Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day

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Let’s first discuss the body’s natural state upon waking up in the morning.  What we want to do here, is simply explain the hormonal factors at play when you wake up.  Ultimately enabling you to determine the appropriateness of breakfast for you and more specifically what you consume during that meal.


Fat Mobilization:  the mobilization of body fat is dependent on a variety of factors, from exogenous energy supply (food we consume) to hormonal responses.  In a natural physiologic environment our body will experience an oscillation of endogenous substrate use to produce energy, meaning alternating between predominantly fat or carbohydrates to support the energy demands of daily activity.  However, there are things we can do to prolong or perpetuate the use of fat stores to meet these daily energy demands.


Low carbohydrate diets are one tool, but also in an acute sense, periods of intermittent fasting demonstrate some efficacy in driving fat mobilization as well.


That hormonal state of our body upon rising:


  1. Increased Ketone Production: During sleep every night you go ketotic (produce ketones), it’s unavoidable to some degree.   An exception would be people who wake up throughout the night to eat (i.e. old school bodybuilders).  Otherwise upon rising your body is producing ketones naturally made from fat.  This supports brain & tissue function and also perhaps more interesting to you, enhances fat mobilization.  Meaning it unlocks fat stores and encourages their utilization for energy.
  2. Reduced Insulin:   With these reduced insulin levels, our body secrets a critical hormone called Glucagon, which is critical to encouraging fat mobilization.   Generally speaking, it’s function is to raise blood glucose to homeostatic levels, and since glycogen levels (in liver and muscle) are sufficiently depleted in the morning, it must unlock internal fat stores to be utilized for this process.   Not only encouraging fat oxidation but unlocking the internal resources to do it.   If you consume carbohydrates upon rising you immediately stop the fat mobilization enhanced by ketone production and glucagon release, although this effect is likely transient, it can be meaningful if subsequent meals continue to cause the suppression of fat mobilization.
  3. Increased Cortisol:  Cortisol levels typically peak first thing in the morning.   Despite suggestions that cortisol should be avoided at all cost because of its catabolic nature, have missed a crucial opportunity.  First of all, regardless of what you eat cortisol levels won’t be effected, secondly you SHOULDN’T want to.   Cortisol is exceptional at mobilizing fat, particularly when paired with low insulin levels.   It’s an extremely catabolic hormone, meaning it taps into energy stores…. predominantly FAT!    Helping you actually breakdown the internal fat stores we all have.   Further increase the production of ketones as well.  It’s a beautiful cycle of fat burning.
  4. Increased Ghrelin:  or the “Hunger Hormone” is a peptide that generally regulates appetite and the distribution & rate of energy production.   Although secretion of this hormone is encouraging you to eat (satisfy an innate craving), if you can stave off this hunger just for a few hours you can leverage its effect in your favor for fat loss.   I would recommend consuming tea or lemon water during this time, help your body rehydrate and alkaline during this “fasting” period, a particularly optimal time to do it.   The nice thing is, pretty quickly this hormone begins to stabilize and when it does initiates the release of Growth Hormone.
  5. Increased Growth Hormone:  What many people don’t know, when growth hormone levels increase our body raises concentration of glucose and free fatty acids.   Now when insulin levels are low, this puts special emphasis on fat mobilization to convert free fatty acids to energy.  Improving Fat Mobilization while conserving & repairing muscle tissue.


By understanding the harmonic sequence at play upon waking up in the morning, your body is in an optimal fat mobilization state.


Now this does NOT mean simply by skipping breakfast you are having a positive net effect on the use of internal fat stores irrespective of what and how much you eat the rest of the day. 


In reality, even if you woke up and ate a bowl of cereal, temporarily derailing the unique environment described above, but then proceeded to eat within your restricted caloric intake the rest of the day, ultimately the degree of fat loss would be similar.  Ultimately the overall energy intake is going to dictate the degree of weight loss.


Rather than focus on the physiologic nuance of leveraging hormonal responses to optimize fat use upon waking up, this strategy simply provides a unique ability to reduce our overall daily caloric intake.


Here’s an example of what an ideal morning breakdown would look like for most average people (athletes and/or active individuals to some degree):


  • Wake-Up:   Drink 1 liter of water with fresh lemon added.  Improving your ability to efficiently utilize and breakdown nutrients consumed.  While satiating appetite.
  • 30 – 60 minutes after:   1 glass of black coffee or green tea.   The caffeine will help encourage substrate mobilization (fat & carbs) in effect during the fasted state.
  • 2-4 hours after rising:  Meal One.  When this happens, is entirely dependent on the degree of fat loss you’re trying to achieve and performance demands of your regiment.   This meal should be low in carbohydrates regardless, high in protein and moderate fat intake.
    • Example 1:  ShyTown Omelet
      • 1 whole Egg + 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup mushrooms, 1 cup spinach, 2-3 pieces of all natural turkey sausage and sugar free all natural salsa.   .
    • Example 2:   Steak and Eggs
      • 4-5 oz of Lean Red Meat, 3 egg whites and 3 slices of bacon.


This protocol would maintain all of the positive fat mobilization effects present in the morning while satisfying hunger cravings and initiating protein synthesis.  In fact your nutrient absorption should experience a slight up regulation, meaning your body will become more efficient at utilizing the nutrients provided in this meal.


Important Note:   1 Day a week you MUST dramatically spike insulin levels!


Although I would suggest that EVERY human should be carbohydrate restricted to some degree, simply for overall health, there is an important effect that needs to be explained.


What happens when you’ve completely been carbohydrate depleted (not eating them at all outside of greens) the hormones and specifically the enzymatic system that control metabolism begin to decrease over time – typically periods over a week.   So many of the mechanisms responsible for helping you get lean diminish.   Now this is a very gradual process and easily corrected.   Do not overcompensate in your solution.


Solution:  We can completely reset these negative effects by inducing a significant burst in insulin at least once a week.  Ultimately dependent on the activity type and frequency of the individual.  The truth is insulin has some extremely beneficial effects, but it’s critical we manipulate the secretion of this hormone to capture the benefits while avoiding the negative energy storing effects inherently associated with it’s perpetual secretion.  We literally need to look at it as a drug, only utilized when our body actually needs it..


A hilarious example I got from John Keifer was a comparison to Viagra.   Viagra as many would agree has some extremely useful and specific benefits, many of which we simply would not want to experience all day everyday… that could make for some very uncomfortable conversations at work.   Rather we utilize medications like this during times appropriate to leverage their effects.   Look at working out like sex, although this drug (insulin) will be administered after the fun activities have concluded not prior.


So we want to treat insulin the same way, administered for a very particular purpose.  Our pancreas is not built for continuous production of insulin.   Now if timed the right way, this spike in insulin actually enhances thyroid hormone output – which is extremely important in metabolism.   Additionally increasing your resting metabolic rate (RMR).   Conveniently this temporary and periodic supplementation of carbohydrates/sugar actually reverses the negative effects brought on by zero carbohydrates for prolonged periods.  Understand INSULIN is what we’re trying to optimize here, so fast absorbing sugars/carbs are required.   This is the one time we want a significant surge in blood sugar to initiate an adequate response.   Many individuals whom I’ve worked with go crazy, eating pizza, doughnuts, etc.   And it works.  Truth is, you’ll often feel extremely lethargic and uncomfortable the night you’ve engaged in this insulin spike for obvious reasons but these feelings subside by morning and you’ve effectively reset your metabolism to begin working in the efficient manor for which it was designed.  And let’s be honest, you get to indulge in some delicious treats.   The ideal time to engage in this “Insulin Spike” is following an afternoon workout, when glycogen stores are depleted and muscle recovery encouraged…. allowing you to effectively maximize fat burning the majority of the day.


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