#124 Do I need to eat breakfast?
Are you confused about breakfast?
For years nutrition experts have been telling you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and now intermittent fasting with eating windows and no breakfast is all the go!
What are you supposed to believe and what is right for you?
When I was young I used to avoid breakfast because it made me hungry and I would eat more for the rest of the day. I now understand that is because it increases your metabolic rate, like putting fuel on the fire.
Then when I was bodybuilding I was told that I must eat within 2 hours of getting up.
And then when I was running I used to run on empty to become "fat adapted."
And then when I started to weight train first thing in the morning I had to eat before and after training. Which sometimes meant having a 4.30 am breakfast.
I have had clients have great weight loss success with intermittent fasting. One, in particular, lost 30kg but the downside was that she lost a lot of muscle tissue as well as fat.
So what should you do?
The best studies suggest that women who intermittent fast long term with say a 16/8 or 18/6 eating window - so that is a 16-18 hour fast with a 6-8 hour eating window lose on average 68% muscle and only 32% fat.
Why is that bad? Because muscle creates heat which means that you can burn more food. So you can eat more, get all of the nutrients that you need and stay lean.
Because muscle loss is a sure way to age fast, mess with your bone density and become insulin resistant. Who wants to be a frail little old lady before their time?
The research says to aim for a 13-hour water-only fast from dinner to breakfast. So if dinner is 7 pm and breakfast is 8 am you are getting all of the benefits of fasting without muscle loss.
If you occasionally go longer and miss breakfast at the weekend that is ok.
If you have a lot of weight to lose and you lose a little muscle at the start it doesn't matter - but if you are down to your last 10kg or so please don't miss breakfast on a regular basis, it is not worth the long term negative health effects.
So yes have breakfast.
But not a dessert for breakfast which is what most commercial breakfast cereals are.
Aim for a high protein, nutrient-dense breakfast with low GI carbs.
Overnight oats or porridge with plant-based protein powder and milk, frozen berries, chia, flaxseed and a Brazil nut.
Or grainy bread with eggs, beans or nut butter.
Why can’t I lose weight on a calorie-controlled diet like I used to?
Because our bodies treat calories from different sources differently.
And for most women, this becomes more apparent as we age
A 300 calorie doughnut is not the same as a 300 calorie chicken breast or 300 calories worth of broccoli.
Here is the energy provided by the different macronutrients:
Carbohydrate 4 calories a gram
Protein 4 calories a gram
Fat 9 calories a gram
Alcohol 7 calories a gram (see blog #65 for more on alcohol)
Protein requires energy to be broken down. It actually uses up to 30% of its energy value during digestion.
Fat is high in calories but doesn’t elicit an insulin response, but too much fat can quickly get you out of a calorie deficit for fat loss.
Carbohydrate is fine when it is high in fibre and is released slowly into the bloodstream.
But refined, processed carbohydrate is the problem because it causes a blood sugar spike and insulin reaction. Insulin is your fat-storage hormone and locks your stored fat into the cell so that you cannot use it for energy.
Carbohydrates of which sugar:
Sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose 50% fructose
Glucose is only slightly sweet and we don’t eat or drink it on its own. It is the natural fuel that travels around in our bloodstream and delivers energy to our cells. Fructose it the sweet part which is available naturally only in fruits.
Human beings are naturally hard-wired to seek out sweet fruits as rapid energy and vitamin C sources.
Historically we would have gorged on fruits in the summer to store energy for the winter (especially women for pregnancy and lactation - is this why we have a 'sweeter tooth' than men?).
There would never have been an unlimited supply of sugar or honey all year round like we have now.
We still haven’t evolved out of our cavewomen' bodies to cope.
Agave syrup, corn syrup, coconut sugar and added fruit sugar fructose is not healthy and is added to everything that is processed and packaged. Pureed fruit like banana and dates and concentrated fruit juices are another 'healthy' example.
Our tastes are changing and we want stuff to be sweeter and sweeter and saltier and saltier.
Food manufacturers know that sugar is cheap and addictive. We were never meant to eat like this!
I want you to learn how to make an informed choice.
Read nutrition information panels (which, by the way only have to be accurate to within 20%!!).
Look at sugar per serving and divide by 4 to get the teaspoons of sugar per serving. Look at the grams per 100grams to get the % sugar of every bite that you eat.
Choose high fibre, low Gi, slow-release options ie real whole foods. Let your taste buds normalise, things will taste bland for a little while, but it doesn't take long - believe me.
So it may be the insulin response to hidden sugars in processed foods that are within your calorie count that is stopping you from losing weight.
For more on controlling your blood sugars to live a long happy and lean life...
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