THE BLOG
06/04/2014 12:48 pm ET | Updated Aug 04, 2014

A Five-Minute Solution to Solve the Breakfast Debate

Getty

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, said no one ever. Seriously, I've met like two people in my whole life who get excited discussing their morning meal.

So when I say, "Eat a substantial breakfast within one hour of waking up," I'm often met with a blank stare or a brilliant excuse why among their zillion tasks, this seemingly herculean task just isn't doable.

Even with the most hectic schedule, breakfast should take priority. After "fasting" while you sleep, your body demands fuel. Unlike fat or carbohydrate, you can't store protein. When you skip breakfast, your body eventually cannibalizes hard-earned muscle to get that protein. Not cool.

Besides, hunger doesn't play out well for most people. Without breakfast, you become a caffeinated mess snapping at your semi-incompetent receptionist while fighting an urge to devour a hot glazed donut your coworker brought in. Overall, it's not a pretty picture.

Making breakfast "dessert" creates a different type of havoc. I see folks order low-fat muffins with their skinny latte, both of which coffee shops misleadingly label "healthy" when in fact they're sugar bombs that create a blood sugar spike-and-crash roller coaster.

Breakfast sets your day's metabolic tone. Start your day with sugar and you've set your body's expectation for the day, and that's what you'll crave -- and eat -- all day long. Ever wonder why you're ravenous at 10:15 a.m. when you just had a gargantuan bagel with OJ a few hours before? That's your blood sugar loudly crashing.

Even though several colleagues now promote intermittent fasting (IF), thereby skipping breakfast, I've remained a stanch advocate.

Many focus on children and adolescents, yet numerous adult studies substantiate my pro-breakfast stance. One found eating breakfast might "modestly contribute to the prevention of weight gain as compared with skipping breakfast in middle-aged and older men."

Fat loss isn't the only benefit for eating breakfast. One study among male health professionals found eating breakfast could significantly lower coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.

Skipping breakfast to "save calories"? Bad idea. Researchers invited participants who either consistently ate or skipped breakfast for two studies. The second study proved more revealing: Breakfast skippers had "significantly increased" appetite at lunch.

Researchers in another study likewise found breakfast skippers made up for those "lost calories" at subsequent meals. Not only that, skipping breakfast "impairs fasting lipids and postprandial insulin sensitivity and could lead to weight gain..."

For fat loss, not only should you have breakfast; it should be your day's biggest meal. One recent study looked at two groups of overweight and obese women with metabolic syndrome. Over 12 weeks, one group ate a high-caloric breakfast while the other saved their big meal for dinner.

The breakfast group won. "High-calorie breakfast with reduced intake at dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome," researchers concluded.

Time and lack of appetite are two reason folks skip breakfast. Manufacturers capitalize on these limitations with sugary cereals, snack bars, and other concoctions that skyrocket your blood sugar while providing little if any protein or essential nutrients.

Among protein's benefits, it keeps you satiated longer than carbohydrate. One study showed a high-protein breakfast reduces your hunger hormone ghrelin as well as gastric emptying while increasing cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that tells your brain you're full. The high-carbohydrate breakfast provided none of those benefits.

Ideally you'll eat a 400 - 600 calorie breakfast that includes lean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous veggies, and low-glycemic starches.

If eating that upon rising doesn't appeal to you, consider a protein shake. I blend non-soy, non-dairy plant-based or defatted beef protein with frozen raspberries, avocado, kale or other leafy greens (you won't taste 'em), and unsweetened coconut or almond milk for a satiating, portable shake that packs protein, healthy fat, fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. It takes five minutes to make but keeps you full for hours.

Convenience aside, one meta-analysis that looked at six studies concluded a meal-replacement shake "can safely and effectively produce significant sustainable weight loss and improve weight-related risk factors of disease."

While scientific evidence isn't conclusive and my colleagues debate its merits, I find nearly everyone feels and performs better eating breakfast. What's your biggest obstacle for eating a substantial, healthy breakfast? Share your thoughts below.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste.