Breakfast... the most important meal of the day to some. Some peoples favourite meal of the day, some peoples worst. Wheather you like breakfast or not there is no getting away from the importance of your first meal of the day because of how it sets you up for the day.
One of the most recent questions regarding breakfast is should you be eating carbs for breakfast. For years it has been the norm to pour yourself a bowl of cereal or nibble on some jam on toast for breakfast before setting off for the day ahead. However is this really the best start to the day?
Would a high protein, higher fat breakfast provide you with a better meal?
Lets first look at the benefits of eating a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast:
At the end of the day, the best diet is one that people will stick to. If you are used to eating carbs for breakfast and it leaves you feeling full for the day ahead, you enjoy it, you don't feel sluggish a few hours after. Then why not! Sometimes there is nothing better than a big bowl of oats to get your day started
If you have a busy morning ahead or in particular one which is going to involve a relatively high amount of exercise then a carb based breakfast with some protein is a great option. Your body's primary fuel source is carbohydrates and so eating a carb fuelled breakfast prior to a busy morning will mean your body is able to use these carbohydrates efficiently as energy.
Let's be honest, carbs are tasty. I am a firm believer that the best diet is one people enjoy and will stick to. Weight loss boils down to eating less than you consume and not when you eat your carbs. If you are someone who is hungry when they wake up and fancys a big bowl of porridge or toast, then go for it.
One of the biggest reasons why carbs seem to be so regimented into peoples breakfast routine is the fact that you have just been in a fasted state for the last 6-10 hours and likely to be waking up wanting a big feed to break that fast. When you go through a sustained period of time in a fasted state your body becomes more primed to utilising carbohydrates more efficiently. This is known as being insulin sensitive. Upon waking you will be in your most insulin sensitive state apart from post workout and therefore it is often viewed as a good time to consume a good portion of carbohydrates as your body is most likely to shuttle these carbs efficiently and less likely to be stored as unwanted body fat.
There are also a number of reasons why carbs at breakfast are not a good idea.
Spike Blood Sugars
When you consume carbohydrates it causes a blood sugar spike. Maintaining steady blood sugars throughout the day are vital for a number of reasons including sustained energy, no crashes, fewer cravings and weight loss. Eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal first thing in the morning is likely to lead to higher resting blood sugars throughout the day. Starting the day with a high protein, high fat diet leads to no blood sugar spike. Low fasting blood sugars to start the day set you up positively for the day ahead with many positive effects such as no energy crashes, the body becomes more insulin sensitive as well as your body becoming more primed to burn body fat as energy when blood sugars are at a low.
have you ever had a high carb breakfast where you feel great afterwards, however, a few hours later find yourself crashing by mid-morning and in need of carby snack to pick yourself up? This is due to a blood sugar spike after eating which after a few hours suddenly plummets leaving you tired and in need of a pick me up. If you are someone who likes to eat carbs for breakfast we recommend having it with a lean protein source or healthy fats which will slow down the digestion of the carbs and give you a sustained energy release which should take you through to your next meal without crashing.
Fuel Source Adaption
When you first wake in the morning you are in a fasted state where your body is in a prime position to use fat stores as an energy source due to minimal glycogen present to be used as energy. However, if you start your day with carbohydrates then your body will straight away turn to carbohydrates as its preferential fuel source for the rest of the day. Now as we know, fat loss boils down to calories in vs calories out and not low carb or low fat. However, priming your body to utilising fat as energy will lead to fewer cravings and leave you less dependant on a constant carb source of energy.
Carbohydrates have the lowest satiety level out of the 3 key macronutrients. Meaning consuming a high carbohydrate meal without added protein and fats is likely to leave you getting hungrier quicker after eating. Think how full you are after a big chicken meal or high fat burger? Consuming Carbohydrates without any protein or fats like a bowl of cereal will digest quickly and leave the stomach rapidly leaving you hungry again a short period of time after eating.
We highly recommend consuming some form of protein with your breakfast and even some healthy fats. The one exception is if you have trained fasted in the morning then you will want fast acting protein and some carbohydrates to start the recovery process. Adding fats to this meal will slow digestion which isn't ideal for optimal recovery post workout.
However, if you are not exercising before breakfast then we recommend a high protein, moderate fat breakfast which will leave you feeling full and ready to crack on with your day
Whole eggs and lean beef
Smoked salmon and eggs on wholemeal toast
Protein porridge with a tablespoon of nut butter
As you can see there isn't really a definitive answer to if you should be consuming carbohydrates at breakfast or not. It really does come down to personal preference on what you feel your body responds to best. Some people need a carb fix when they wake to get them going others prefer a high-fat approach to keep them full through the morning.