Shopping in my local mall the other day (I was dragged in screaming and kicking by my lovely wife, Robin) I chanced on a Successories store. You know, these are the stores that sell everything under the sun that is motivational, except perhaps for cattle prods. I went in and started thumbing through the motivational posters that they had when I came across one that featured a picture of a lion. The saying underneath it said that:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed…every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.”
Boy, that sure puts breakfast into a whole other perspective. I thought to myself.
Now you may not have to get up and kill your breakfast every morning, but if you aren’t eating the right things for breakfast, it sure is killing your chances of building a strong, muscular physique.
My Mom is no sports nutritionist, but she was right when she stressed that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.
BREAKFAST SUPER-CHARGES YOUR METABOLISM
During the latter part of your sleep cycle, your body will begin to edge into a catabolic (tissue teardown) state, as it runs out of fuel from the last meal of the previous evening. It begins to tap stored fat for energy and muscles for amino acids. In short, your body is in a fasting state, where it hasn’t received nutrients in 6-8 hours or more.
To break this state, you must eat. That’s where the word breakfast comes from; “breaking the fast.”
To jump start your metabolism and get your body out of the catabolic state, you must ingest a healthy helping of high quality protein, energy-boosting complex carbs, and some healthy fats. I always start with the protein first. Protein is the main macronutrient needed to provide muscle-building amino acids to your body. Experienced bodybuilders often rely on that old standby, scrambled egg whites, to provide the 30-40 grams of high quality protein that they need. Egg whites are great if you have time, but they require some preparation time. Even faster is throw a carton of pasteurized egg whites into the blender, add a cup of Quaker 1-minute oats, and blend for a minute. If you can’t stand the thought of the egg whites, you can substitute a high quality protein powder such as Labrada 100% Whey. Protein powder is easy for your body to absorb also, because mechanically, it’s already ground down to the finest particle size possible and dissolved in liquid. The result is that more of that protein powder makes contact with the acid and digestive enzymes in your gut, and you have a greater yield of amino acids. Since powder requires less digestion than other sources of protein, muscle-building amino acids can reach the blood and muscles quicker, immediately jump starting growth and repair.
This protein and oats shake is quick, and makes an awesome breakfast, but even quicker is a Lean Body MRP (meal replacement powder) shake. Just open a packet and drop it into 12-16 oz of water in a shaker cup, and shake for 15 seconds.
Then there are those mornings when you have NO time to prepare breakfast!
On those mornings, I will grab a ready-to-drink Lean Body protein shake, a banana, and out the door I go. Lean Body contains 40 grams of high-quality protein and zero sugar. It’s easy to drink while on the morning commute to work.
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: THE FUEL OF CHAMPIONS
Carbohydrates have become a modern-day whipping boy with the advent of low carb (Keto) diets. However, there are some things you should know. First, not all carbohydrates are created equally.
Simple carbohydrates (sugar, refined flour product such as bread, cake, and donuts, etc.) are broken down quickly and elevate blood sugar. In response, your body secretes insulin, a powerful fat storage hormone, to bring your blood sugar level down to normal. This often results in an energy crash, as sugar is cleared. To make matters worse, the sudden excess of sugar triggers a biochemical cascade that results in fat deposition.
Complex carbs (oatmeal, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, whole grains, etc.) are broken down slowly by your body, keep your blood sugar stable, and therefore keep your insulin levels down. Complex carbs are considered to have a low “glycemic index,” a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate is broken down by your body into blood sugar.
Secondly, there are two times that you can ingest carbohydrates with little fear of getting fat: one is right after training. Can you guess when the other one is? Yes, at breakfast. Glycogen reserves can be extremely low in the morning. Glycogen (stored glucose from carbohydrates) inside your muscle tissue and liver is compromised when your food intake is too low in dietary carbohydrates. Glycogen is at its lowest point in the morning and blood sugar is low. Carbs ingested upon waking work in conjunction with protein to drive amino acids into muscles, kick-starting the growth process, and increase glycogen stores. These two activities must take place before any left-over carbs are deposited as fat.
I like the traditional bowl of oatmeal as my source of complex carbs at breakfast. The slow cooking kind can take 10 minutes or so of preparation. And as I mentioned earlier, the one-minute variety can be thrown into the blender with your protein drink. Whichever way you like it, it’s hard to beat oatmeal in the morning. For variety, I also like some whole grain cereals such as Bob’s 10-Grain— it’s delicious and nutritious. The beauty of whole grains is that in addition to being high in complex carbs, they are also a great source of fiber.
FIBER’S NOT JUST FOR YOUR GRANDMOTHER…
Fiber stabilizes blood sugar levels and further slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates. This contributes to keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable. Slower-digesting carbs not only help you feel better, but they help you stay leaner. Fiber also creates bulk in your food, which facilitates faster gut motility keeps your intestines healthy.
Complex carbs such as oats, cream of rye cereal or low sugar whole grain bran muffins are exceptional choices of carbohydrate foods because they supply dense amounts of dietary fiber. As I mentioned earlier, when you’re pressed for time, it’s hard to beat a protein drink for convenience. The only problem is that most protein powders don’t contain any fiber—in fact, most will constipate you if you don’t consume enough fiber daily.