Most Dietitians and Nutritionists would agree that eating a good breakfast sets your body and mind up for the day. In the morning after an overnight fast, your muscle and liver glycogen stores are at their lowest, so it’s a chance to top up your energy storage with some wholegrains, in addition to vitamins, minerals, fibre and fluid. There is good research evidence that breakfast improves cognitive function for children learning at school (1, 2), and in adults, eating breakfast is linked to a lower body mass index and less risk of being overweight (3). So, yes we need breakfast.
If you are not following a low carbohydrate healthy fat diet (LCHF), or an intermittent fasting protocol (where you usually skip breakfast), then breakfast should be a nice balance of macronutrients, which are carbohydrate, protein and fat. Aim to have some wholegrains (such as muesli, oats, bran or wholegrain bread) to provide carbs, some milk, yoghurt, eggs or beans (to provide protein) and a small amount of seeds (linseed, sunflower, almond, flaxseeds) or fat spreads for fats, and add some fresh fruit or a fruit smoothie to get your vitamins. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters, compared to people who skip breakfast, have better macronutrient and micronutrient composition in their diets (so a more balanced nutritional intake) (4).
Breakfast is an important time to have fluids, to start the day off well. Having some water in the morning will help to rehydrate your body, allow for good digestion, and get you started for the day. Research indicates that if children start the day off dehydrated it affects their short term memory (5), which can correlate to adults I am sure! There is research with overweight individuals that preloading with 500 mL water 30 minutes before breakfast, can lead to less energy consumed at breakfast (6)- but longer term studies are required, to determine if this is an effective strategy. Could be worth a try?
There is some conflicting evidence on whether you should or shouldn’t eat breakfast before exercise in regards to energy expenditure, and fat oxidation rates during the exercise and later during the day (7, 8). Generally a small snack such as a banana or glass of milk is easy and convenient to consume whilst getting ready for early morning exercise, and most athletes find they perform better with a small amount of food in their stomach. Plus, it tops up blood glucose and gets you mentally prepared for training. Other athletes prefer to train on an empty stomach due to nausea upon waking or regurgitation during exercise. I would recommend you try both situations and see how you perform best, as research in this area goes either way.·
If you suffer from irregular bowel motions or IBS then one of the key things to consider is regular meals. If you skip breakfast this can alter normal bowel movements and cause problems later in the day. The bowel functions best when food is introduced at similar times each day, in similar quantities. Breakfast is the most important meal involved in bowel stimulation (9). Eating stimulates peristalsis (which is the rhythmic contractions of the digestive system), and often this results in a bowel movement. It is common to eat breakfast and have an urge to go, which will really help you feel lighter and ready for the day.
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1. Hoyland, A., Dye, L., & Lawton, C. L. (2009). A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition research reviews, 22(2), 220-243.
2. Rampersaud, G. C., Pereira, M. A., Girard, B. L., Adams, J., & Metzl, J. D. (2005). Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(5), 743-760.
3. Peter G. Williams; The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 5, Issue 5, 1 September 2014, Pages 636S–673S, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006247
4. Williams, P. G. (2014). The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base–. Advances in nutrition, 5(5), 636S-673S.
5. Fadda, R., Rapinett, G., Grathwohl, D., Parisi, M., Fanari, R., Calò, C. M., & Schmitt, J. (2012). Effects of drinking supplementary water at school on cognitive performance in children. Appetite, 59(3), 730-737.
6. Davy, B. M., Dennis, E. A., Dengo, A. L., Wilson, K. L., & Davy, K. P. (2008). Water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(7), 1236-1239.
7. Clayton, D. J., & James, L. J. (2016). The effect of breakfast on appetite regulation, energy balance and exercise performance. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 75(3), 319-327.
8. Clayton, D. J., Barutcu, A., Machin, C., Stensel, D. J., & James, L. J. (2015). Effect of breakfast omission on energy intake and evening exercise performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47(12), 2645-2652.