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 eight-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.
Cortisol promotes the breakdown of lipids (a 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.
Adrenaline is your “fight or flight” hormone. It 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 adrenaline's full attention for the fuel it’s after.
Serotonin, which is at peak levels first thing in the morning, actually reduces your appetite. There’s a reason you don’t feel hungry!
Research support. A recent weight loss study reinforces the importance of breakfast. Two groups of women were compared. The first group followed a low calorie diet (1,200 calories) that included a balanced protein/carbohydrate intake. This group ate 50 percent of their daily calories in the morning (600 calories). The second group followed a low calorie (1,000 calories), low carbohydrate diet and ate 25 about of their calories in the morning. The first group lost about 40 pounds over six months, while the second group lost a total of about 10 pounds (28 pounds in the first four months, followed by an 18 pound regain). These results support the fact that a substantial, well-balanced breakfast is essential for long-term weight loss success.