Is breakfast REALLY the most important meal of the day?
When should you eat breakfast? What should you eat for breakfast? Should you even EAT breakfast?
I get lots of questions about breakfast. LOTS. So, dear listener, I decided to cover all of them in this episode so you wouldn’t have to wonder any more!
Welcome back to the Bite Me nutrition podcast. Today I wanted to talk to you about breakfast because I get a ton of questions about breakfast.
Lots of people who aren't hungry in the mornings or don't have time in the mornings, or they've exercised in the mornings, and we're stuck on what to do about it. And so I'm going to step you through a few of those different scenarios. And so hopefully by the end of this podcast, you'll have a really good idea of what your morning routine around food should look like because there is actually a fair amount of flexibility here.
It's not a case of everyone should be having breakfast at this time or no one should be having breakfast. Surprise, surprise, right? There's no one answer in nutrition. But anyway, here we are. There are definitely things that are going to impact some of the stuff I'm going to talk about. Things like medications can have a huge impact and then certain medical histories. So particularly if you have a history of eating disorders, please disregard or take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt. Absolutely work with your healthcare professional around what you should be doing at this time. Please don't change what you've been doing or don't listen to them because of this podcast episode. That's definitely not the point. I can't give specific advice for that. But there's my usual caveat in terms of training that is also going to impact the things I'm about to discuss. And I will come back at the end and talk through what you need to do around training and if you exercise in the morning, how you should be eating in the morning.
So from all of my discussions with clients and then questions I get on social media, it kind of appears that there's two main issues people might have with breakfast. The first is that they're either just not hungry at breakfast time and they're wondering, should I eat anyway? Should I not eat? You know, all of those valid questions. Or the second problem is that people are rushed. Whether it's getting out the door to get to work, getting the kids on the school run, or the daycare run, these things can all make breakfast really, really difficult. So the first thing we need to realise is that the word breakfast literally just means to break your fast. There's no implication around what time in the morning that needs to happen, right? You've almost certainly fasted overnight because you've been asleep. And so the first bit of food, technically, whether it is at 06:00 A.m. Or 06:00 P.m., is still breaking your fast.It's still breakfast. Now, I'm not suggesting you should break your fast at 06:00 P.m., but anyway, that is where I'd like to start because it hopefully removes any kind of I must have breakfast by this specific time or at this specific time. Okay? So like I said, there's kind of two main issues they're not being hungry or the being rushed in terms of not being hungry. If you're not hungry in the morning, most people are fine to wait until you are hungry. Okay? Like I said, you don't need to have breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up. You don't need to have breakfast by 07:00 a.m., or terrible things are going to happen. You can absolutely just wait. And often what I find, I've got a lot of clients who are trying to force feed themselves, essentially breakfast at 07:00 a.m because that's breakfast time. And if we just get them to wait until 830 or 09:00, all of a sudden they're really ready for breakfast. They're hungry. And the whole concept of breakfast becomes something that they look forward to rather than a chore. So you are absolutely fine to wait. Push back an hour or a couple of hours until you are actually hungry. Two things I would be mindful of there is the impact of caffeine on your appetite. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant. So if you're having three coffees early morning and thinking, well, I don't need to have breakfast now, I'm still not hungry, that's not true. So what I would suggest instead is maybe not having that second coffee. If you want to start your day with a coffee, that's fine, but maybe not having that second coffee until you've had breakfast to make sure that we've allowed enough space away from our last caffeine intake to let our natural appetite sort of come back to life a little. The second thing I would do is set a bit of an alarm on your phone just to make sure that you don't inadvertently not eat until 01:00 p.m.. Right? I'd say for almost everybody, that's too far back in the day. And so maybe if you were used to be making yourself eat breakfast at 07:00 a.m., and now you're going to wait, I'd set an alarm for nine or 10:00 just so you've got that prompt to remind yourself to eat breakfast if you haven't already, okay? Because generally if you leave it too long, you can start to make some poor decisions around food. So if you're not hungry in the morning, basically wait until you are. That tends to solve that problem for most people. The second issue is people who are really busy in the morning, right? Like I said, we're rushing out the door to get to work or we're trying to get the kids to daycare or school. All of these things can much with our breakfast routine. So I'd say there's two options here.One, you have a smoothie purely because it's something that you can drink during the commute or during the school run while you're in the car. Okay? Smoothies aren't better or worse for you than normal food, but in this scenario, they may be a more convenient way for you to have a complete breakfast, which I'm going to go through in a second. So that could be the first thing. If you are hungry at school run or commute time, don't push it back. Eat something at that time. And I typically find a smoothie being the easiest thing to do at that point because I'm pretty confident that eggs on toast in the car is kind of illegal. So please don't do that. The next thing you can do is push breakfast back again until you have a chance to sit down and have something again complete. So often again, I've had clients who are just slamming a piece of toast while they're running out the door with their kids and finding that because that breakfast wasn't a complete breakfast, they're really hungry. But once they've got the kids to school or once they've gotten through their commute and they get to their desk, they might have 30 minutes of going through emails or they might have a relatively slow start to the day, which at that point they could sit down and have a complete breakfast. So they're sitting down, having some overnight oats or birch and mostly left over dinner, maybe some baked beans on toast that you've microwaved in the office microwave. Or even just a protein shake and a bit of toast, but you're having that at your desk.Or once you've gotten home from dropping the kids off, when you're in a calmer state and you're able to sit and actually eat a complete breakfast. So rounding back on that, if you're busy in the morning, I would typically look at either having something like a smoothie that's simpler and easy for you to eat while you're commuting or while you're doing the school or daycare drop off, or just have a look at your morning routine. Do you have a little window of time after that commute or that school run where you do have a block to sit down for 510 minutes and have a complete breakfast. So what is a complete breakfast? Jonah, you keep saying that word, basically phrase basically. Look, I something I say a lot is I'm less interested in when you break your fast than how you break your fast. I think the way that you break your fast is much more important and by that I mean having a complete breakfast. There it is again. Essentially what we mean is having a balance of some protein containing foods. So things like eggs, yoghourt, protein powder, tofu, beans are all fantastic options. Smoked salmon, halloumi, if you want to be bougie, those are a good protein source. And then pairing that with a source of carbs and or a source of fats. So you're looking at toast, oats, cereal, avocado, granola, lots of different options there. And of course, if you can get some veggies or some fruit in, always, always do that. But what we want to be doing is we want to be trying to break our fast with that complete breakfast that contains a bunch of those different foods rather than, like I said before, a piece of toast. It's not that toast is bad, it's just that toast is incomplete. Could we get some eggs on that toast? Or have a protein shake beside that? Or could we have baked beans on toast or tofu scramble on that toast? All of those things are going to make that breakfast more feeling, more satisfying. They're going to manage your energy levels better, they're going to give you more nutrients. Just lots of good things happen. So again, if you can only have a piece of toast at 07:00 A.m. Because you're rushing out the door, but at 08:30 A.m., you can have beans on toast trial, that trial if waiting till that 830 mark and then having that complete breakfast actually sets you up better for the day. Because like I said sorry, I just punched my water bottle. Like I said, a lot of my clients have found that that has helped them. So the last two quick things I wanted to go through are some myths I've heard around eating breakfast. Firstly, you can have coffee before your breakfast. The whole cortisol spike thing is madness and it's gotten well out of hand quickly on that. With that cortisol spike in relation to coffee, your body adapts to that in about five to seven days. So unless you've literally just started drinking coffee, your cortisol response to that coffee is going to be very normal and very natural. Secondly, cortisol is supposed to be up in the mornings. That cortisol is wakes you up, it's what gets you out of bed, it what gives you a bit of energy to get you through that morning routine. So having cortisol up is not automatically a bad thing, right? Of course the amount of cortisol and the length of time that it stays up is important, but in that scenario, having a coffee before you eat is not going to break that rhythm. The second thing I've heard a lot is that females can't fast, right? And so, again, like I said, I'm not suggesting that you push breakfast back to 01:00 p.m. For everybody, but this idea that you've got to eat within an hour of getting up because otherwise there's cortisol spikes and that causes an accumulation of belly fat and blah, blah, blah, blah. And all these things that really don't play out in the literature, in the scientific research. And so again, all of those things I've discussed before are going to be relevant for a male or a female in the mornings. The last caveat? Possibly. I don't know, I like to come up with more on the fly, but the last thing I think we need to talk about is how training impacts this. If you have done a moderate to high intensity training session in the morning, please ignore everything that I have just said.You need to be eating within 60 to maybe 90 minutes tops. Okay? That's very, very important to help kickstart that recovery, balance your blood sugar levels, do all of those things that you need to do post training. So please, if you have trained at 06:00 A.m., 06:00 A.m. To 07:00 A.m., don't think, oh, well, John, I said I could just hang out till 1030 and then I'll be hungry. No, you need to eat within 60 to 90 minutes tops, even if you're not hungry at that time. Exercise can be an appetite suppressant for a lot of people. So I would encourage you, again, coming back to something like a smoothie just because it is easier to get down. It's cooler, it's fresher, but you do ideally, you should be having a small snack before you train, and then you really need to be having a proper main meal. So your breakfast as close to that training session as possible, realistically, but 90 minutes being as long as I would comfortably leave it. So hopefully that's answered a bunch of your questions about breakfast. I'm really looking forward to having this podcast available to myself to just link to people who asked me the question. So really, this was a selfish endeavour. So thank you for allowing me the space to do this. But also, if you're someone who struggles with breakfast or you have a friend or a partner or a family member that struggles with breakfast, please send them this episode so we can maybe reduce the stressful nature of it and get them a little bit more well fueled in the morning. And I will chat to you next time.