Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness Science: Most important meal of the day!

by Ron Kennedy • November 01, 2016
Growing up, most of us heard that age old saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. The morning meal is reported to yield many benefits beyond catchy tactical marketing campaign (I’m looking at you Coco puffs) including improved concentration and increased energy. In regards to a fitness lifestyle, eating a healthy breakfast also aids in weight loss management by helping to avert cravings and ravenous hunger before lunch. But one of the most impactful uses of a proper nutrition in the morning is how breakfast can influence your metabolism and can improve metabolic conditioning.

The exact number of calories your body needs to maintain function is known as your basal metabolic rate; this is what’s generally referred to as your metabolism. Your age, gender, weight and body composition all impact this number, and together they account for about 75 percent of the calories your body burns daily. Add in physical activity such as fitness training, swimming, climbing stairs, or strength training and that accounts for most of the remaining 25 percent. Physical activity affects your metabolism more than anything else you can control, including food. However, when you sleep, your metabolism slows down because your body has fewer requirements and uses for energy. Starting your day with a well-balanced breakfast initiates thermogenesis, which triggers the metabolic process of digesting and transporting food. To keep your metabolism running at full capacity, meaning you are always in a state of thermogenesis, you need to eat regular, frequent meals.

So, what do you eat to promote a healthy fitness lifestyle and kick start your metabolism? As a personal trainer, I created a habit of 6-8 egg whites mixed with a serving of mozzarella cheese and low sodium salsa to start my morning. I also enjoy a cup and a half of coffee with truvia and no sugar creamer. It works well for me in eliminating hunger from the previous night, yields 48-50 grams of protein from the egg whites and cheese, which is very important for muscle growth, and is light enough so my appetite will return within a few hours. Unfortunately, many choose to follow less fitness conscious choices for their morning feedings.

Starting your day with junk food negates many of the benefits that you gain from increasing your metabolism. By contrast, making healthful choices for breakfast can help you make healthier choices for the rest of the day. Fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats are healthy breakfast choices. Oatmeal with banana slices, a yogurt smoothie with apple and leafy greens, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, or a ground turkey omelet are examples of healthful choices. Rushed mornings are no excuse for grabbing a sugary donut. Hardboiled eggs, chopped fruit or homemade trail mix are some of your choices for on-the-go breakfasts. If you drink coffee or tea in the morning, the caffeine will increase your metabolic rate notably for hours. Just don’t add to much cream, sugar or other unhealthy ingredients; hiding hundreds of calories and several grams of fat in your drinks will work against weight management.

“What if I’m not hungry and simply skip breakfast?” You don’t need to be a fitness expert to understand how damaging skipping breakfast can be to any metabolism (or any meal on that note). You see, our metabolisms work on a 24-hour cycle, where is most people only take into account a 16-hour cycle. Your metabolic rate decreases when you sleep, but it certainly is still in full operation. Assuming you sleep for 8 hours, that is 8 hours of caloric burning. Now consider the choice to skip breakfast. If you fall into sleep at exactly 11:00 pm and wake at 7:00 am, you finished your last meal at 8:00 pm and didn’t eat your next meal until 11:00 am, that is a full 15 hours between fueling your metabolism! That brings the process to a grinding halt.  Research says randomized controlled trials have shown the metabolisms of people on starvation or crash diets slow down to conserve energy, which means their BMR can drop by up to about 15 per cent. As well, when people lose weight quickly during long periods without food they also lose lean muscle tissue or muscle mass, which can also contribute to a reduced metabolism. Most of your basal metabolic rate is determined by the amount of muscle you have, so the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism is.

People who don't eat breakfast miss important nutrients needed for the day, and are less likely to make up for it later. If you don't have any breakfast you may be hungrier than usual around mid-morning, and the hungrier people are, the more likely they are to go for energy dense snacks. When you're suffering from extreme hunger, you're more likely to make choices that are more energy dense, and that typically leads to foods that are less nutritious. It’s important to keep a range of healthy snack options on hand like nuts, fruit and yoghurt, and more importantly don’t over-look the morning feeding that your body desperately craves to satisfy the metabolic condition it has done through the night.