What should we eat in the early mornings before undertaking the day’s activities and who doesn’t need to skip the breakfast are a few of the topics I will discuss within my article.
My friend Horea already made reference to breakfast in a previous article stating that its obsession comes from the idea that during sleep our body is depleted of nutrients so we have to eat first thing in the morning to get the necessary energy to start the day. Even I don’t believe that breakfast is beneficial for each and every one of us. Actually, let’s see who are bad candidates for skipping breakfast:
- Pregnant women.
- Children and adolescents who are still growing.
- People who suffer from impaired glucose regulation.
- People who are hungry soon after waking up and want to feel sated in the morning.
- People who need to exercise at peak performance in the morning.
- People who wish to optimize muscle gain or retention.
- People who just like eating breakfast.
If you fit into this category then breakfast is maybe the most important meal in the day. Otherwise, it can easily be a personal preference because many of us feel more energized, alert and productive in the fasted state. Good candidates for skipping breakfast will then be:
- People who want to extend their morning fast as a weight loss strategy.
- People who aren’t immediately hungry in the morning.
- People who just don’t feel like eating breakfast.
Notice what I said at the first dot, that skipping breakfast can be a great weight loss strategy. Actually, Intermittent Fasting (IF) works perfectly for those wanting to lose weight and who can afford a fasted state for more than 12 hours.
However, my recommendations for today apply to those who can’t or shouldn’t skip breakfast at all because is either counter-productive or dangerous for their well-being.
I know that in general, the major problem is not the quality of the food as much as is the quantity of it. People don’t have the right instinct anymore to control the portions they eat at every meal and thus, over time they become overweight.
An individual doesn’t need physical activity to stay lean or to control their own body fat percentage to an optimal level. If the metabolism is working pretty much okay, then it all comes down to how well they can control their own appetite. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes even if the main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are well portioned is very easy to exceed the required calorific intake for a day by eating the wrong snacks. The most vulnerable people here are the ones involved in office jobs who are deprived of any physical and sustainable sports activity.
A slow metabolism or an unbalanced metabolism can be kept under control by eating clean and knowing what you eat anytime and anywhere. For anyone else is just mathematics:
- More IN than OUT over time = weight gain
- More OUT than IN over time = weight loss
In this case, all that matters are calories in versus calories out. It doesn’t matter how many meals a day you eat or even if you choose to eat breakfast or not. As long as you don’t control your portions properly then it’s quite possible for you to get fat. I’ve met people who said to me that they skip breakfast in the morning, then they barely eat something at lunch due to their jobs that limit personal time and when are finally back home, they eat like hungry wolves. They are wondering why they get fat. Isn’t it obvious? Everything is chaos in this case and the metabolism is affected in the long run.
If that is your case then I strongly suggest you to never skip breakfast because it can truly balance the situation in your favor. It’s a matter of choice after all, but here is what can change: by eating properly in the morning is less likely that you will come home late and being super hungry and hence the probability to get a decent portion increases considerably even if you skip lunchtime. I always talk about small changes and improvements and little by little you’ll get back in shape only by changing bad behavior.
Saturation and Satiety
One bad nutritional habit is neglecting the portions and not making the difference between saturation and satiety. A large appetite can lead to overeating and that exceeds a lot the required energy for a day. This can make you gain weight and could bring the risk of following strict diets which is unhealthy.
Put reason over feelings as I did and thus, stress will disappear because you are now in total control over your own life. My nutritionist friend, Nicoleta, thought us how to make that difference: the sensation of saturation comes at the end of a meal and it determines us to stop eating. Satiety represents the period between the last meal and the beginning of the hunger sensation. It all depends upon the quantity of the consumed groceries and that is why is recommended the consumption of low energy density food and higher volume:
It’s a lot easier to surpass the level of saturation by eating the foods with high energy density.
Let me give you a few examples:
- High Density: apple pie, burgers, cakes, chips, sweets of all kind, ice cream, croissant, graham crackers, bacon, tortilla chips, peanut butter, sauces from mayonnaise etc.
- Medium Density: eggs, turkey breast, raisins, ravioli (I can practically integrate them as being beneficial for almost everyone excepting the morbidly obese folks)
- Low Density: fruits and veggies, lean meat, fish, seafood, yogurt, rice, pasta, tofu, bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, olives, chicken broth, milk.
Getting to Breakfast
Watch closely the picture above. Breakfast should consist in Low Energy Density Food because it’s higher in volume, fewer in bad calories and especially because it’s more nutritious and healthy. It releases energy over a longer period of time and the chances to keep you full are higher. In some cases, I prefer drinking natural shakes which comes a bit against what is showed in the picture but it doesn’t make it unhealthy. They are usually rich in nutrients and calories so the main difference would consist of how fast the energy is released.
I mentioned in the first paragraph about bad calories. They usually come from simple carbohydrates, as it follows.
I recommend you don’t follow TV commercials in which breakfasts like this one is recommended:
This kind of breakfast can be classified as High Energy Density. Now, don’t get me wrong. For a skinny guy with low body fat and good metabolism, focused on gaining muscle mass, the last concerning thing is how healthy the foods are. Is true that even so I still recommend the healthy choices (Low Energy Density), but in some cases is more important to be on a caloric surplus. It’s extremely easy to exceed with intake calories by eating these kinds of foods and for someone who needs an extra 1000 kcal/day, it is recommended. Muscle mass is not only built with proteins, carbs and fats come in the role as well.
To simplify things a bit, I designed the following chart for you:
Apply the principle for lunch and dinner too. Snacks like chocolate, chips, soda, Nutella chocolate cream, cookies are usually for skinny or muscular guys only.
It’s useless to speak much about what a skinny guy can eat because he is the least concerned about it. However, you skinny guy dude, follow the same protocol only with larger sizes, ok?
To eat High Energy Density Food is easy because the variety of it is really enormous. Choosing the best foods is extremely hard and leaves us with few options when the time is stressing us, but we still want to maintain our main goal: to get fit.
Breakfast Examples Targeting Fitness Goals
I usually start my day with two glasses of still water and 2 cups of great coffee. It is a matter of personal choice. For me drinking coffee it’s like being in love with meditation besides the fact that it makes my mind a little bit sharper. But make sure you drink 2-4 glasses of water for a cup of coffee. Now moving forward I strongly recommend you drink water first thing after waking up. Adding 2-3 slices of lemon in it helps your organism become more alkaline.
Another great thing you can try is eating 2 green apples. They won’t exceed 100 kcal, hence it’s a perfect choice for anyone, regardless of the fitness goal. I actually used to eat green apples in the morning not only to alkaline my organism but also to refresh my breath. Great replacement for an apple tastes toothpaste too.
The idea is to slowly get ready your organism and in order to do that, you can start by eating basically, whatever fruit types you want. Just keep them to a bare minimum if you will serve breakfast properly.
I’ve met persons that only eat fruits and drink water and persons that only drink shakes and smoothies. None of them are bad choices, but you must think from a macro perspective because if you will skip lunch and eat fast-food for dinner then I would suggest you have a nice decent breakfast.
If the case is that you will have a great lunch as well as a nutritious dinner then it will be okay for you to have some fruits of personal choice, fresh drinks and maybe shakes or smoothies. The advantage these nutritious drinks bring is that you can easily take them with you at work or whatever you have to go.
By macro perspective, I also mean that you have to anticipate your future needs and not desires. Go to grocery and buy what you need for the future mornings. It’s easy to compromise a goal when you have nothing to choose from. You can prepare some of your morning meals the evening before if it’s easier or maybe if you have problems with waking up. If you cannot eat them because is just too early in the morning then please pack them and try to eat whenever you have 5-10 minutes.
- Must be easy to prepare
- For a required calorific intake of 2000 kcal, breakfast can represent 500 kcal. This means that your breakfast should represent around 25% of your intake calories that day
- Easy to grab at work if time is a problem
- It must contain carbohydrates, proteins, little fat (unsaturated mostly) and micronutrients
- Try to consume the breakfast in maximum 3 hours after waking up.
1. Blueberry Spinach Smoothies + Chopped Salad with Rice and Avocado
Yields: 2 servings
- 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 ripe banana
- 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 large frozen strawberries
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup milk of choice (dairy, coconut, soy, almond)
- 2 teaspoons protein powder (optional for skinny guys having trouble in gaining size)
- 1 tablespoon of honey, or to taste
High antioxidant drink with a good source of fibers and vitamins. I recommend it to any person trying to lose body fat or just to add it to an English Breakfast for instance.
However, if you want to increase the calories just add 100 grams of oats. Only the oats bring in at least 300 kcal. Put them together in a blender and there you go, a balanced vegetarian breakfast.
When I was on a quest for getting thousands of calories a day I used to add lots of carbs to everything. Almost every one of us can eat what I recommend here with small changes and of course if you are not allergic to something.
This smoothie can also fluctuate in calories by changing the type of milk, one containing more fats will be higher in calories. Same will apply for the Greek yogurt. Bananas are also rich in energy so the bigger it is, the more calories will contain. That is why you must be smart and focus on what’s important for you.
I never take any supplements whatsoever. However, I am not an idiot and I reckon that certain individuals have real troubles in getting muscle mass. If that is your case and if your belly is flat [low bodyfat percentage] then find a good protein supplement and add 2-3 teaspoons (depending on how many proteins you need for each meal). I also noticed that some proteins have nice flavors and a friend of mine actually added them just for taste even though he already got enough of protein coming from food.
This salad is optional if your time will allow it and if you need more saturation.
Yields: 2 servings. For the Salad:
- 4 cups crisp green lettuce like romaine or green leaf, chopped
- 6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and chopped
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 avocado, chopped
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- add 100-200 grams of rice (optional and depending upon your fitness goals)
Rice comes as an option for those willing to add more calories. How many slices of bacon you eat is again depending on how much protein you want to add.
Maybe some of you wanting to get rid of body fat will only prefer the salad. Even so, I suggest you add 100 grams of rice because you still need calories for the day that is about to come. You can always cut later from lunch and dinner. With rice and bacon, you easily have a salad rich for about 300-400 kcal.
I would mention that bread made especially from white flour is usually not recommended when losing fat is a goal – it contains gluten which can slow down the metabolism. Eat as minimum as you can or grab at maximum 1-2 slices of whole wheat flour bread per meal. Although whole wheat contains gluten too, it is richer in nutrients such as fiber in comparison with white flour. I used to replace the wheat from my menu with rice rolls or even bread made from rice/corn flour (they are gluten-free).
2. Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
- 1 Cup of milk (you can use almond, soy or coconut milk too!)
- 5-10 Strawberries
- 1 Large (Frozen) Banana
- 100 grams. Cup Rolled Oats
- 1 Teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla (optional and it’s mostly for taste)
- 1 Teaspoon Raw Honey
For more calories add two bananas and maybe 150 grams of rolled oats. For fewer calories add only 50 grams of oats.
3. High Protein and Calorie Shake:
- 150 grams of milk (you can use almond milk or soy milk too!)
- 150 grams of frozen strawberries or frozen berries
- 1 big spoon of Flax-seeds
- 1 big spoon of Chia seeds
- 8 big spoons of Oats
- 125-200 grams of Greek yogurt
- 1 spoon of Honey
This meal is not recommended for skinny-fat and fat persons. Put them all in a blender and take it with you at work if you don’t have time to serve it.
4. Corn Flakes with Milk + Rice Bars:
I’ve met guys allergic to oatmeal and hence you can always replace them with a nice bowl of corn flakes and milk:
- 200-300 grams of corn flakes
- 200 grams of milk (use any other type of milk desired!)
This meal may not saturate you enough so grab a snack like this:
These rice caloric bars usually contain a lot of added sugar hence skinny-fat or fat guys should avoid them. The other ones can grab 2-3 of them. They have proteins, calories, fibers. Not necessarily healthy, but they fit in sometimes. Great as snacks even before working out. Those of you focusing on losing weight replace these bars with some peanuts, nuts, and almonds.
Some of my recommendations are vegans or vegetarian, and thus if you are not one of them then please add some animal protein at lunchtime. Although they contain some proteins, they are usually incomplete and for someone who tries to gain mass having complete proteins is important. Complete proteins can be found in animal sources.
5. Oatmeal and Nuts with Honey
- 200 grams of oats/muesli
- almonds, cashew, nuts
- 2-3 slices of rice bread with peanut butter and honey
6. English Breakfast
English Breakfast varies a lot from a place to another. Do it at home if wanted or eat it in a restaurant. Choose canned beans without preservatives and additives. This meal is perfect for skinny guys because is very high in saturated fats and proteins. Some of them also come with dessert too: jam on bread and tea or coffee.
If you are in a quest for losing weight then eliminate sausages, cook the bacon in less oil, limit the jam and bread to 2 slices at maximum. You should also use home-cooked kidney beans instead of canned beans and boil the eggs, don’t cook them into the oil.
7. Eggs with Chickpeas and Beans
Add between 100 and 200 grams of beans, 2-3 eggs, and some veggies or salad/leaves too if needed. Use as little oil as possible to cook the eggs if losing weight is your main focus.
Beans, chickpeas and green peas represent a good source of vegetable proteins and together they contain all the essential amino acids. There is no need to add any other sources of protein because it would be enough even without the eggs. Besides that, they are highly rich in complex carbohydrates (gluten-free) and micronutrients.
For 100 grams it usually contains:
- 293 kcal
- 30% fats (15 grams)
- 30% proteins (15 grams)
- 12% Cholesterol
I also used to steam for breakfast 100-200 grams of sweet potatoes along with some green vegetables. And to balance the meal with proteins, I also included some sea fruits or even fish. A friend of mine used to add eggs as a source of proteins. I will leave this at your own attitude!
9. Beans, Eggs, Veggies
There are many more choices and you can ever mix them between themselves to make a perfect breakfast that fits your fitness goals. Be smart and choose based on your goals!