Reader Jessica Ethelton asks:
“I recently heard that by eating breakfast I can lose weight. I fail to see how this is possible. Surely, by missing breakfast I am eating less calories and this will add to my weight loss. How does breakfast help me to lose weight?”
Kris Etheridge – Sports Movement, Strength Conditioning and, Balance and Agility Trainer
Breakfast helps you lose weight in numerous ways. Think about it. You haven’t eaten for at least six, eight maybe even ten hours and your metabolism is now at its slowest, along with your blood sugar levels. Having breakfast jump starts your metabolism and elevates your blood sugar levels, so that they go back to their optimal level. This, in turn, provides you with energy for the day.
A study conducted and published in 1992 in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that subjects that had breakfast lost more weight over 12 weeks. They also received more nutrients and had less cravings for food during the day. These and other results show that breakfast may just be’ the most important meal of the day’ and if you’re skipping it, then you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.
When looking for a suitable breakfast option there are six key points to take into consideration. Ask yourself these questions before buying breakfast foods or eating them:
1. Is the product highly processed?
The product should come from a natural source. This means it should still look how it did when it was harvested or close to it. Oats, muesli, and eggs are fantastic breakfast foods. Or, you’re time poor, make up a quick smoothie using frozen berries, whey protein isolate, 1 cup of milk or water and half a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. Just blend and your ready to go!
2. How much sugar is in it?
The product should have no more than 5-10 g of sugar per 100 g. Any more than this, and you’re adding to your weight, rather than subtracting from it.
3. How many calories are in one serve?
Main meals should contain no more than 350 calories for females and no more than 550 for males. Unless you’re an elite athlete or bodybuilder, then you will need more.
4. Does it contain adequate protein?
Each main meal should contain at least 20 g of protein. If cereal is your preferred choice for breakfast, then add a tablespoon of whey protein isolate. Be sure to mix the protein and milk separately to avoid clumps.
5. Is it packed with fibre?
Aim for 5-10 g of fibre per serve. This will add to your weight lose.
6. What types of fats are in it?
If it contains any trans-fat, definitely put it down and move on. Adding half a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to your breakfast is a great way to boost your intake of those all too important omega 3 fatty acids.
Always start your day with a good nutritious breakfast. You may just find that you lose more weight. Have more energy. And fewer cravings.
Kris Etheridge is a Melbourne based health and fitness expert that has delivered over 20,000 personal training sessions in the last 10 years. Kris has worked with world champion athletes and numerous well known celebrities. He is currently working on his first female weight loss book, which is due out later in 2012.
As a fitness expert, Kris is always looking for ways to help more people live a healthier life. He is a certified personal trainer, sports movement, strength conditioning and, balance and agility trainer, a level one and two boxing and Thump boxing trainer, level one and two kettle-bell instructor, a Rip 60 certified instructor and a certified Cirq instructor.
Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer
Hi Jessica, the information you were given is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. We come across this scenario with many people today and in almost every case the person who skips breakfast has trouble losing weight no matter what else they do.
To achieve optimal health you absolutely must eat a good healthy breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the simple reason being that it kicks starts the body’s metabolism, it restores blood sugar levels back to normal and keeps cortisol levels at bay. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and if you are in a state of stress right from the start of the day, you will be living the rest of the day in a state of survival mode.
The word breakfast means “BREAK the FAST”, as your body has most likely not eaten for 8 to10-hours whilst you have been asleep. Typical dinner time is about 6.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at night. So, if you skip breakfast and eat lunch at 12.30 p.m. this would mean you have gone approximately 17-hours without food. Now, imagine trying to do a workout or something very physical with no fuel. Even tasks that require a lot of brain power will suffer as the body just does not have enough energy to fuel it to its fullest potential.
We’ve all experienced the going ‘too long without food’. You know, when you find that you are absolutely starving, and then, realise it is going to be quite a while still until you will be able to eat. This can be very stressful. How doubts? Then watch the TV show Survivor and see what I mean.
The problem most people have is they have taught themselves how to get used to this feeling and now the body has adapted to it. To prevent the feeling of starving, the human body slows down its metabolic function, so that it can last longer. In other words, it conserves energy and reduces that hunger feeling. Then when the body’s reserves get really low, it begins to eat itself for food. This is what is called a Catabolic Effect. This is why we see so many people struggle to lose any weight no matter how much exercise they do. They can even be eating good quality foods and still struggle to see any shift in their weight. All simply because they are not eating often enough.
The task of eating in itself has been shown to increase the body’s metabolism by as much as 12-15% as it requires energy to chew, digest, process and eliminate foods. So, if you are not eating often enough, it is fair to say you have a 12-15% slower metabolism than it could be. Therefore, if your goal is to shed some unwanted kilos or body fat then eating a good nutritious breakfast is non-negotiable.
I will ask you one question before I go. Would you go for a long drive in your car with the fuel gauge on empty or would you fill the tank? The human body is the same as the car. It needs fuel to run. So, make sure you fill your tank to full at the start of the day.
Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.
Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.
Sally Asher – Author, Health Scientist and Online Weight Loss Coach
Skipping breakfast is like trying to start your engine, without any fuel in the tank. You may think that eliminating this important meal from your daily eating routine is a smart move, but this plan often backfires on people, especially waist watchers. In fact there’s ample evidence that the simple act of eating breakfast each day is a big part of losing weight, but why is this so?
Truth is, those wanting to lose weight often skip breakfast thinking they are cutting calories, but by mid-morning and lunch, they are ravenous. When you let yourself get too hungry, you are at risk of overeating and are less able to make sensible, healthy choices. You may then eat too fast and too much, because you have reached excessive hunger and all thoughts of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.
Breakfast skippers often replace calories during the day with mindless nibbling, falling prey to environmental cues to eat that exist everywhere in our food abundant environment. They set themselves up for failure, because often people who skip breakfast eat most of their calories after 5 p.m.
By eating breakfast, you distribute your calories evenly throughout the day and jumpstart your metabolism early on in the day. This is because your metabolism slows down when you sleep and doesn’t start back up again until you eat. Therefore, if you don’t eat until lunch time, your body doesn’t have as much time to burn calories as it could if you ate a balanced breakfast in the morning.
I believe the only time that breakfast is not a good idea is if you’ve been eating all night, but this rarely happens. If you find you’re not hungry first thing in the morning, simply wait a few hours until your stomach growls and eat something healthy when you feel ready. It is far better to eat something small and protein rich that will stay with you throughout the morning. This way you are not tempted by those doughnuts and sweet biscuits in the work room on your mid-morning break.
Sally Asher is an author, health scientist and online weight loss coach who been featured in several radio shows, TV, blogs and magazines.
She wrote LOSING IT IN FRANCE: Les Secrets of the French Diet to share her story and help others discover the secret to living the good life while losing weight naturally.
Mathew Skate – 2008 QLD Marathon Champion, Life Coach and Personal Trainer
All three main meals of the day are important for weight management and breakfast is no exception. When we sleep, we are essentially fasting throughout our sleep-cycle and breakfast is essential to kick-start our metabolism for the day.
Research suggests that people who skip breakfast to avoid the consumption of calories, on average, have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) than people who eat breakfast. Breakfast skippers tend to eat more throughout the day and will sometimes choose unhealthy options — cravings and hunger come into play — and eat at irregular intervals.
A breakfast high in fibre and protein, and low in processed carbohydrates, will assist in weight loss as they are both natural suppressors of appetite. Choosing a healthy breakfast that it is full of essential nutrients and vitamins will ensure that your body is operating like a ‘Formula One Grand Prix’ race car, rather than a beat-up 1974 Datsun Sunny.
Skipping any meal is not recommended. Think of a train fuelled by Coal. You need to keep the engine stoked up with fuel for it to perform at its peak. If you don’t, it will slow down. The body is no different and food is the body’s coal. When we run out of food, our body will stop. This means our metabolism, which determines how many calories we burn, will slow down and our body will react by going into starvation mode. The human body is a very intelligent organism. If you don’t feed it, it will send a message to the brain to store fat for survival. The goal is to keep your engine burning on all cylinders. Therefore, creating a high metabolism and guaranteeing that you are receiving the essential nutrients and vitamins your body needs for regeneration, performance and repair.
A fantastic Breakfast option to kick-start your day is as follows:
- 100-150g diced poached chicken breast
- hand full spinach – 30g
- 1 chopped tomato
- 4 sliced button mushrooms
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon Rice Bran oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Preparation method: Fry spinach and mushrooms over a medium heat until the spinach starts to wilt. Add all other ingredients and scramble until cooked.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, including three balanced meals, will not only assist maintaining a healthy weight range, it will also increase energy levels and ensure the body remains in a state of homoeostasis (simply put, keeping your coal train performing at its peak).
Matt Skate is a life coach and personal trainer. He served in the Australian Army for 19 years as a physical training instructor and then started Weight to Life in 2011.
Matt assists people to lose weight and create a healthier lifestyle by helping them break through their negative beliefs, behaviours, and expectations. He loves to train in all forms and at all levels of fitness and was crowned the QLD Marathon champion in 2008.
Dr Joann Lukin – Sport and Performance Psychologist
The nutritional benefits of breakfast in relation to weight loss are well established and I’m sure will be well described by my fellow writers. It is also important to consider the psychological benefits that can be gained when you sit down in the morning and tuck into a bowl of something healthy.
Consistently, studies demonstrate that memory, creativity, processing and other brain functioning are all enhanced following consumption of breakfast. Further, your morning meal can boost your energy levels and leave you feeling more alert and ready for your day.
One advantage of regularly eating breakfast is the discipline activated and required to maintain the routine. Self-discipline (or self-regulation) is the process of consciously managing your health. Whilst challenging for many, the decision to make proactive steps towards your health will have far reaching benefits. When we self-regulate we are likely to feel more in control of ourselves, and our tendency for impulsive behaviour decreases.
People who self-regulate are able to plan and set goals, reflect on their own behaviour and organize themselves appropriately. Other things we know about those who self-regulate are that they are more likely to seek out information and advice, will try harder and persevere for longer. These qualities are beneficial in all aspects of our health and well-being. So the habit of eating breakfast will provide more than just nutrition for your body and have an impact on your metabolic rate. Eating breakfast will set you up to increase the likelihood of making better health choices through the rest of your day – impacting on your long-term weight and health.
Self-regulating to ensure you eat breakfast is made easier with some planning and organization, however it is worth the effort. Also make sure you add some variety. Perhaps have a few cereals to choose from or cook some eggs in different ways. Creativity in our lives is helpful for our motivation levels. Ultimately, treat self-regulation like a muscle — the more you work it the stronger it gets. Self-regulation gets easier with time and its benefits to your waistline will be worth it.
Dr Lukins is a psychologist who has specialised in sport and performance psychology for over 20 years. During that time, Dr Lukins has consulted individuals, teams, coaches, and organisations across the country. She is committed to the field of positive psychology — a scientific framework that studies human potential and happiness. The primary focus of her work is to assist clients to find strategies to achieve their goals and reach their potential. Joann’s work helps clients to understand what makes them be healthy, fulfilled and focussed on their personal well-being.