In today’s post, we try to provide a reasonable, down-to-earth view of the benefits of eating breakfast in the context of the evidence that has emerged in recent years (and practical experience in practice).
Few chewing gums have been stretched as far as the breakfast chewing gum:
- Whether it’s necessary, essential or advisable has been discussed at length.
- Debates for and against, sometimes bloody ones, have been opened up.
Does it preserve muscle mass?
I’ll be brief: there is no single gesture or specific nutrient that can preserve your muscle mass.
- Does breakfast do it?
- Well, it depends.
- Does breakfast help you get the right amount of protein you need?
- Then it contributes to your lean mass for the better.
- Do you eat toast with butter and jam for breakfast?
- Then your breakfast isn’t doing your muscle any favours.
- Does breakfast help you to avoid creating a large energy deficit that prevents you from generating a positive nitrogen balance?
- So breakfast contributes to your lean mass for the better.
- Does training after breakfast put you under stress or does it worsen your performance because you prefer to train on an empty stomach?
- Then breakfast may potentially be interfering with your muscle mass.
The logical conclusion is that it’s the overall individual pattern of each person that helps to preserve muscle mass.
It’s not about whether you eat breakfast or not. It’s not the Leucine. It’s not that intermittent fasting protocol.
Activate your metabolism
This is one of the myths that’s the hardest to get out of people’s heads.
For some reason beyond my understanding, we have come to believe that the more we eat, the more “active” or demanding our metabolism is.
This “hypothesis” goes hand in hand, of course, with the old idea that fasting slows down the metabolism and is therefore to be avoided.
Your metabolism is not sensitive to such acute changes as eating breakfast or not eating breakfast.
Eating breakfast, including a good amount of protein, is the most efficient way to “speed up” your metabolism, in the sense that the increased thermogenesis induced by the protein will cause you to “burn” a few extra calories.
But, that’s the end of the mystery
What about green tea, spicy food, coffee, pre-workouts and fat burners?
Well, they have a slight effect.
It helps you eat healthily for the rest of the day
One of the best arguments in favour of the benefits of eating breakfast that I can give my patients is the following:
This, which may not seem like a significant change, is very relevant. Why?
- It can mean the difference between eating a chocolate bar + croissant at 11am when breakfast is already on your feet, or eating an apple.
- It can mean the difference between snacking on a protein yoghurt or pulling out a packet of biscuits.
It makes a big difference.
The physiology behind it?
Increases performance and concentration during the day
This point can’t be generalised.
I’ve come across people who can’t perform during the morning hours if they don’t eat breakfast. Whether by habit, physiological peculiarities, psychological dependence or a mixture of all factors, many people are dependent on this first early intake.
In this case, it stands to reason that eating breakfast increases performance, concentration and many other neurocognitive abilities.
Or perhaps we’re talking about fasting making them worse in this kind of profile?
The main conclusion is that this theoretical “increase in performance and productivity” induced by fasting will depend on factors such as:
- Pre-attachment to breakfast;
- Type of breakfast eaten;
- Concomitant intake of stimulants (coffee, tea); or
- Adaptation prior to fasting for a few hours.
You’ll have increased motivation
For motivation, something similar to concentration or productivity occurs.
The profile of a breakfast-dependent person finds direct gratification in the act of eating breakfast. Often breakfast is just another part of the ritual at the start of the day.
When this ritual is abruptly “amputated”, we’re not as ready to get started with our tasks.
It’s difficult to separate the behavioural, psychological or physiological component here, but all coexist to some degree.
Just make sure your breakfast is adequate (see next section).
What to eat for breakfast every day?
If you want to reap the benefits of eating breakfast, start by planning a good one.
Let’s provide a few simple rules that any breakfast should follow:
Except in specific situations, eliminate ultra-processed foods from your breakfast
This could be the most difficult point for many people to comply with.
This is because the food industry has prepared for us an endless number of “breakfast” products that fall into the category of ultra-processed products.
Add at least 20-30 grams of high biological value protein to your breakfast
This is by far the hardest point for us to meet.
Culturally, we’re not used to eating protein at breakfast
When I talk to my patients about including eggs, tuna, sardines or whey protein in their breakfast, almost all of them make a face of disgust.
This is a good time to include a protein shake.
If you’re going to include carbs, choose the right ones
Whether or not to introduce carbohydrates to your breakfast is a decision that should be based on your individual dietary goals and level of physical activity.
If you’re going to include them, choose whole fruit, oats, potato, sweet potato, some rice or even vegetables.
Include some fibre
Fibre, soluble and insoluble, is a good addition to a proper breakfast.
A great way to add 10-15 grams of fibre are seeds (chia, flax, sesame, sesame, mesclun).
Problems of not eating breakfast
To date, science has not been able to demonstrate any harm in skipping breakfast, and the studies that exist against skipping breakfast are observational studies that can contribute little to the subject.
And the fact is that the subject of breakfast, like so many other issues in nutrition, is almost impossible to study in an objective way.
This is because nutrition is a complex science with an infinite number of confounding factors that are literally impossible to take into account.
We can’t isolate the net effect of “eating breakfast or not eating breakfast” because this effect is shaped by hundreds of thousands of unmanageable factors:
- Previous habits of the person;
- Foods included in breakfast;
- Beliefs about breakfast;
- Gut microbiota;
- Genetic conditions;
- Previous pathologies;
- Previous drugs;
- Toxic habits;
- Breakfast time;
- Distribution of breakfast macronutrients;
- Age of the person;
- Metabolic flexibility; and
- A myriad of additional factors (to give you just an idea).
Generally speaking, there’s a profile of people adapted to eating breakfast who, when deprived of this intake, either because of fashion, an attempt to lose fat or to copy someone else, have a bad time and worsen their performance.
This would be the biggest problem in itself of skipping the morning intake.
See you in the next post – let’s keep empowering!
- As we’ve seen, one of the benefits of eating breakfast comes from a high protein intake. In this case, What would be the best protein for breakfast? Read our answer here.
- A recommendation for breakfast: Coffee Pancakes. Check out the recipe.
- We can find arguments against eating breakfast. Here are the ones from another of our contributors.