Breakfast: Still the Least Important Meal of the Day

16 09 2013

no-breakfast

Earlier this year I wrote a bit about how skipping breakfast can be an excellent strategy for losing weight. I’ve been employing this strategy for about a year now and I’m convinced that it’s been an important component to my maintenance of a low body-fat composition (along with eating healthy, real food and avoiding processed nonsense). Every day I wake up, have a coffee or two, to start my day, and break my fast roughly 2 hours after waking up. When I started this routine, I was a bit hungry in the mornings, but after a few days my body adapted and the hunger cues subsided. Additionally, I never once felt groggy or low-energy, which is a huge (and irrational) fear for people who don’t have to give up breakfast.

Now, I’ll be honest- if you eat a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis, there is no need for you to give up your propensity for eating as soon as you wake up. As long as you are living a healthy lifestyle, you’ll pretty much be able to eat whenever you want and your body won’t suffer. However, if you carry around a few extra pounds and are having a hard time jump-starting the fat loss process, skipping breakfast is definitely a strategy that you should attempt to employ; just make sure you eat responsibly the rest of the day and take in enough nutritionally-dense calories for your activity level.37618977

When I first posted about skipping breakfast, I definitely got a lot of push-back, as we as a society have always been told: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” Sadly, there just isn’t much evidence to support this statement. If you’re going to be extremely active all day, then sure, breakfast certainly becomes more important, but most people are far from active 9-5.

The other day I came across a piece on the NY Times entitled Myths Surround Breakfast and Weight, a title that obviously caught my attention. Please feel free to give the article a read, but in summary:

  • New research shows that the idea that eating breakfast helps you lose weight stems largely from misconstrued studies.
  • Only a handful of rigorous, carefully controlled trials have tested the claim and generally conclude that missing breakfast has either little or no effect on weight gain, or that people who eat breakfast end up consuming more daily calories than those who skip it.
  • The only long-term, carefully controlled trial that randomly assigned people to routinely eat or go without breakfast and then measured the effect on their body weight found moderately obese adults who were habitual breakfast skippers lost an average of roughly 17 pounds when they were put on a program that included eating breakfast every day. However, the study also showed that regular breakfast eaters who were instructed to avoid eating breakfast daily lost an average of nearly 20 pounds. Eating breakfast nor skipping breakfast seemed to elicit a distinct fat-loss advantage but instead, those participants making the most drastic changes to their current eating routine saw the best results.
  • Many subsequent studies mis-cited the original findings, perpetuating the myth that breakfast is critical to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss.
  • New studies at Cornell have shown that, depriving people of breakfast can lead them to eat more calories at lunch but that those extra calories do not make up for the calories they missed at breakfast, so at the end of the day, they still end up eating fewer calories over all. The same researchers have argued that for some adults, skipping breakfast may actually be a good way to reduce weight – not gain it.

In conclusion, we must keep an open mind about how and when we eat. If you are overweight and eat a heavy breakfast, try postponing your first meal until an hour or two after waking up. If you never eat breakfast and are having a hard time losing weight, try eating something as soon as you wake up and minimize eating large meals later in the day. In the end, we need to forget old sayings like “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and start doing things that work for our individual bodies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but if you’re looking for a new strategy to jump-start some weight loss, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and challenge conventional wisdom!

For additional information on how to responsibly incorporate skipping breakfast into your daily routine, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

DW





Weight loss vs Fat loss, and Another Strike Against Breakfast

22 02 2013

A quick one to start the day here folks. By now I’m sure you’ve read my first post on skipping breakfast, and the follow-up piece on how to capitalize on this fat loss strategy, but I wanted to share an additional article from Keifer over at Dangerously Hardcore, further hammering home the benefits of delaying feeding until a few hours after waking.

And look at how fit and energetic she is!

And look at how fit and energetic she is!

The Coles Notes:

– A Spanish study from the International Journal of Obesity stated that subjects who ate their main meal of the day before 3pm lost significantly more weight than people eating later in the day. Both groups consumed roughly the same amount of calories.

– What the authors of the study did not mention is that the morning group lost weight because they lost significantly more muscle. This study tested body fat at the very beginning, but conveniently omitted mention once the study was completed; in the end, the referred only to weight. The people eating at night may not have lost as much weight, but they lost more fat.

– Moral of the story? You can’t talk about weight loss and not address changes in body composition, and you shouldn’t be able to publish a study on it in a scientific journal without revealing precisely what kind of weight was lost. We should always look at studies with an objective eye- in order to push the myth that eating breakfast is better for fat loss, they needed to skew the results of their study and begin referring to weight loss instead of fat loss and body composition.

To remind everyone why skipping breakfast is beneficial to fat-loss:

“Every day the body starts as a fat-burning furnace. Even during exercise, without eating breakfast, the body burns far higher levels of fat than normal and causes upregulation of the enzymes necessary to burn fat, allowing fat to be metabolized faster.

Now contrast (this) with what happens as soon as you eat breakfast, one that contains around 30 grams or more of carbs. As is well known, insulin levels raise with the rise in blood sugar, kick-starting a downward spiral: the early-morning release of insulin reduces fat burning for the entire rest of the day; while cortisol levels remain high, the insulin release causes new empty fat cells to be created; and the insulin lowers levels of ghrelin and growth hormone.”

So my friends, do what you can to delay feeding when you wake up in the morning. It is unnecessary and could be preventing you from attaining your body composition and health goals. Furthermore, be critical of what you read. There are countless studies out there with misleading information, so make sure you ask the right questions and don’t jump to conclusions.

Happy Friday!

DW





Skipping breakfast: How to capitalize on your extended fast

9 01 2013

funny-dos-equis-meme-faceMy buddy Jordan suggested that I make a follow-up post to my advice on skipping breakfast, because as he reminded me: “For people that don’t have the other elements of their diet dialed in, intermittent fasting (IF) is a disaster.”  This can be very true. I’d also like to point out that I started that article by writing “In most healthy individuals…”  If you are an outlier and have atypical sleep cycles or hormonal issues, or if you suffer from a health problem like diabetes, you should be following advice from a healthcare practitioner, not an online fitness blog. With that being said, this article will outline how you should eat the rest of the time in order to capitalize on your extended fast.

Firstly, skipping breakfast doesn’t necessarily mean that you are following a specific IF protocol. For the most part however, skipping breakfast will almost certainly result in a 10-12 hour fast, depending on your last meal the night before and the time that you wake up. I typically eat my last meal around 10 or 11pm and eat my first meal around 10am, but sometimes wait until noon. This works for me; I’m alert, active and it helps me keep the physique I’m looking for.

The main thing to remember is that after your fast, you need to make healthy food choices. I’m a proponent of delaying carbohydrate intake until after lunch (again, this works for me), and limiting carbs as much as possible if I’m not going to the gym or doing much physical activity that day. I stumbled upon a great IF article the other day, and it outlines things meticulously. You should definitely give it a read. However, getting back to the topic at hand, here are some key points to remember if you’ve skipped breakfast:

– Eat whole, healthy foods. Avoid processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. You should be consuming lean protein, vegetables and fat with every meal. Mix in carbsthink potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, rice, fruit- as you find necessary.

– Eat lots of protein. For everyone, eat at least 1g of protein per lb of body weight each day. For active people, aim for 1.5. For strength athletes, upwards of 2g per lb won’t hurt you one bit. Invest in a protein supplement, it will be your best friend.

– Drink lots of water. I’m talking minimum 1.5 litres per day, and would recommend 2-2.5. Your kidneys will thank you.

– Try to get your fats from different sources. Ideally, you want a balanced intake of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, as all 3 kinds of fats have their benefits. You get your saturated fats from animal sources or tropical oils, mono fats from most nuts (almonds, peanuts) and foods like avocado and olives, and poly fats from fish, and natural products like hemp, flax and canola (Omega 3 and 6 fats are poly).

– Don’t worry about making sure you eat 6 times a day. If eating 6 smaller meals every day is the best way for you to control your calories and monitor your diet, go for it. However, eating on a more regular basis won’t help you burn more calories. If it works best for you to eat only 3, 2 or even 1 giant meal during the day (Warrior diet, which I wouldn’t recommend to many people), just do it.  The message is that you should have a plan, so that you know how many calories, grams of protein, servings of veggies, etc., that you should be eating at your scheduled meal times.  If you don’t have a plan, you won’t get the nutrients you need and your body won’t react well to an extended fast.

– Avoid sugary foods. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of IF. I avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners as much possible. The exception is POST-workout. After strenuous exercise, your muscles are depleted and are starving for nutrients. Providing them with sugar and protein will make them very happy, and immediately following a workout your body will selectively shuttle these nutrients to your muscles instead of storing them as fat. The post-workout window is the best time of the day. If you love carbs, do your best to postpone eating them until after a workout when your body needs them.

***Bonus tip of the day- keep your intake of carbs and fats inversely proportional. If you are having a high-fat meal, try to avoid carbs. If you are having a high-carb meal, try to avoid fats.  If you can do this, you’ll have a hard time keeping fat on your body.

To finish off, here’s another, lighter, look at IF. If you can’t have fun with your diet, what’s the point??

If you have any additional questions on IF, healthy-eating, or skipping breakfast, don’t hesitate to send me a message!

It’s 11am and I’ve been awake for 5 hours- time for breakfast!

DW





Breakfast: The Key To Fat Storage

9 01 2013

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

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Breakfast is delicious, don’t get me wrong. My father makes the world’s best pancakes, especially when they’re topped with fresh maple syrup. Oatmeal is hearty and nutritious. Milk and cereal reminds me of being a kid. The issue with breakfast is that it sabotages our peak fat-burning window of the day, and that is simply unacceptable.

In most healthy individuals, cortisol levels rise in during sleep and peak in the morning when we wake up. Cortisol is the hormone that counteracts insulin (the hormone that causes our cells to uptake glucose from the blood stream), which is conversely at its lowest levels when we wake up. In the absence of insulin, cortisol triggers lipolysis, the breakdown of triglycerides into free-fatty acids and thus accelerates fat-burning.

There are other processes at work here as well. Also worth mentioning is the elevated level of ghrelin upon waking- this is our body’s main hunger control hormone. Although ghrelin is what causes us to be hungry in the morning, it is also a powerful stimulator for the release of growth hormone (GH). Increases in GH incite our bodies to release more fat to be burned and decreases the destruction of protein for use as fuel. If you don’t spike your insulin levels by eating breakfast, you can delay your peak levels of GH by up to two hours after waking, thus giving your body a nice long fat-burning window.

By consuming a meal first thing in the morning, especially a meal high in carbohydrates, you are effectively shutting off this powerful fat-burning engine. Science wins again. AMAZING.

science

People will argue that you need to eat breakfast to maintain proper cognitive function. People will argue that you need to eat a high-carbohydrate breakfast in order to perform physical activity during the day.  These are myths. While I certainly won’t argue that eating breakfast might make people feel better, it’s a placebo effect at best. We’ve been programmed to eat breakfast our entire lives. It’s nice to feel full after 8 hours of fasting. The bottom line is that unless you’ve been starving yourself for a few days, your body will have plenty of energy stores to work with, rendering breakfast unnecessary.

My challenge to anyone trying to lose body fat is to skip breakfast. In the morning, wake up and have a cup of coffee,  either black or with coconut oil if you’re feeling ambitious, and don’t eat your first meal until 2ish hours after waking up. You won’t be upset with the results.

For more information on fat-loss, or to argue vehemently about your need for breakfast, you know how to contact me!

Happy fat-burning!

– DW