The term breakfast comes from the origin of ‘break the fast’. Overnight, although we sleep, our bodies are continuously working to provide fuel and help the body recover from the previous day. This all takes energy and is one of the main reasons of why eating breakfast is so important. Breakfast can also help you maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of some diseases.
The breakfast meal provides the body with a supply of fuel (energy) for the upcoming day. The body cannot function optimally without fuel so skipping breakfast can have a significant effect on how you perform both mentally and physically throughout the rest of the day.
Breakfast sets you up for the day ahead
Overnight the body can use up a substantial amount of the stored energy that it contains in the muscles, liver and bloodstream. This needs to be topped up if the body is to function optimally. Low levels of carbohydrate can cause problems both with mental function and physical performance.
The brain primarily uses carbohydrate as its source of fuel so missing out on breakfast may leave you feeling less than functional at work or school. Researchers have found that breakfast eaters perform tasks at work better than those people who do not eat breakfast. They have also found that children who eat breakfast perform better at school so it makes sense to eat it!
If fuel supply is restricted to the brain fatigue can set in. You may also feel grumpy and that every task is much harder than it should be. The brain cannot fall back on protein or fat as a source of energy so you must provide it with carbohydrates in the morning. Failure to do this will leave you feeling less than 100%.
Breakfast also helps you fuel up for exercise and activity during the day. To exercise the bodies muscles require carbohydrate. Overnight your stores of carbohydrate in the muscle and liver can decrease. Without enough carbohydrate your muscles will fatigue. Having breakfast is essential to top up the carbohydrate level in your muscles and liver so that you can exercise to the best of your ability later in the day.
Reduce your risk of being overweight, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease
Eating breakfast may also help with weight management and reduce the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that individuals who ate breakfast were 33% less likely to be obese. They also found that the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease may occur because breakfast helps to stabilize blood sugar (or blood glucose levels). With the incidence of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease increasing eating breakfast is a simple and easy way to help manage your risk.
Breakfast eaters have better meal and snacking habits later in the day
Research has also shown that individuals who eat breakfast are much more likely to make better choices throughout the rest of the day, and are less likely to overeat. It is thought that by skipping breakfast you set yourself up for overeating later in the day as your body tries to recoup the energy that you lost when you didn’t have breakfast earlier in the day. Although you may think that you are saving yourself calories by not eating breakfast you will consume more than what you would have had with one bad snack choice later in the day. Often one bad snack starts a chain reaction so be aware!
If you have ever skipped breakfast you probably know what it feels like mid morning when your energy levels run low. At this time many people reach for coffee or a stimulant to try and wake themselves up. This is not an adequate substitute for breakfast – your body needs actual food. It can be easy to start to rely on coffees when in fact a breakfast meal would have done the trick (and provided you with more nutrients!).
Skipping breakfast means you may miss out on nutrients
By skipping breakfast you may limit the amount of nutrients that you consume each day. Our bodies need a number of vitamins and minerals along with carbohydrates, fats and protein to function optimally. If you only consume two meals a day you may not consume enough of these. A good example is fibre. Most breakfast options are a good source of fibre and skipping this meal can lead to a much lower daily fibre intake.
SO, what should a good breakfast include?
A balanced breakfast should include a source of wholegrains, a source of lean protein and a serve of fruit. A good example is a bowl of oats (wholegrains), skim milk (protein) and a banana. You could also try untoasted muesli (wholegrains) with yoghurt and strawberries. An egg on wholegrain toast with a piece of fruit is a good option too. If you struggle to find the time to prepare a breakfast meal aim to wake up 10 minutes earlier or prepare as much of it as you can the night before.
Breakfast, really is one (if not the one) most important meal of the day. If you want to feel alert, manage your weight and reduce your risk of other diseases you need to be eating a balanced breakfast each, and every morning. The benefits are more than worth the effort.