When you think of breakfast, do you ever consider eating a chicken breast? What about leftover steak from yesterday's dinner?
Does that seem odd to you? Well, it may be because the Standard American Diet has largely regarded breakfast as a carb heavy meal. We have pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels, and cereal as common go-to breakfast foods. And while some will add a side of fruit to these choices, much of what Americans consider traditional breakfast is void of many nutrients, and can cause a quick spike in blood sugar that leaves us feeling hungry way before lunchtime.
Each of the macronutrients (protein, carbs, & healthy fats) have unique purposes in our bodies and for our metabolism. And I am a firm believer we need all three in our diets with the amounts dependent on each individual. However, it's important to understand that timing does matter. Eating a carb heavy meal in the morning results in storage of fat, and having a bigger appetite throughout the day.
In order to understand, it is important to recognize that the body uses carbs three ways. It uses carbs for immediate energy, stored, energy, and for stored fat. When we eat carbohydrates, the body converts the carbs into glucose which our cells use for energy. The liver sends the glucose into the blood stream allowing it to be used for immediate energy. This is why we get a burst of energy often after eating carbs. But it is important to note: For most of us, we are eating breakfast and then heading off to work or school. Which means, we don't need an abundance of energy because we are not being that active. Any glucose not used up gets converted to stored energy. However, the body can only store so much, so anything more than the body can store as energy gets stored as fat. So consider the fact that most breakfast foods are loaded with carbs and we are not all that active first thing in the morning, so much of the time we are using what we need, and then storing the rest, some of which ends up being fat. And because we burn off carbs quickly, we end up feeling hungry sooner, which often times, results in eating more food throughout the day.
In comparison, when we start our first meal of the day with protein, we end up feeling fuller longer, and it sets our metabolism in the right direction. Protein actually helps us burn fat as fuel, particularly at the start of the day when the body is low on energy from fasting overnight. In addition, when we eat food we actually burn calories just from our bodies working to digest what we are taking in. In fact, digesting protein burns about 20 - 30% of the calories we are taking in versus carbs which is significantly less.
When I work with clients who are struggling to lose weight or feel fuller longer, I always take a look at their daily protein intake, and the timing of it. In addition, we make the swap to add in more protein to their first meal of the day in order to help their metabolism function. This is also a good practice for your children. Often times when they start their day with a carb loaded breakfast, they experience an energy crash before they even make it to lunch. Try adding in some protein to their first meal, and see if they feel more satisfied and energized throughout the morning.
I am not sure who came up with the idea that certain foods were for certain meals of the day, but I encourage you to start rethinking your traditional idea of breakfast. The word breakfast really just means to "break a fast" which is what we do overnight when we are sleeping and not eating. So start to consider your first meal of the day as your fast breaker, and add in that protein!
For more information around this topic, as well as more information to how you can eat for optimal wellness, please head over to the "online classes" tab of my website. I currently have a self-paced course that will give you more information about how to eat for total body wellness. We will talk about metabolism, brain function, macro and micronutrients, sleep, and more! And for more individualized help, please consider scheduling a free 15 minute discovery call with me to see if my one-on-one health coaching services are right for you.