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Healthy breakfast – but what is healthy?!?

Mum says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As usual Mum is right! If we eat a good quality nutritious and ‘life giving’ breakfast it sets us up correctly for the day, however if we eat a poor quality ‘life sapping’ breakfast we will be lethargic and crave crap food and stimulants all day!

The food we eat especially at breakfast will either have a positive or negative effect on us. Breakfast should energise us, it should stimulate the correct neurotransmitters so that we are ready for the day ahead, in mind and body (not just for an hour). To maximise the potential healthy boost a good quality breakfast will give us it should be high in protein, medium / high in fats and low in manmade processed carbs. It could also be alkalising where possible and be accompanied by water…water not juice! Let’s investigate…

Here is a typical conversation I hear nearly everyday about breakfast:

Me (smug git) – ‘So what do you have for breakfast?’
Client – ‘I eat really well’
Me (still smug) – nods encouragingly.
Client – ‘I have cereal with skimmed milk, 2 wholemeal toasts with low fat margarine. Or I have porridge, again with skimmed milk, a banana, and a yogurt.’
Me – ‘Any water’
Client – ‘No but I have a pint of orange juice’
Me – ‘Ok, any meat or veg?’
Client – looks at me weirdly ‘No!’
Me (a real smug git now!) – ‘That’s not a good breakfast mate!’
Client – crest fallen and a bit pissed off ‘Oh ok, what should I eat then?’
And so it begins…

Neurotransmitters – We mentioned these messangers earlier. These play a key roll in our metabolism / health / mindset, everything really! But this is not something to get our knickers in a twist about except to understand a few easy principles. We should try to stimulate the correct neurotransmitters so that our metabolism gets a specific responds initiated by these chemical messangers. Basically we can achieve this by –  the food we eat – the thoughts we have – and the things we say / do. But to be more specific and less freaky be aware of these 2 transmitters:

Dopamine – will perk you up, energise you and stimulate the mind and body, so choose food that is dopamine enhancing. Some possibilities may be fish, nuts, and coffee.

Acetylcholine – foods that are rich in choline (a precursor to acetylcholine) such as eggs, beef, nuts, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli), liver and berries will help with brain, as well as liver function and also lowering homeocysteine. More good breakfast choices. As a side note mothers milk is extremely high in choline…can’t be bad hey.

Hormonal interactions (basic)

Cotisol / Insulin seesaw – Cortisol has a lot of bad press as a catabolic and stress related hormone. However without cortisol we would have no energy even to get out of bed. Cortisol should be high in the morning and decrease as the day goes on (not including training). Unfortunately if our breakfast is highly processed, high sugar / carb and very low protein, it causes a surge of blood sugar which also causes a spike in insulin. As the saying goes, ‘what goes up must come down’, so once the surge of insulin and blood sugar subsides it causes an equally dramatic slump. It is this slump that triggers a damaging cortisol spike or stress response. The elevated cortisol (low grade adrenaline) that is released from the adrenals causes us to crave a further blood sugar elevation so we eat more high sugar / carb foods…and so the see saw continues.

Testosterone / Cortisol seesaw – Now we know that an unwelcome spike in insulin caused by excess carbs ultimately causes a cortisol / stress response. What should also be noted is that a surge in cortisol will blunt testosterone (not always, but generally). A lack of testosterone causes all sorts of issues not least of all increases body fat (male and female) and depression.

“So what should I eat”?

Bear in mind that we must eat as we are designed and genetically programmed to eat over millions of years. However we have been bombarded by clever advertising in to thinking that we ought to we having high sugar cereals, so called high fiber, juice, bread and loads of fruit for breakfast. As we now know this is a highly processed, high carb, low protein / fat start to the day which is an extremely poor choice. Moreover, it is the complete opposite of what nature intended for us to eat, setting us up for ill health, sugar cravings, energy seesaws, fat bodies, diabetes, heart disease, and so on.

So here is my recommendation in general terms. Figure out 4-5 core breakfasts that are high protein, medium fat and low carb and cycle through them throughout the week. Do not eat the same thing constantly. Here are some possibilities, but for specifics come and see me (sorry – blatant sales pitch)!!!

-Egg based
-Meat based
-Vegetable based (although some green veg at least should be added to most breakfasts most of the time)
-Fish / Sea food based
-Liquid protein based (as a back up and only on occasion)

The main ingredient ought to be at least one of the above. Of course you can add to the main ingredient as you see fit or as your need require. For example if you are lean and an athlete then you may add additional natural carbs to the mix.

Some natural carb choices
Vegetables
Some fruit especially Berries
Wild rice
Quinoa
Potato / sweet potato / other root vegetables…

But not:
Bread, Cereal, Oats, Wheat, Sugar, Pasta, Excess fruit juice / smoothies.

Breakfast in a box

Our mind set has been moulded into thinking that breakfast should come from a box. Excellent job done on us by advertisers! Remember that we are hunter gathers (that no longer hunt or gather). We know this to be fact, so we ought to eat as such. Where is the special K tree, or the sheddies plant, or the cornflakes bush…in a high processing factory I guess? I know I am being facetious but I am sure you get the point!

Allergens / intolerances / Glycation

Some of the food we eat as a staple can be allergenic (we become allergic to them). Guess what, the main culprits are what we are told to eat by the advertisers i.e. gluten found in wheat, cereals, muesli, barley, rye, oats (normally via cross contamonation), lactose in milk and so on. Also too much fruit / fruit juice (normally spiked with added sugar for added Diabetes pleasure) will glycate. Glycation in basic terms means, fructose molecules that are found in fruit hang around the system (because they are not immediately absorbed), they then combines with  protein / lipid molecules and causes cells to rot…basically not good!!!

Other stuff

Eggsare an excellent choice of breakfast, however they become their own worst enemy, because they are so easy to prepare people eat them every day which causes us to become allergic to them. They are a great source of protein, fats, B vits (especially the yolk), lutein (eye health), selenium, omega 3, and good cholesterol and so on…just not every day! I saw a post the other day that said they were a good source of slow release protein, true except then leave the stomach very quickly and as such are in fact a very quick release protein source.

Coconut oil is probably the best medium to cook your breakfast in (as well as butter). Coconut oil will increase our high density lipoprotein HDL (good cholesterol), improves fat oxidation, gives energy, aids digestion, and improves immune and liver function. It remains stable when heated unlike olive oil which does not.

Salt good quality salt such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt added to your high protein breakfast will help improve health in a number of ways. It will improve blood stucture, increasing energy, replacing sodium levels lost through hard training, improving nervous system communication, improving cellular activity, fights depression, improves sleep…all good really. Of course if we are to increase our good salt intake (as we should if we are training hard and eating a high protein intake) then drink copious amounts of water. We are basically bags of salty solution sealed in a skin bag! Be warned that highly proceeded food can often contain poor quality salt which can lead to hypertension and other health issues. Most common table salts are very highly processed and depleted of minerals so are not recommended.

Beef high protein, medium fats, low carb…excellent. As well as high in zinc, B vits, selenium, iron, creatine, carnitine…add some almonds and greens to your plate and Bob’s your uncle!

Coffee and thingsGood organic coffee which stimulates dopemine and gets you off your ass in the morning is a good thing! If you’re not convinced then have green tea instead. Indeed a pint of water is probably the best choice, in which you can add a pinch of salt and lemon. Another excellent addition is to have a glass of greens (vegetable) powder if your plate is low on real greens. Not only will this boost your (9 a day quota) it will also help alkalise your system after the nights fast.

Supplements Many people do not understand the benefits of correctly using well targeted / specific supplements so they often dismiss them as a waste of time and money. “We can get all the nutrients we need from a healthy diet” they may say. This would be true if our modern way of growing, processing, packaging, storing, transporting and cooking food was as nature intended, alas it is very far from this. So a lot of the nutrients are deficient from the food we eat, add that to the poor quality breakfast that some of us eat and the case for some very basic supplements strengthens. Fish oil, and multivits / mineral are a good start, as is a digestive aid / enzyme and probiotic which can also be invaluable. A good Biosignature practitioner can give further advice (surprise surprise…I am one of those chaps!!!)

Liquid breakfast If for some reason you are unable or unwilling to make the time to prepare a proper food breakfast then occasionally you could make a breakfast protein shake, I repeat only on occasion! It should contain protein, oils, fats, as a minimum.
My favoured concoction is: whey protein, olive oil, greens powder, nut butter, flaxseed hulls, berries, natural unflavoured yogurt and a pinch of salt. However Real food is the best choice!

Protein requirementMost strength based nutrition advice recommends 2.5 – 4 grams or protein per kg of body weight, I agree with this. By loading up with a solid protein based breakfast you will be well on your way to achieving the daily requirement.

Calories  Do not be overly concerned with calories. Calories in, verses calories out is a flawed and unsustainable health principle. Ask yourself, from a health / hormonal view point what is more beneficial -100 calories from wild salmon / grass fed beef or 100 calories from table sugar / cheerios…Exactly!

Summary

For optimal health opt for a high protein breakfast
For optimal lean body mass opt for a high protein breakfast
For optimal athletic performance opt for a high protein breakfast…add some natural carbs if required
To stabilise blood sugar levels opt for a high protein breakfast
To avoid energy slumps opt for a high protein breakfast
To improve hormonal balance and homeostasis opt for a high protein breakfast
To improve mood, outlook, energy opt for a high protein breakfast…and so on. You get my drift!

To increase your risk of diabetes, heart attacks, low energy / drive, poor concentration, body fat profile, sugar cravings, ageing, low libido etc have cereals, toast, orange juice a banana and a low fat yogurt!!!