There are certain things that I expect to be controversial in the fitness world: alcohol, chocolate and supplements are all pretty predictable sources of contention. But breakfast? This unassuming meal has been the certain of a fairly heated dietary debate for some time now, both in the lab and the gym.
For years, breakfast was touted by moms and doctors alike as “the most important meal of the day.” Then intermittent fasting came along and turned on the concept, challenging it’s followers to do something that was previously considered an unforgivable dietary sin: skip breakfast. But studies continue to roll out that highlight various benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. The problem, though, is that most people don’t eat a healthy breakfast.
One of the most popular reasons people give for supporting breaking the nightly fast is to stop you from eating poorly the rest of the day. And numerous studies have backed this up, showing that a healthy breakfast sets a dietary tone for the day and helps you to avoid needless snacking.
A recent study, published in the Nutrition Journal, people who eat breakfast have reduced cravings for sweets throughout the day. Specifically, the researchers working on this study looked at the effects of breakfast on dopamine levels – a “feel-good” chemical that your brain releases to reward you for doing something good. Generally speaking, dopamine is released in varying levels after every eating session throughout the day which certain foods having a greater impact then others.
The study found that the dopamine release in breakfasters helps them to avoid binging later on. This was not the case with those that skipped this all-important meal. In fact, the paper explains that overweight and obese individuals develop an insensitivity to dopamine which requires them to eat more food, releasing more dopamine, the feel the same effects. The situation was the essentially same in those that skipped breakfast; they developed a resistance to dopamine and, as a result, craved more food.
But, you may have noticed, up to this point I haven’t defined a “healthy” breakfast. Let’s get into that.
Doing It Right
All of these oft-cited studies, including the one mentioned above, do not use the traditional American breakfast. Pancakes, cereal and all of their sugary ilk are not what we’re talking about here. Instead, all of these benefits have been found with high-protein meals. To be fair, though, I have to say that this more recent study did find craving-reducing benefits with any breakfast. The longest-lasting and widest reaching effects, though, were seen with high-protein meals.
So, while having a healthy meal to start your day does appear to have some absolutely undeniable benefits, it’s important to do it right. Start off with high-protein foods, like eggs, yogurt and bacon – yes, bacon – that will leave you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day.