Most of us grew up thinking that we need to ‘carb load’ on sugary cereals every single morning in order to be healthy and perform well. While this type of breakfast can be beneficial for a marathon runner or Ironman, it won’t do your health and waistline much justice if your job entitles mainly pushing paper, surfing the net or running new software. If your aim is to get fitter and more energetic, you need to ditch the processed sweetness and switch to a ‘protein breakfast’, which by the way also contains low glycaemic index carbohydrates and ‘good’ fats.
When training hard, we need 0.8-1.7g of protein per every kg of our body weight every day to build and maintain lean muscle. We also need adequate amount of good quality complex carbohydrates to fuel our muscles and brain as well as good fats for our hormonal function and absorption of vitamins A, D, K and E. If we restrict our carbohydrate or fat intake we need even more protein because some of it will be used as a fuel and the ‘extra’ amount is then required as ‘building blocks’ for our muscles.
Current research shows that spreading our protein intake during the day, starting with breakfast, is the most effective approach in building lean muscle, burning fat and moreover in preventing energy fluctuations and cravings. The goal is to consume protein every 3-4 hours. Although there are some plant sources containing essential amino acids, consuming animal proteins keeps proving more effective due to its high content of LEUCINE (essential amino acid) which is the key trigger for building muscle.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), one of the most credible sources of fitness related information, concluded that an IDEAL BREAKFAST consists of a good quality protein source (minimum of 20g of protein) combined with moderate amount of low GI carbohydrates and good fats to fuel our brain and body.
Many world famous strength coaches (including Charles Poliquin) and fitness experts agree with ACSM on the benefits of eating protein breakfast such as
Decreased hunger until lunch
High degree of satiety and absence of mid-morning cravings
Lower calorie intake at lunch and dinner
Sustained energy levels due to more steady supply of glucose to the brain and muscles
Better physical performance (especially reaction time)
Better performance on cognition tasks
What is the science behind these statements?
1. It takes longer to digest protein. That’s the reason why protein makes us feel fuller and produces moderate gradual increase in blood glucose, thus preventing energy fluctuations and cravings.
2. According to scientific trials and research, eating protein early in the day seems to affect gastrointestinal hormones, which signal the brain to adjust satiety and appetite. Levels of ghrelin (hunger stimulating hormone) decrease while levels of leptin (satiety stimulating hormone) increase following a high protein meal.
3. Our brain needs amino acids (to produce neurotransmitters) as well as carbohydrates and good fats to function at optimal levels. Concentration and other cognitive issues often stem from inadequate nutrition.
4. Our body burns energy when processing foods high in protein. This is called the thermic effect of food.
It’s important that the protein, carbohydrates and fats come from whole organic foods to nourish our body with important vitamins and minerals. Grain fed meat and eggs from grain fed hens have a poor nutritional value and can be harmful for us (see our article about grass fed meat). Genetically modified fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides can also cause nasty health issues. Processed foods are a big NO NO altogether. Although a hot dog contains protein, fats and carbohydrates, it’s not considered a good breakfast choice
What happens when we skip breakfast?
Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for many different reasons. Firstly, we don’t get sufficient fuel for our body and brain, which diminishes our physical and cognitive performance. Secondly, we miss out on our first ‘dose’ of protein. This often leads to the body turning into our muscles for energy resulting in wasting our lean muscle instead of building it which is directly correlated with lower resting metabolic rate. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, skipping breakfast can leave us ravenous mid-morning, due to extremely low blood glucose, resulting in cravings and poor dietary choices.
What happens when we eat a sugary breakfast?
Foods high in sugar (such as most breakfast cereals) have a high Glycaemic Index, which means that they cause a rapid spike in our blood sugar (‘sugar high’), which triggers enormous insulin response. Insulin picks up the sugar (glucose) from the blood and transports it to cells to be used as a source of energy. Unfortunately, this is too much energy in one go (unless you are ready to run an ultra marathon that morning) and most of it ends up getting stored as fat. The high level of insulin cause most of the glucose to ‘disappear’ from our blood stream and the sudden drop leaves us lethargic, cranky, and unable to focus and gives us huge sweet cravings. As more sugary foods we eat, as more cravings we experience. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually leads to expanding fat stores and developing insulin resistance.
How does Hexey breakfast fit into the equation?
Striving to create the IDEAL BREAKFAST, Hexey uses organic ingredients full of important vitamins and minerals such as A, B2, B6, B9, B12, E, D, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Coenzyme Q10, just to name few.
Each breakfast meal is gluten free and contains 25-40g of protein, 15g of complex carbohydrates (besides the quinoa bircher muesli which is slightly higher in carbohydrates, making it an excellent pre-workout meal) and 15-20g of good quality fats.