By Sharyn Saftler, Arivale Coach, MPH RDN CD ACE-HCC
With all the recent press around the age old question “To eat, or not to eat breakfast,” we thought we would rediscover the science of breakfast and why—regardless of what the latest headlines say—you should consider what role breakfast plays in your daily routine.
It’s important to remember that your body is a complex network of interconnected systems. These systems—much like other parts of nature— have intrinsic rhythms dictated by an internal “clock.” From your core temperature and hormones to blood sugars and blood pressure, there is a natural ebb and flow. There are two main influencers of this clock: light and food.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to how food (specifically breakfast) can help regulate this internal clock.
1. Cortisol regulation
Breakfast is essentially breaking the all night fast. Ideally—while getting your much-needed rest—your body has been breaking down stored energy to rebuild and repair from the day before. By the time you awake, your cortisol, a stress response hormone, levels typically have peaked because your body is tired of having to work off its reserves and is ready for a fresh supply of glucose (think: fuel!).
In a perfect world, your cortisol levels will begin to decrease and continue to steadily decline throughout the day. Since our modern day demands often disrupt this natural tendency, it is even more important to pay attention to the role of eating within one hour of waking to let your body know there is no longer distress—fuel has arrived. Your body can then stop deconstructing and start building and functioning for your busy day ahead.
2. Blood sugar and energy regulation
Coincidentally, as your body’s cortisol response is the highest in the morning, your insulin resistance is typically at its lowest point—meaning your body is primed and ready to receive the food you eat to be utilized for energy rather than stored. By taking advantage of this biological gift to harness the fuel you put in, you are setting your blood sugar and energy levels up for a nice steady ebb and flow to the day—assuming you continue to regularly put fuel in at appropriate intervals throughout your day.
3. Brain health and cognition
We’ve mentioned fuel a lot in the context of your body as a whole, but we would be amiss if we neglected the crucial role glucose plays in your brain’s ability to make decisions, pay attention and regulate self-control (among other things).
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology noted that while willpower may be a limited resource, it is also fueled by glucose. A single act of self-control can reduce your blood sugar levels which makes willpower even more difficult to sustain. In other words, that use of willpower to avoid hitting the snooze button and get yourself out of bed could diminish your power supply for regulating self-control in other areas (like navigating traffic or holding your tongue when a testy coworker strains your patience) of your life later in the day if not replenished by simple acts like eating breakfast.
Be sure to talk to your Arivale Coach about how to build an action plan suited to your body’s specific needs to help establish a healthy rhythm.