The Great Breakfast Myth

You've been duped. It's not your fault. Food companies are have been very convincing. But everything you know about eating breakfast is wrong. Here's what we've been taught:

~You MUST eat breakfast to get your metabolism going in the morning. Otherwise, you will be in "starvation mode."

~You need to start your day with carbohydrates for energy.

~Whole grains are the best way to start the day.

~Cereal is heart healthy.

~Don't eat fat, it makes us fat.

~Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day since you will burn off all the calories and not store body fat.

Everything you've been taught is wrong. But why have these pervasive "truths" been taken at face value, trusted and followed without question? Well, that's a simple answer: Big Food Companies are great at marketing these messages to us so that we buy their cheap, sugary breakfast foods and think we are doing our bodies a favor.

Think about the messages we’ve heard over and over again:

Chocolate Cheerios and Raisin Bran are marked as being heart healthy breakfast options right on the front of the box. But each small ¾ cup serving of Chocolate Cheerios contains 2 teaspoons of sugar and each cup of Raisin Bran contains a whopping 4 teaspoons of sugar. Heart healthy???

And it’s not just breakfast cereals, Starbucks and other coffee outlets offer artificially sweetened beverage options claiming they are a “skinny” way to enjoy a carmel latte or iced pumpkin spice beverage in the morning. Meanwhile, the artificial sweeteners in these beverages have been found to be horribly damaging to our important gut bacteria and can also trigger extreme cravings for sugar throughout the remainder of the day.

We are bombarded with words we associate with foods that are “good” for us such as whole grain, heart healthy, sugar free.

But guess what?

Everything you have been taught about breakfast is wrong. It's not the most important meal of the day. In fact, for many people it might not even be necessary.

Think about it, when we are sleeping, our bodies are deep into “repair mode.” They are busy repairing muscles, turning over skin cells, and getting rid of waste. In order to accomplish these tasks, the body uses body fat (a major stored energy source) to fuel the process while we sleep. Body fat provides the energy we need in order to repair. The use of body fat as a fuel is a good thing metabolically speaking because fat as a fuel burns “cleaner” than carbohydrates (our other stored energy source). Carb burning generates more reactive oxygen species also known as oxidative free radicals which can result in damage and aging. That means that the more we can burn fat compared to carbs, the less damage we are producing in our bodies. The burning of body fat is also more beneficial for our waistlines.

Sounds like a no-brainer right?

Do you want to know the #1 thing that stops the body from continuing to burn fat once we wake up?

Eating a sugary breakfast!

Cereal, orange juice, waffles, pancakes, bran muffins, bagels, even oatmeal all either contain sugar or will eventually (or rather quickly!) break down into sugar in the body. When we eat foods that contain sugar or breakdown into sugar, we are giving our bodies outside carbohydrates to burn as fuel instead of body fat. We basically shut down fat burning when we give our bodies foods that break down into sugar.

These foods flood our bloodstream with excess sugar that needs to be removed and either used for energy or stored. Unfortunately for us, our sedentary lifestyles and jobs do nothing to help us burn the excess sugar for energy. That leaves our body no but to store the excess sugar. If we are lucky, it gets stored in our muscle tissue or liver as glycogen (the storage form of sugar). However, we can only store very limited amounts of sugar as glycogen. But we have unlimited storage in body fat since body fat cells can expand as needed to accommodate. That means that excess sugar consumption is one of the main ways in which body fat cells get bigger.

To prevent this from happening, we have two options:

  1. Eat protein, veggies and fat for breakfast

  2. Fast during the morning

Eat Protein, Veggies and Fat for Breakfast

None of those foods contain sugar. Nor will they breakdown into sugar. So your best bet for allowing your body to continue some type of body fat burn during the morning is to consume a small but satisfying breakfast with these items.

Good options are eggs with veggies and pastured cheese; a protein shake (grassfed whey or vegan powder) with almond milk, spinach, almond butter and flax; leftovers from the night before such as ½ chicken breast and broccoli.

I’m going to even give you some convenience options for a healthy breakfast:

~Starbucks is offering Sous Vide Egg Bites that come in egg white and roasted red pepper or bacon and gruyere. I would recommend the egg white and roasted red pepper but either way, both are almost pure protein with a touch of fat and the egg white version has a hint of veggies too.

~All Panera sandwiches can be put into a bowl. I like their Mediterranean egg white sandwich in a bowl with extra spinach.

These are all excellent options that keep blood sugar from rising and allow the body to continue fat burning well into the day.

Fast During the Morning

Fasting seems to be scary for a lot of us. The idea of not eating sounds intimidating and we assume we will be left with horrible cravings while our body catabolizes muscle mass as we suffer through the morning hours until lunch. However, I usually hear the exact opposite experiences from folks who choose to fast in the morning until lunch. They usually aren’t hungry, muscle mass never gets burned and there are no horrible cravings. In fact, regular morning fasters often have to remind themselves to eat lunch since they don’t ever get any hunger pangs.

Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to morning fast. The correct way is to make sure you are very hydrated all morning long with water, coffee, tea and even broth. If drinking coffee, keep it black or with just a small small touch of pastured creamer. If you need to eat anything during these morning hours, limit it to fibrous and watery veggies such as celery and cucumber or small amounts of pure fat such as ½ teaspoon of coconut oil in your coffee or tea. It won’t taste like anything but it will provide your body with a bit of energy without any sugar or insulin response. In fact, the fats found in coconut oil may actually increase the body’s ability to burn fat.

If you are new to the idea of fasting, try simply going 12 hours from dinner the night before to breakfast the next day (ie: 8pm dinner until 8am breakfast). You can gradually increase the fasting interval until you reach up to 18 hours.

No matter which breakfast option you choose above, both strategies are great ways to keep your metabolism revved up and burning body fat throughout the day.

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