I had a patient not too long ago who struggled to lose weight. A quick look at her food journal revealed why. To save calories, she skipped breakfast and simply sipped on coffee or one of those "skinny lattes" that actually contain a good bit of sugar.
She's not alone. "I hate breakfast," many patients candidly reply. That's unfortunate, since studies show breakfast can reduce hunger and cravings, improve cognition, and reduce your risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Eating upon waking brings your blood sugar levels back to normal, kick starts your metabolism, and sets you up to be on an even metabolic keel for the rest of the day. So break your fast every morning. It will make you healthier, give you more energy through the day, and help you lose weight.
Want to Gain Weight? Skip Breakfast
The old proverb "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper" now has some scientific muscle behind it. Many of us think that if we skip breakfast we will reduce our overall calorie intake for the day and lose weight.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Not eating breakfast means you will eat more the rest of the day. One study among healthy lean women found skipping breakfast impairs insulin sensitivity and leads to weight gain.
If you want further proof, look at sumo wrestlers, who never eat breakfast. They wake up, and the first thing they do is start exercising vigorously. This combination of skipping breakfast and then training really hard for five hours means that by the time they get to eat, they are starving. As a consequence, they overeat.
Something very similar happens when you skip breakfast, work through lunch, and finally return home in the evening: You eat everything in sight. You feel stuffed, sick, guilty, and regret ever entering the kitchen in the first place. I see a definite pattern among patients who skip breakfast and then experience evening hunger and cravings.
A recent study found that almost 3,000 people who lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off for six years ate breakfast regularly. Only 4 percent of people who never ate breakfast kept the weight off.
The only difference between the two groups was that the group who lost weight ate breakfast and the other group did not. They both consumed the same number of calories and the same types of food. It turns out that it's not only the type of calories you consume that determines losing weight and maintaining weight loss, but the time of day you eat as well.
Why Most People Do Breakfast Wrong
Does skipping breakfast and eating a large meal just before sleep sound familiar? It should. It's the American way.
We consume most of our daily calories shortly before bed. We rarely eat breakfast. We hardly make time to eat during the day, and by the time we get home we are literally starving, we often consume more than we need and then go to bed or sit in front of the television or computer while munching on more snacks. Then we do the one thing that guarantees to make us gain weight: We go to sleep. No wonder we are looking more and more like sumo wrestlers every day.
Equally bad are those who make breakfast dessert. If you eat empty calories from refined foods (such as doughnuts and sweet rolls) and sugars, you will tend to eat more overall. You would never eat ice cream for breakfast, but many cereals, toaster concoctions, muffins, and other things that pass as breakfast -- even "healthy" choices -- contain as much if not more sugar. You're essentially eating dessert.
So eat breakfast, but do it correctly. Bypass the cereal aisle and whatever vitamin-fortified concoctions that carry a healthy halo and try to pass off as a smart breakfast.
Studies show protein-rich breakfasts can improve satiety and reduce evening snacking. Another showed a protein-rich breakfast helps reduce your hunger hormone ghrelin and increase cholecystekinin, which signals your brain to stop eating. Protein-rich foods like eggs, nut butters, a protein shake, or whole grains with nuts steady blood sugar and reduce metabolic fluctuations later in the day.
A Fast, Easy, Blood-Sugar Stabilizing Breakfast
Among the countless duties that confront us in the morning, many people struggle to have time for breakfast. That has always puzzled me, since you can make a healthy omelet with plenty of colorful vegetables in minutes.
If even that seems too much, or you're just not that hungry in the morning, try a breakfast smoothie. You can pre-prep it the night before so the whole thing takes maybe 10 minutes the following morning. Here is my favorite smoothie recipe that provides protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, and major flavor in less time than it takes to order a designer coffee.Breakfast Smoothie Serves 2-3
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 4 walnuts
- 3 Brazil nuts
- 1 large banana
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup water
- Combine all of the ingredients in an electric blender.
- Blend on high speed until smooth (about two minutes). If the shake is too thick, add more water until you reach a thick but drinkable consistency. Serve chilled.
What strategies do you employ to prioritize breakfast and get a nourishing, fast meal to start your day? Share yours below or on my Facebook fan page.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D., believes that we all deserve a life of vitality -- and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That's why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is a practicing family physician, an eight-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.