Breaking the Fast

I love breakfast, breakfast foods, all you can eat breakfast buffets…pancakes, waffles, eggs and bacon and every kind of cereal you can imagine. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Do you eat breakfast? Do I eat breakfast? The answer is; it depends. With most people trying to lose some extra fat for health or aesthetic reasons, how does breakfast One of the simplest strategies I employ when wanting to trim up is to skip meal 1 of the day. I’m busy enough and have the rest of my meals planned, by skipping my “breakfast” meal I can reduce my intake by 350-600 calories per day. I employ this approach for 3 reasons; 1. its simple to do, 2. its easy to adhere to, 3. the rest of my meals are still normal size and nutrient dense. Alternatively when I reduce overall calories and divide by my 4 meals, the meals tend to be smaller and less satiating. I track my total calories regardless of the method used because calorie deficit is the only driver of fat-loss, adherence is the single greatest predictor of success. So by choosing a method I can stick to, I’m likely to achieve my goals.

Breakfast is defined as “a meal eaten in the morning, the first of the day.” For many people breakfast is a tradition, eating for the sake of eating, like their parents and their parents before them. Different definitions for different people, as a coach I find myself not asking “When do you eat breakfast?” but “When do you first eat?” the difference in wording is key for having clients self report properly. When coaching clients we try to ask “Why are you eating?” I’d say the most frequent reply is “For energy”, I think however there is a disconnect between “energy as a substrate providing fuel” and “energy as feeling stimulated and alert”, I’d suggest that with 61.3% of the Canadian population overweight or obese, that the need for fuel is not as dire as a client will make it out to be when reasoning for their consumption of frosted flakes, toast and jam and a bowl of fruit at breakfast. Oh and by the way thats 3 out of 5 people, you’re in the minority to be at a normal body weight. This means big money is spent in our socialized medical system on treating obesity related illnesses like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, all of which are a direct by product of extra fat mass, specifically visceral fat, and not the food they eat. The extra fat mass will be a result of over consumption of energy related to the requirements of the individual. So any strategies that reduce over consumption of calories related to needs over the life of the individual will reduce disease risk. More importantly reducing fat mass sooner than later reduces disease risk and increases the buy in of the individual.

A UK study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at obese adults who ate the a.m. meal and those who skipped it, and found no differences between the two groups in weight change, or most health outcomes. Many experts claim that consuming breakfast is important because it prevents further over consumption later on in the day. Many of the claims of the benefits of breakfast tend to use correlation data, such as those who skip breakfast tend to smoke…like there can be any causative relationship. Correlation means happens at the same time, causative means there is a direct link between the two.

Breakfast-eaters tend to have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the American Heart Association reported earlier this year, but the group says the science isn’t strong enough to suggest that people who don’t normally eat breakfast should start. It’s likely because people that plan to eat breakfast may plan the rest of their meals as well, leading to reduced caloric intake. Or that the breakfast skippers observed did it due to a lack of planning, time or foresight which led to haphazardly planned later day meals and over-consumption. On the other hand, some research has even suggested that fasting for longer overnight periods (eating an early dinner, for example) could actually help people lose weight. A small new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sheds some light on what really happens in the body when people skip breakfast on a regular basis. People burned more calories on days they skip breakfast, When compared with the 3-meal control, 24-h energy expenditure was higher on no breakfast days, fat oxidation increased as well. Spontaneous physical activity, 24-h glycemia, and 24-h insulin secretion did not differ between skipping breakfast and not skipping breakfast condition.

So where did breakfast come from? Our ancestors were likely opportunistic eaters similar to most other mammals. In more recent times our ancestors ate 1 large meal in the evening, this often led to indigestion and GI distress, adopting an earlier smaller meal often reduced this symptoms. Different cultures had different. Breakfast as the most important meal of the day is linked as far back as 1917 to an article in a popular health magazine of the time. Edited by none other than Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the co-inventor of corn flakes cereal wrote “In many ways, the breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that gets the day started,” Through marketing campaigns and a reduction in daily workload, improved quality of life and disposable income of the 20th century; breakfast foods increased in popularity. Breakfast cereals dominated until a surge in the consumption of yogurts then a shift to bacon and eggs. Currently most fast food joints offer wide arrays of breakfast type foods as well. Cereal, despite slipping in popularity from its 1990s peak, still raked in around $10 billion in sales in 2013, the New York Times recently reported.

I’m not advocating that everyone skips breakfast, and I always eat breakfast when I am at maintenance calories, when I am trying to gain weight(build muscle) or when I am dieting for a bodybuilding show (to keep muscle glycogen full and muscle protein high). I like food, especially breakfast food, so I’ll eat breakfast whenever it’s synergistic with my goals. However when trying to tighten up the waist band I find it easy to nudge myself into less calories. One thing to consider is that this is a temporary behavior modification, it’s not forever, and if I really want breakfast I’ll eat it that day. So I guess my question for you is “Do you eat breakfast? Why?”