Eat A Big Breakfast by Stuart MacEwan
There are few universal truths when it comes to nutrition. In the science of macro-nutrients we know that each macro-nutrient has measurable definitive energy potential. We know the chemical structures of amino acids, fatty acids, and protein structures. We even know quite a bit about the Kreb cycle and how your body produces energy and ATP. Beyond that however, the way your body manages its need for nutrition is a bit unique. It is well worth your time to experiment with many different styles and thoughts about nutrition in your lifetime. When playing with your diet, make note of the things that make you feel like your body is thriving. You’ll want to keep those habits. Also hone in on those issues that make you feel poorly and limit or remove those items from your intake.
One largely successful habit for you to try this year is to implement a big breakfast. I’ll explain. When you sleep at night, your body doesn’t intake any food (unless you sleep-eat and wake up with crumbs on your chest). That’s a good 6-10 hours without food intake. Your body still processes the food you ate the day before while you sleep; that food should be well down into the bottom of your small intestine or large intestine by the time you wake up. That means you wake up in a kind of mild fasted state. Hence the first meal of the day is called “break-fast”.
When you eat foods, your body breaks them down and produces nitrates and phosphates out of part of the meal. The produced nitrates control your nitrogen balance. When you don’t have enough nitrates then your body goes into a negative nitrogen balance. This signals your body to protect itself by slowing or preventing anabolic (tissue building - good) activities and begins to accelerate catabolic (tissue wasting - bad) processes. When your body has gone a moderate time without new food intake your nitrogen balance dips progressively and begins the catabolic cascade that tends to limit muscle building while protecting your fat stores. That’s generally against what we want for our gym fanatic clients. Instead, we want to keep your nitrogen balance high (positive balance) to allow the body to build muscle and burn fat throughout the day. This is where a big breakfast comes in.
You wake up on an empty stomach. Within 30 to 60 minutes you need to put quality foods in your tummy. Give your digestive system something to chew on, boosting your blood sugar and allowing your nitrogen balance to bump into the positive. A larger breakfast allows you to eat smaller snacks and meals throughout the day because those meals aren’t required to fill up an completely empty stomach… only to top off an otherwise half full tummy from the large meal you ate for breakfast. A good analogy is how you prepare your car before a long trip into the unknown (kind of like how you prepare your body for a long adventurous day). A smart traveler will completely fill his/her gas tank at the start of the trip knowing that she doesn’t want to get caught in the middle of nowhere on an empty tank later. As the trip progresses, the traveler will stop at a little below half tank to stretch the legs and fill up again, thus ensuring the car has fuel for the entire day without breaking down on the highway with an empty tank.
A smart fitness enthusiast will treat his body the same way by filling his tummy in the morning, then topping off his stomach/tank with smaller snacks and meals throughout the day, every few hours. Not only does this allow for adequate and constant energy intake, it promotes a positive nitrogen balance and builds/spares muscle while encouraging the body to burn fat for energy. Another benefit is that eating large meals in the morning with moderate snacking and meals following allow for a much smaller dinner in the evening preventing too large of an energy intake before bedtime.
I suggest that you take 3-4 months and start eating progressively larger breakfasts. Make a note on how it effects your other meals and how your body begins to feel after a few weeks. If you like the benefits, then keep eating large breakfasts for as long as you dig it. Otherwise, play around with your diet until you find the right meal size/timing habits that make you feel like you are thriving. Don’t stop experimenting. It’s a long life ahead of you.