The dream usually starts out the same way: I’m at some function waiting for the meal to be served and a waitress starts toward me with a huge plate and a tantalizing, dripping, inch-thick ham steak on it. She wends through the crowd nearing my table when suddenly someone bumps her and the steak and platter crash to the floor. I’m devastated. The other version I’ve often had: I’m standing over a glass case at a buffet staring down at – that’s right – huge delicious looking ham steaks garnished and oozing sauces and aroma. I’m told by management something like this: “Those will not be served tonight, however you can pick from the finger-rolls at the end of the table”. At this point I usually wake up sweating.
The above lamentations are the absolute truth. I have had those exact dreams every night when I’ve performed a hard workout and forgotten to include a hearty, protein rich snack just before bed. It’s almost ludicrous. The body is definitely trying to tell me something here.
The title of this post brings into question the validity of the claims by many experts that breakfast is unquestionably the most important meal of the day. There is no doubt that the body craves nutrients after a long 8-10 hour fast, and you do need to restoke the furnace per se, but a hearty meal first think apon rising may not be in your best interests.
Experts like to point out that studies repeatedly show that breakfast eaters tend to lose more weight than those who “rush out the door”. They also are correct in stating that the abstainers usually crash around two hours later and have to reach for something to calm their hunger. But these natural repercussions don’t imply that a huge repast should start your day.
The weight loss findings might be explained in other ways
For example, those who routinely skip breakfast typically don’t walk out the door without anything, they usually grab a doughnut or a bagle and a large coffee loaded with sugar to prime the engine. Is it really a great mystery why they are hungry 2 hours later? And of course they then grab a bag of chips or something else from the vending machine and a couple more cups of java…. Yet they can’t understand why they have so much trouble losing weight 🙂 These unfortunate souls are putting themselves on a rollercoaster of glucose/insulin spikes, crashing blood sugar levels and also a neurotransmitter tug of war. Along with sedentary habits these are the basis of the modern western obesity epidemic.
But common sense and good dietary advice provide easy solutions. Nutrients are required by our bodies for two basic reasons: To provide building blocks for repair and hormone/enzyme mfg, and to serve as energy obtained from the carbs, fat and protein. Each meal should be geared for the specific deficit our bodies are experiencing at any time.
My agonizing nocturnal cravings illustrate the drastic need for protein and minerals to rebuild after a serious workout. The dreams do not occur if I have a slow digesting protein rich snack at around ten at night.
In the morning the building material isn’t as important a factor because most of the repair occurs at night – with the raw material furnished in the evening. All that’s needed is a bit of protein for neurotransmitter stimulus and a bit of carbs, vitamins and fats for energy production. There is no need for a huge meal and that can really weigh you down. A simple egg with a piece of whole grain toast or a glass of whey protein with a banana (as I usually have) will set you right for the morning.
That high quality protein with your breakfast stimulates glucagon which can access glucose from the liver later in the morning to stave off hunger. The protein also generates “wakeful neurotransmitters” to keep you alert. A bit of fat and fiber rich carbs can also provide slow-release glucose to keep the fire burning. Then a mid morning healthy snack like fruit is all you will need to carry you through to your main meal.
So in summary, my belief is that breakfast is an important meal but not any more so that the other 2 to 4 that you may be accustomed to. Smaller meals throughout the day is the healthiest any way you look at it. Choose quality over quantity. It’s clearly the most reliable way to enable weight loss and also training gains.
To your health (and sweet dreams 🙂