Is Breakfast Important & If Yes, Then What Should You Eat?

The first thing you should take in every morning after you get up from bed is a full glass of water, at least 8 ounces. Most Americans live in a state of chronic mild dehydration, and after sleeping though the night, you are certain to benefit from a glass of water. In fact, as a simple way to increase your healthy water intake, you should make a point of drinking a full glass of water 15-to-30 minutes before every meal throughout the day. By doing this you will increase your daily water intake and you will also not start a meal thirsty, which may result in overeating. In addition, being adequately hydrated also helps boost your metabolism.

If you want to really be healthy drink a second glass of water before you leave for work (unless, of course, you have a 2 hour drive). The extra glass of water will give you a feeling of more energy throughout the morning, in part by preventing subtle dehydration that will occur when you get too busy in your daily routine.

When it comes to a question of breakfast, the main message is, by all means, eat breakfast. The fact is, people function better both physically and mentally if they eat breakfast. In fact, some studies have shown that people that eat a healthy breakfast live longer than those who skip breakfast. So don’t skip this important meal.

As for when is the best time to eat breakfast, that depends in part on how you organize your morning. For most people who don’t exercise early in the morning and instead get ready for work or school, eating breakfast should be done before you leave your home. Making the time to spend 15 minutes to eat breakfast will allow you to pause in your headlong rush to be productive, spend a little time enjoying a morning meal and also give you a bit of time to plan your day. The end result will be a day that begins with less stress and is a more productive day.

If you are a person that has an early morning exercise routine (excluding high-level athletes), it is generally best to drink your water, do your workout, and then rehydrate and eat breakfast after your exercise. Scientific evidence shows that for people that have an exercise routine in the morning, eating their breakfast after the workout will result in better weight control. This may be due to the metabolism of exercise recovery.

There are some conflicting studies on the ability to lose weight and maintain weight loss, and the timing of meals, and the size of meals. That being said, the majority of experts in the weight loss field believe that breakfast and lunch should be your biggest meals, with the main emphasis on breakfast, if you’re interested in staying lean and fit. Breakfast should definitely amount to a minimum of 25% of your daily calorie intake, and closer to 1/3. This means that even if you are involved with a weight loss program, you should eat at least 400 calories during breakfast. Eating more than 600 calories for breakfast is not healthy for most people unless you are working in a highly physical job or if you are expending large amounts of energy in an athletic training program, and even for these people, the healthiest regimen is to eat 4-to-6 times per day in order to maintain adequate energy level. For most of us, about 400 calories will be best.

When it comes to what you eat in terms of fat, protein and carbohydrate, a good rule of thumb is to take in about 20-25% of your calories from fat, 20-30% from protein and 50-60% from carbohydrate. These numbers will vary based on how many total calories you eat, but for most people eating between 1800 and 2400 calories per day, these percentages work well. Men need more protein than women, especially when exercising regularly, and that accounts for the range of 20%-to-30% for total amount of calories from protein, with men requiring closer to 30%.

This means that a healthy, 140 lb. active woman, should be eating 1800 calories per day, of which 20% is protein, or 90 grams of protein. For a healthy, 180 lb. active man, he should be eating closer to 2400 calories per day, of which 20-30% should be protein, or 120-180 grams of protein per day, depending on his level of physical activity.

One of the main principles of a healthy breakfast is to avoid eating refined carbohydrates and sweets. This type of food converts rapidly to sugar in your body, driving up your insulin level, and leading to a pattern of “recharging” on processed carbs throughout the day. This is a very common pattern that I see in my weight loss clinic; I call it the “Starbucks Diet” of the “coffee shop diet” and it includes sweets and coffee for breakfast. People that eat this way drive up their blood sugar and their stress hormone response and tend to be more “stressed” during the entire day, resulting in weight gain. A much more healthy way to begin your day is to take in at least 20 grams of protein, a little fat and about 200 calories of unrefined, whole grains and fresh fruit carbohydrates. This type of breakfast will provide a lasting and stable energy supply for your entire morning, and not result in huge, stressful swings in blood sugar, insulin and other stress-related hormones.

Another, often overlooked part of your morning meal should be adequate fiber. Fresh fruits such as berries, pears and apples taste great at breakfast and have good amounts of fiber. Bran flakes and high bran cereals also are an excellent supply of fiber. Most Americans take in only half the minimum fiber they need in their diet, so there is definitely a problem in America with getting in enough fiber. Adequate fiber prevents constipation, but also has been shown to enhance your immune system and even decrease your incidence of cancer. The bottom line is that you need your fiber in the morning. If you don’t get your fiber in the food you eat in the morning, buy a quality fiber supplement, such as Metamucil, Citrucel or BeneFiber, and take one tablespoon of fiber with your water every morning.

Finally, for those of you just too “busy” or rushed in the morning for breakfast, at least buy some high-quality high protein supplement shakes to take with you as you leave for work. Try to find some with added fiber, or mix your shake in a travel cup with a tablespoon of added fiber, and drink it while you’re on the road. Just don’t go without eating anything.

The bottom line is that what you eat for breakfast sets you up for how your energy level, stress level and metabolism will function throughout the day. If you want to be healthy, a healthy breakfast is one of the best places to start.

One added note on refined, processed carbs.

When you compare one serving of instant oatmeal made with water to one serving of French vanilla ice cream, you won’t find as much difference as you might think. Both servings are ½ cup. Both have 150 calories. Instant oatmeal has 23 grams of processed carbohydrate and the ice cream has 15 grams of sugar. The oatmeal has 5 grams of protein and the ice cream has 3 grams. In fact, the ice cream is a good source of vitamins A and D where the instant oatmeal has none. So, be careful what you might think is healthy to eat, and if you want to get your day off on the right start, know what you’re putting in your mouth.