Breakfast is still one of the most debated topics in nutrition. Do I eat breakfast? How much do I eat? What do I eat? These are the types of questions I get most often from clients. Today I’m going to answer that question. To be clear though, this is going to be geared to the MAJORITY of people, people who’s goals are generally fat loss and better health. This should serve as a guide to breakfast ideas for fat loss.
What is the problem with Insulin?
Insulin is a storage hormone in the body. When our blood sugar rises to a certain level, our body releases insulin to shuttle glycogen into our cells. As discussed previously though, if we aren’t in the post workout period, we’re going to store that glycogen as fat. If we are in that post workout window, our body will first prioritise refilling the muscle and liver stores of glycogen. Unless you’re a die hard athlete or weekend warrior who is training before breakfast, we want to avoid causing an insulin spike to start the day.
If we look at your body composition as a position on a spectrum, it will be easier to understand. On one end of the spectrum, we have ultra lean, stage ready bodybuilder. On the other end, we have obese with metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, etc.) . The more often we raise blood sugar and release insulin, the more likely we’ll move to the obese end of the spectrum. In reverse, if we limit the number of times per day that we release insulin, that will maximize the time we’re burning fat and moving to the lean end of the spectrum. To be clear, if we’re releasing insulin and storing fat, we’re not burning fat and vice versa. Is it possible that you ate a small granola bar or snack and you’re not going to gain tons of weight? Maybe, but why play that game? The new goal should be to limit our insulin secretion.
For the general public, I will simplify as saying, “Let’s not start the day with fat storage”.
What does that mean specifically??
Foods have a different effect on blood sugar based on their macronurtrient profile. To be specific, it depends whether it’s considered a carb, protein or fat (predominantly). Carbohydrates raise blood sugar and thus cause insulin secretion, but fats do not. Protein can in higher doses, but seems to be minimal at low dose. So based on the goal of not starting the day with insulin secretion, you want to minimize eating carbohydrates for breakfast. It sounds simple, but most of the foods which are considered “breakfast foods” are predominantly carb based. We ALREADY know that we don’t NEED carbs at breakfast for energy, we have so much stored energy in our body as fat that we shouldn’t need to load carbs just to get through our day. If we’re loading carbs, we won’t be burning fat. So if leaning out is your goal, let’s burn fat and make that happen.
The way I see it, you have two options at breakfast for fat loss.
The first option should be very obvious, FASTING. If you want to burn body fat, the best way would be to not eat any calories and continue burning body fat for energy throughout the morning. Fasting protocols have become increasingly popular for disease intervention, cognitive performance and even bodybuilding (check out this recent study on fasting and immune system). I have already written about it here, but in short fasting will put your body into ketosis where you will burn body fat for energy. Although this may be difficult in terms of hunger for the first few days, once fat adapted, you will no longer be hungry in the morning. Watch this video which describes that insulin drives HUNGER. So the first and simplest solution is to follow a fasting protocol which shortens your feeding window and maximizes fat burning.
The other solution would be to change the foods you eat. If carbs initiate a blood sugar rise and insulin secretion, let’s just eliminate those. Make yourself a fatty snack for breakfast and start the day in a fat burning zone. Fats have 9 calories per gram (vs 4 for carbs) so if you are afraid of a lack of calories (which you shouldn’t be) then that won’t be a problem having fats. Simple options are eggs, cheese, avocado, high fat dairy, nuts, meats (BACON!) or even just a spoonful of MCT Oil.
If you want to start your day with a treat, check out lowcarbyum.com for some amazing fat bombs and treats that contain little to no carbs. Whatever you choose, it should contain fats first and maybe some protein as well, but if you include carbs you are failing at the goal.
To reiterate, your goal is to start the day BURNING fat, not storing fat. If you don’t ever let yourself live in a state of glycogen depletion, you’ll never need to break down fat for energy. In layman’s terms that means losing weight.
If your goal is to burn fat and lean out, the first thing you should do is eliminate the things that store fat. That should be obvious. With these breakfast ideas for fat loss, you will give your body the chance to start by burning fat every single day. This is SEPARATE from exercise. This will help no matter what you’re doing physically. Be smart and don’t start the day the wrong way.
It’s About Getting Better!