synthesis to occur. If you miss breakfast, it means that there is no opportunity for this muscle stimulation to occur. If you are inactive, this is exacerbated, and muscle breakdown occurs. The way that muscle mass relates to weight management, is that muscle synthesis equals increased metabolism, as your body uses energy in the process.
Breakfast helps support muscle growth
Muscle mass plays a key role in movement, metabolism, storing energy. As mentioned above, your muscles are constantly changing, in that they are being produced/synthesised or broken down. Promoting muscle growth when you are younger, and then reducing the breakdown, a process known as Sarcopenia, when you are older, is essential to overall health. Sarcopenia, which relates to reduced muscle mass and muscle strength, typically starts occurring in your 40’s and 50’s at a rate of 1% per year for muscle loss and 1-3% for strength loss. This can however begin even in your 30’s, if you lead an inactive lifestyle, so is something that is important to be aware of.
For muscle synthesis to occur, your muscles need an energy intake, which includes protein. Eating regular meals, starting with breakfast, helps promote this. Without breakfast, you are extending the overnight fast when muscles are broken down. As muscles play a role in general health, weight management, reducing the risk of falls as you age, movement, the more we can preserve them.
What to do if you find it hard to include breakfast
Maybe you feel you are too busy in the morning, or you don’t feel hungry, or you simply don’t know what to eat. If this is you, I have created a free downloadable resource to help inspire you and get you on track. Click here to get it now.
- Jess A Gwin, Heather J Leidy (2018). Breakfast Consumption Augments Appetite, Eating Behaviour, and Exploratory Markers of Sleep Quality Compared with Skipping Breakfast in Healthy Young Adults. Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 2, Issue 11.
- Heather A Hoertel et al (2014). A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutrition Journal, volume 13.
- Leidy et al (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr, 97(4): 677–688.
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