Tiger Toning

The benefits of breakfast

“I don’t eat breakfast. Once I left home and began going to school, I stopped and haven’t looked back. Now I’m trying to lose weight and I keep reading that eating breakfast is an important fat loss strategy. Won’t eating more just cause me to gain weight?” — ‘Anti-Breakfast Loser’

As the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I couldn’t agree more.

After your body has gone without food all night, changes start to occur that are not favourable to someone looking to lose weight. Your body starts to conserve energy, which means it will not burn calories (energy) at the same speed as somebody well fed.

Our bodies were not built to live in a calorie-denseworld. As far as it’s concerned, once it has had one meal, who knows when the next one will come along? This is why your body enters survival mode when it goes for a long period without food. Although it would be ideal if our bodies encouraged those looking to lose weight to eat less food and compensate for the loss, that is simply not the case.

Before we go any further, let’s review the relationship between calories and weight loss. Math students, here is your chance to shine: weight loss is all about the numbers. The magic number is 3,500. That’s how many calories it takes to gain or lose one pound of fat. Therefore, if you have a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you eat) of 3,500 over a reasonable period of time, you will lose a pound of fat. It’s as clear-cut as that.

But going back to the breakfast question, why would eating an extra meal help you lose weight?

Aside from how your body burns fewer calories to conserve energy when it has not been fed, you also have the ‘out of fuel’ problem. If we don’t fuel our bodies, they won’t perform at the optimal level we want or expect of them. Whether it’s sitting through class, heading to the gym or working in the lab, we need our bodies to be at their best if we want to get results we’re looking for. Coffee and caffeine can only do so much.

I avoided the problem myself last Saturday morning, for instance, when before winning the City Chase—shameless plug—the first thing I did after waking up was consume a hearty breakfast with a generous mix of carbohydrates, protein and good fats. I can say, with full confidence, my race result probably would not have been as favourable had I not eaten breakfast.

Performance is key, especially in relation to weight loss. After all, achieving a calorie deficit is as much about the activity as it is about food restriction. Becoming more active is much more difficult if you are starting your day on an unnecessary fast.

Finally, for those looking to lose fat and bulk up, you are going to find it very difficult to pack on the proper pounds when your body is spending significant time fasting. In fact, those looking to build muscles are often encouraged to eat more than their body burns so there is adequate fuel for growth to occur.

Fasting sucks and breakfast is crucial in minimizing the time your body spends in this state (it’s in the name, break… fast). Take the time in the morning to give your body the fuel it needs. It’s a lifestyle change ideal for both losing weight and keeping it off.

Send your fitness-related questions to cghebb@dal.ca and check back in the Gazette weekly to see if your question gets answered.

Leave a Comment

Colin Hebb

Posted in