The importance of breakfast for sustained energy and optimal productivity*

Tuesday, 1 September 2015, By Emily Schofield

Working with corporate clients and knowing the type of energy and mental focus that goes into each day, I always stress the importance of balanced breakfast. For most people, starting the day with a high carbohydrate meal is standard - muesli, toast, breakfast cereal etc. Such breakfasts are promoted due to the belief that starting your day with high carbohydrates results in high energy. Presuming that you are opting for sustained energy throughout the day, most of these choices are not ideal. It is hardly surprising that after consuming a breakfast of high GI carbohydrates most people turn straight to caffeine - your blood sugar is crashing because of the insulin rush. Spiking blood sugar and insulin with high GI carbohydrates first thing in the morning is exactly what NOT to do when working towards a better body composition and sustained energy.

I have several new clients tell me they do not eat breakfast - they are never hungry in the morning! Not being hungry is a sign of a slow metabolism, particularly at breakfast. If you have just fasted 8 hours over night and are still not hungry, you can be sure that your metabolism has been down regulated.  Skipping breakfast or any meal always leads to over eating during the day.

Breakfast is the meal that will determine your entire neurotransmitter production for the day. Eating a breakfast that is high in protein and has a low glycaemic load will raise both dopamine and acetylcholine, the two most important neurotransmitters for focus and drive. I recommend eggs as a good way to start your day, they are a great source of several vitamins and nutrients, and they are high in protein. Eating eggs as your first meal of the day will guarantee a slow and steady rise in blood sugar resulting in long lasting energy. Always eat eggs whole, egg yolks are high in choline which is an essential dietary component for brain development and function of normal cells.  Choline is also a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which relates to memory, arousal and learning. An estimated 90% of the population do not get the recommended amount of choline per day.

Keeping the GIycemic Index of your first meal low is imperative to having a good body composition. GI relates to the quality of carbohydrate you are consuming, and the impact it has on blood sugar. Want to lose fat? Be aware of the GI of the carbohydrates you consume, anything above 50 is considered high, and will warrant a substantial spike in blood sugar. Oatmeal - a common breakfast choice is around 60, Cornflakes - 76, Weet-bix - 69 - all significantly higher than 50.


When you start your day with the right breakfast you will have -

Fewer cravings throughout the day. People who eat a high protein breakfast generally eat less throughout the day. Eating a quality protein source for breakfast not only sets up your neurotransmitters but it provides satiety and reduces your cravings for high carbohydrate/fatty foods throughout the day. When you start your day right, the rest tends to follow suit.

Blood sugar regulation. Carbohydrates depending on the quality are accompanied by a rise in blood sugar, significantly more than that of protein. Eat protein at breakfast and eat regular meals throughout the day for steady blood sugar levels and sustained energy.

Leaner. Eating a high protein breakfast promotes insulin sensitivity - meaning your carbs are more likely to be utilised as energy rather than being stored as fat. If you are overweight or have a diet that is chronically high in carbohydrates and sugar, chances are your insulin sensitivity is poor. Having a high protein breakfast is a great place to start in improving your insulin sensitivity and general health.



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