We’ve all heard that it’s important to eat a good breakfast in the morning, but do you know why? Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that babies are hungry when they wake up. This happens because nature has wired us to eat relatively soon after waking. Perhaps the most important reason is that our brains need glucose.
Glucose is a simple sugar that we can obtain from most foods. Our brains need a steady supply of glucose to keep us mentally stable (that’s an important thing!). Carbohydrates have a 95+% conversion to glucose; this is very efficient compared to protein (58%), and especially fats (10%). If our brains can’t get glucose from our diet, our bodies will turn to other sources to make sure they get what they need.
So what does glucose have to do with breakfast? Well, people who watch their blood sugar closely will notice that they have an increased blood-glucose level when they wake up in the morning. This happens because the body increases glucose level before waking in order to prepare itself for action. If we consume a healthy breakfast, we will be able to use those carbohydrates to create glucose and satisfy the needs of a busy morning.
So if eating breakfast in the morning is so important, why do so many people say that they are not hungry in the morning? Well, it is very possible to train our bodies to go into gluconeogenesis (the condition where we break our own tissues into glucose) and satisfy our morning glucose needs that way. We do this by repeatedly skipping breakfast. If we train our body to not expect any food in the morning, it will have to fend for itself.
We understand that many people are busy or exhausted with work, family, or school. Some of us may rationalize that getting an extra 20 minutes of sleep is more important than eating. Others may feel that they need to lose a bit of weight and that we don’t really need breakfast after all. Over time, we train our bodies to automatically satisfy their need for glucose (by breaking down our muscles and vital organs) whilst we remain unaware. Later, perhaps around lunch, we’ll start to feel hungry and finally have something to eat. We will give our body its first meal when it really should be getting its second.
Another problem that many of us have is eating a poor quality breakfast. Our bodies need good nourishment early in the morning. Besides being important for our health, it is important to set a good example for our children. Educators know that students who eat a good breakfast are more attentive and have less behavioral problems. In addition to this, these students will also have fewer obesity problems. People who skip breakfast, or have very little for breakfast, tend to snack. Let’s face it; most snacks are loaded with fat and sugar. This creates a problem with blood sugar spikes and sets us up to have insulin resistance problems (which can lead to diabetes). This should concern us given the staggering amount of teenagers who are becoming type 2 diabetics and the skyrocketing level of childhood obesity.
Don’t fall into the trap. Our bodies need a healthy breakfast of at least 1/3 of our daily caloric intake. Young people can skirt this for a while, but they need to wake up. The overweight adults you see all around you were also slender at one time. If you’re a young person, don’t set your self up for problems down the road. I have dedicated the last 35 years of my life to teaching others to exercise and eat healthy. However, I wish so much that during the first years of my life, I would have learned what I know now—especially during my high school years. Back then, my typical meal pattern was: pancakes with butter and syrup, two eggs, and two glasses of milk. Lunch was a jam sandwich on white bread with butter, two Twinkies, two ding dongs, and two containers of chocolate milk. Dinner was a hamburger, French fries and a milk shake. For the last 30 plus years, I have eaten a vegetarian based diet (I am not saying everyone needs to be a vegetarian, but eating more plant based foods would be a good idea). I have become for others what I wish I had had for myself, someone to lead me to a better way. By God’s grace and a lot of exercise, I still press on at 56 years of age, but I would have been so much better off if I would have heeded this message many years ago. You have been warned.