Breakfast is Dead! Long live Breakfast!10 Nov 2016, Posted by FYS News in
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
That was a mantra I lived by for pretty much 45 years. For the last 12 years, as a nutritionist, I’ve gained a greater understanding of just why it is so important (stabilises blood sugar, fuel for energy production, micronutrients for the cell ‘machinery’).
All perfectly straight-forward
Then a few years ago, everyone got very excited about fasting. OK, fasting, done that, it was part of my nutrition education working with Juice Fasts, plus there is a heritage of fasting going back thousands of years.
Intermittent Fasting gained popularity. It was on primetime TV and in magazines. There are a few ways to do it; the 5:2 method The Fast Diet or to extend the overnight fast so you only eat between 12noon and 6pm +- either side.
The benefits of it are appealing; better insulin levels, reduced triglyceride levels, weight loss, reduced inflammation.
But hang on a minute, what about breakfast, isn’t it meant to be the most important meal of the day?
This happens in nutrition and health a lot. We think we know something, we do that, then something new comes along that is almost the polar opposite. There are a couple of ways to look at that.
One response is “these nutritionists don’t know what they are doing, sod it, I’m going for a burger”.
Another response is “maybe there some cool insight or learning I can get from digging into the contradiction?”
It’s that second option I take with Feed Yourself Smarter.
Back to Breakfast. Break Fast.
Putting it very simply a meal provides fuel for energy production and micronutrients to help the cellular machinery work. Assuming we have enough of the micronutrients in place (i.e. the engine is tuned up), the body has a few options for a fuel supply: glucose from the most recent meal; stored glucose – easy-access supplies that will last about 12 hours; or from fats either recently eaten or in fat storage.
If we eat a late dinner or midnight snack or highish calorie drink and then eat breakfast at 8am before heading off to work, the overnight gap (or fast) is less than 12 hours, so we are always within the glucose storage capacity. Over time this makes the body lazy, it’s easier to use glucose for fuel than it is to burn fat and we loose the metabolic flexibility of being able to switch between the two forms.
That was the total aha moment for me. Our eating habits have changed over the last 30 years or so, that we now eat on a much more continuous basis, whether we sleep less or not, we are definitely more likely to eat late at night and that means loss of metabolic flexibility.
What intermittent fasting does is reboot metabolic flexibility.
Things to watch out for with intermittent fasting:
a) If you are missing a meal, you HAVE to make the other meals really count – they have to be good.
b) While some people find their cognitive function is sharper when fasting, it varies by individual, so don’t try it out on the day you have a crucial event, exam or business meeting.
Breakfast DOES still have a role
Eggs provide essential fats and proteins for brain function, whole grains provide fibre and b-vitamins, avocado, tomato, fruits give us fibre and phytonutrients; but thinking about when we eat those and building a gap of more than 13 hours (ideally 15-16 hours) between dinner and the following meal; 2 or 3 times a week maintains your metabolic flexibility
We are all individuals and the people who shouldn’t try this are diabetics who’s blood sugar levels aren’t stable, those with cortisol issues, and anyone who is highly stressed (which will be affecting cortisol) in those cases, seek expert opinion first.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing more insight and information on ways to experiment with intermittent fasting and tips to make it easier, more enjoyable and more effective, so please sign up here and you will be the first to know when we release something new.