I’m sure you’ve read the medical advice: never skip breakfast! If you do, the prevailing wisdom says you won’t lose weight and you’ll be more likely to become obese. It is supposedly proven that poor performance awaits breakfast skippers along with brain fog and low energy.
Yet over half of adult Americans admit to skipping breakfast most days of the week. Health professionals will advise you to eat within an hour or two of rising. But what if you’re like me and you’re not hungry at 7 or 8 AM? Or you’re too busy to eat then because you’ve got to get the kids off to school and yourself to work?
I get up between 5-6 AM and do my best work in the early hours with no breakfast until around 10-11 AM. I'm not overweight and I’ve got plenty of energy. But I have learned some very important lessons about when and how to eat breakfast no matter what time of the day you choose to eat it. Here are some tips to help you determine the best time of day to eat breakfast and healthy fast foods to include in your breakfast if time is limited:
Pay Attention To Your Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar is the culprit behind brain fog, low energy and poor performance. Skipping breakfast can bring on low blood sugar, but if you listen to your body, you’ll soon learn to identify which symptoms you feel the earliest. Pay attention to these warning signals because they are telling you it’s time to eat now!
I find that it’s hard to get out of that low blood sugar zone once I’ve fallen into it. Experiencing low blood sugar makes you need to eat more than you normally would, which is most likely why obesity is associated with skipping breakfast. Appetite control gets out of whack the moment you sink into low blood sugar and can remain out of control for the rest of the day because your natural rhythm for eating is thrown off. It is best to not stress your body in the first place, so watch for these early low blood sugar symptoms:
- Muddled thinking
- Anger or upset at small things
More serious symptoms can develop as the result of low blood sugar later in the day. For instance, when I was young, I learned to identify the headaches I would get mid-afternoon with having waited too long to eat in the morning. Rapid heartbeat can be another symptom of the stress your body experiences when you dip too far into the low blood sugar zone. Inability to concentrate, confusion, unsteadiness on your feet, and emotional turmoil are all the kind of things you want to avoid by staying on top of eating in time!
Some Days You Can Go Longer Without Eating Breakfast, Others You Can’t
It really depends on a couple of factors:
How active are you in the morning? If you’re an early morning exerciser, then eating an hour after you’ve worked out is important for recovery. Most people don’t want to eat before exercising, but within an hour, you’ll start to get those early low blood sugar signals telling you it’s time to refuel.
As for myself, early morning hours are my creative time. I’m sitting at my desk right now as I write, drinking a cup of herbal tea. It’s almost 8 AM and I’ve been here since 6, but I'm not hungry in the least. Since I’m not physically active, I won’t be ready to eat until around 10 or 11 AM.
What’s your body type? How active the body’s metabolism is will dictate how soon you need to eat in the morning. Thin body types need to eat more frequently because their metabolism burns up their calories more rapidly. Overweight people usually are insulin resistant causing them to go into low blood sugar despite the fact that they may have eaten recently. Get to know your body’s preference by listening to its signals that it’s time to eat.
Are you hungry? Surprisingly, hunger may or may not actually be a good indication that it’s time to eat. The earlier you start eating in the day, the sooner you will be hungry again. Fasting for a few hours in the morning can help you lower the amount of food you eat in a day. People who want to eat less find that eating later in the morning is a good way to avoid eating three full meals a day.
Additionally, hunger pangs can get programmed to turn on at regular intervals when you’re used to eating rather than when you really need to eat. So experiment with those hunger pangs to see if they are real or programmed by delaying eating for a bit to see if they go away. If you start to feel those low blood sugar symptoms, you’ll know they were real and you do need to eat!
One more thing, remember that caffeine consumption results in a blood sugar spike that will drop into the low blood sugar zone if you don't use up the energy by being active. Watch out for caffeinated beverages that can increase your appetite for sweets and fats plus make you gain weight around the abdomen!
How late did you eat dinner the night before? If you’re a Mediterranean type like me, you may not eat dinner until 8 PM or later. Other people eat at 6 PM. How much you eat at dinner is also a factor. Your body can run on dinner fuel in the morning for longer if you ate late or ate a big meal. So gauge when you need to eat in the AM by how much and when you ate in the PM. I'm comfortable with about 14 hours between my dinner and my breakfast. Watch to see what works best for you.
How much stress are you under? Yes, stress can make you hungry sooner, but it can also make you feel nauseous at the thought of eating. My advise is to eat small amounts of unprocessed plant foods like fruit, nuts and whole grains when you’re under stress so that your body isn’t suffering from added stress caused by low blood sugar.
How much protein did you eat? This is a tricky one! Protein helps create satiety, the feeling of fullness that keeps hunger at bay, but it also can drive you into low blood sugar. Say what? Yes, an overdose of protein turns into glucose and spikes blood sugar too high with a subsequent crash. I just encountered a thin young guy who told me he had eaten 3 eggs and 2 types of sausage for breakfast followed by McDonald’s Egg McMuffin on the way to work. It was only 11:30 AM and he was suffering extreme low blood sugar symptoms. Too much protein plus refined carbohydrates in the muffin makes your body crave the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are deficient in high protein foods.
Fast Foods For Breakfast
Whoa - I’m not talking about the fast food you get from fast food restaurants like McDonalds. I’m talking about foods you can eat quickly yet still supply superior quality fuel that is nutrient dense and will nourish your body like nature intended!
Too little time is the main excuse for not eating breakfast. I know this one well because I’m often behind on so many timelines, and find myself racing while keeping numerous balls juggling in the air. But I hate skipping breakfast because it's the meal when I eat more fruit and whole grains than any other time of day.
Fruits contain those incredibly important antioxidants called flavonoids that protect our cells from free radicals disrupting our DNA. Their natural sugars provide a sweet energy boost with fiber to slow down the absorption of the sugars. Whole grains are full of fiber that keep our intestines regular and our probiotics healthy. Plus both fruits and whole grains supply vitamins and minerals that our bodies require to function.
Making time for breakfast even if it is at 10 or 11 AM is important because it starts your day with a nutritional boost that can set the rhythm for healthy eating the rest of your day. So my solution to my morning rush was to develop a breakfast I could eat anywhere, even at my desk or in a hotel room as long as I had a cup, a spoon and water.
For those of you who haven’t heard about it already ~ that breakfast is TeeChia Sustained Energy Cereal. It’s quick and easy to prepare by just adding water, either hot or cold. Its unique soluble fiber slowly meters out its nutrients all morning long. Here are TeeChia’s nutritional benefits that will energize your day no matter when you choose to eat breakfast: