We have all been unfortunately led to believe that a good healthy breakfast consists of a glass of juice, toast with low fat spread, and a bowl of “fortified” and “heart healthy” (whatever that means) processed sugary cardboard also known as breakfast cereal served with skim milk. The reason the average person believes this nutrient sparse, blood sugar spiking, whack of carbohydrate to be the healthiest way to start the day is due to some ingenious marketing by the food industry. I have already mentioned in a previous article (HERE) about the power of the big players in the grain industry and how the bulk of the food ads on TV are for breakfast cereals.
As a funny aside, the idea of eating a grain based cereal for breakfast came about originally as a result of a hilarious religious campaign by the creator of Kellogg’s Cornflakes Dr. John Harvey Kellogg who felt that eating meat and other tasty foods promoted sin and so wanted people to eat plain tasteless food. (3)
Long story short there is huge money to be made for food manufacturers if they can get you to believe that eating their product is the ideal way to start the day. This ideal however is not based on science but what does the actual science say about breakfast?
One study (1) on the topic carried out by researchers from the University of Alabama performed a series of experiments in which animal subjects were either fed a high fat breakfast followed by a high carbohydrate meal later that day or a high carbohydrate breakfast followed by a high fat meal later in the day. The high fat breakfast was composed of 45% fat + 35% carbohydrate + 20% protein while the high carbohydrate breakfast was composed of 10% fat + 70% carbohydrate + 20% protein. The macronutrient and calorie intake for the day for each group was identical.
The result was that the high fat breakfast group burned more fat throughout the day and were leaner than the high carbohydrate breakfast group even though the macronutrient and calorie intake for each group was the very same which shows that although calorie intake matters for weight loss, it is not the be all and end all.
(The full study can be found HERE)
So what is the significance of this study you ask?
Well according to Dr. Martin Young who was a lead investigator in the study;
“The first meal you have appears to program your metabolism for the rest of the day. This study suggests that if you ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast it would promote carbohydrate utilization throughout the rest of the day, whereas, if you have a fat-rich breakfast, you have metabolic plasticity to transfer your energy utilization between carbohydrate and fat.” (2)
So what is there for you to learn from this?
Ditch the standard carbohydrate dense breakfast and get stuck into some bacon and eggs to steer your metabolism in the right direction and increase your ability to switch between carbohydrate and fat utilization (if you are one of the thankfully ever decreasing pool of people that is still worried about eating large amounts of fat due to heart issues etc. then please check out this article which sheds some light on the subject). You can still have the carbs which you will need to fuel your training sessions you just need to save them for later in the day when your body will be much better able to deal with them. Better yet, the ideal place to put them is in the period in and around your workout so that you can take advantage of some other really cool cellular physiology that occurs as a result of hard exercise such as contraction mediated GLUT-4 translocation (this basically means your muscles soak up carbs simply by being contracted during exercise) which further helps optimise your ability to deal with the carbohydrate.
“That’s great in theory” I hear you say, “but the good thing about cereal is the convenience factor as I do not have time in the morning to be cooking”.
There are two ways to go about this style of breakfast based on the time available to you in the morning. If you are willing to make the time for the necessary 10-15 minutes to cook then go with something along the lines of the aforementioned bacon and eggs with some greens such as fried/steamed spinach. If however you know you will be stuck for time then doing something as simple as purposefully cooking excess meat/chicken/fish and green veg the night before at dinner, refrigerating it, and having that (reheat if you’d prefer) with a handful of nuts as another great start to the day. Either of these types of meals will give you a nice whack of fat and protein to get your metabolism going in the right direction while keeping you satiated.
“While it is true that many people simply can’t afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we’ve somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority.” – Michael Pollan
If you liked this article and would like to know more about our scientific yet practical approach to nutrition here at Aclaĺ Health and Performance then check out this article by Strength and Conditioning coach to the Cork Senior Footballers and owner of Aclaĺ Health and Performance Ainle Ó Cairealláin.
- Bray, M.S., Tsai, J., et al. (2010). Time-of-Day-Dependent Dietary Fat Consumption Influences Multiple Cardiometabolic Syndrome Parameters in Mice. International Journal of Obesity. 34 (11), 1589-1598.
- FoxNews.com. (2010). Why Eating a High Fat Breakfast May be Good for You. Available: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/03/31/eating-high-fat-breakfast-good/. Last accessed 1st May 2014.
- Sonniak, M. (2012). Corn Flakes Were Invented as Part of an Anti-Masturbation Crusade. Available: http://mentalfloss.com/article/32042/corn-flakes-were-invented-part-anti-masturbation-crusade. Last accessed 1st May 2014.
This article is by ACLAÍ Coach Ciarán O Regan
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