Biggest breakfast mistake most Aussies make

What do you usually grab for breakfast? Coffee? Or sometimes coffee and a muffin? Maybe you are a breakfast skipper, or a protein shake after the gym is more your thing?

What was once considered the most important meal of the day has taken a beating in recent years, with fasting regimes making a meal to start the day a little defunct, while coffee culture in Australia means that we can satisfy any early morning appetite, and push through until late morning running on milk and caffeine. When it comes to increasing metabolic rate, and supporting blood glucose control for optimal energy, attention and performance, there is much to be said for both a savoury and protein rich breakfast, so if you know your food routine could do with an overhaul, this is what you are likely missing out on at breakfast.

Why eating in the morning is important

While there may be days in which a heavy meal the night before negates any morning hunger, for most busy people, stoking the fire within an hour or two of waking only has benefits both from an energy perspective and when considering the effect on metabolic rate. Most importantly, getting adequate amounts of protein at this meal, and in particular the amino acid leucine, appears to have a number of powerful benefits for our hormone health and weight control long term.

The power of leucine

Leucine is an essential amino acid, which means the body cannot make it, and plays a key role in muscle growth and repair. Around 2-3g of leucine has been shown to play a key role in regulating insulin and glucose metabolism in the body. As insulin is the central regulator of fat metabolism, it is believed that the leucine content of the diet in turn helps to support fat being burnt as energy, while ensuring muscle mass is preserved, even when calorie restricted diets are followed.

The power of protein

There are a number of benefits to focusing on a protein rich meal at breakfast. Not only is protein as a nutrient digested more slowly than carbohydrate so it aids fullness, but the foods protein is found in concentrated amounts, such as eggs, dairy and legumes, are extremely nutrient rich, offering a number of vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Specifically, when it comes to getting adequate amounts of leucine to help support glucose and insulin regulation in the body, a couple of eggs, a serve of protein yoghurt or 25-30g of hey protein all offer an optimal amount of leucine to support metabolism.

The power of savoury breakfasts

The more we are learning about the role of glucose regulation, health and weight control, the more we come to understand the benefits associated with not just protein rich meals, but less sweet options. While breakfast foods are notoriously sweet – think refined breakfast cereals, fruit yoghurt, muffins, smoothies and pastries, the result is relatively large glucose spikes after eating, which not only leave us vulnerable to cravings, but energy highs and lows. On the other hand, focusing on less sweet options – eggs or beans on toast, protein toast with avo, or breakfast cereals that are mixed with Greek yoghurt and vegetables like grated zucchini will help to minimise glucose fluctuations and keep your energy levels regulated.

Easy breakfast swaps

Achieving this breakfast balance is easy once you know the core foods to focus on. If cereal is your thing, all you need to do is bump up the protein content with a little extra protein yoghurt or protein powder, and add vegetables if you can. If you are a big coffee fan, team it with egg frittata muffins or protein toast with a savoury spread. Or, if you don’t love breakfast in general, there are a lot of nutritional benefits from enjoying a cracker or two with cottage cheese and tomato or a wrap with smoked salmon or ham and cheese an hour or two after waking to give your metabolism a boost, minus the need to sit down to a large breakfast meal.

Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist and holds a Master’s degree in coaching psychology.

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