Thursday, April 25, 2013

F*ck Breakfast

I'm not much of a morning person. Unfortunately working in the fitness industry you kind of have to be. Clients want to work out at ungodly hours, sometimes as early as 5 a.m. Now, when you're a hardcore type A corporate CEO who gets 3 hours of free time a week, I get it. You have to do what you can when you can. Still. I tend to hate the mornings.

In addition to hating mornings my family has some genetic stomach issues. It's nothing serious but my mother, my sister and I all have issues with certain things. My mother and my sister are far worse than I am, which I attribute to a childhood that required me to take piles of prescription drugs every day. I could be totally wrong, but I am a pretty firm believer that the amount of stomach turning prescription compounds I had to take significantly increased my tolerance to queasiness. Even so, I am somewhat of a picky eater at times and it can take my stomach a while after I wake up to become comfortable with the idea of actually eating something.

Between these two things I have a confession to make. I f*cking hate breakfast.

That is not to say I hate breakfast food, because I don't.  I love eggs, love omelettes. I can't get enough of breakfast sausage and bacon and all that good stuff. I love fruit and even the occasional bowl of oatmeal, although i find oatmeal a little boring and no, I don't really care about its purported health benefits.

But Bob, you say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Every fitness guru and diet plan I've ever read has talked about how starting off your day with a big, healthy breakfast primes your metabolism and cognitive functions throughout the day! If you don't eat breakfast you're setting yourself up to fail!

Look, I've heard this stuff too. As a result I've spent the last couple of years forcing myself to choke down food far earlier in the AM hours than I or my GI tract are really comfortable with. No more. I've been reading a lot lately about how the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is not only a myth, but a potentially damaging piece of fitness industry bullsh*t that may have significant and deleterious effects on our health.

As it turns out, most of the studies that cite breakfast leading to weight loss are misleading. In general, if you front load your calorie intake towards the earlier hours of the day you WILL lose weight. The problem is that it isn't the weight you want to lose. In most of these studies what's happening is that the groups that eat a large breakfast lose significantly more muscle mass. So, while the non breakfast group may not have lost as much overall weight, they lost significantly more fat mass while MAINTAINING their hard earned muscle mass.

The reasons for this go back to one of my favorite subjects, an optimal hormonal environment. As it turns out, the hormones that lead to fat burning (cortisol and glucagon) peak in the early morning hours, right before we wake up. Most of the negative, weight gaining effects of cortisol have to do with the interaction of cortisol and insulin. When your cortisol levels are elevated and you consume a high glycemic index food, like fruit or cereal, your insulin levels spike. The combination of cortisol and insulin leads to fat gain. When cortisol is elevated in the absence of insulin, it actually leads to the release of free fatty acids (FFAs) and their use as fuel. Basically, your body is in extreme fat burning mode when you wake up but as soon as you put some food in your stomach, you cause an insulin surge which shuts down all the fat burning processes.

In addition to your body being a fat burning furnace when you first wake up, there is evidence that working out in a fasted state significantly increases the utilization of fat as a fuel source. What this means is that if you work out instead of eating breakfast you are seriously increasing your bodies natural ability to burn some fat. Having done it I can tell you it is fairly miserable but you get used to it. Plus, as soon as you start to see your abs you sort of stop caring that you're a little out of it. Besides, far as I'm concerned no one should be on top of their mental game at 7a.m. Those people are just weird.

I feel like I should also address the studies that claim eating breakfast enhances cognitive performance. In all the studies I looked at, the subjects were malnourished prior to entering the study. In other words, breakfast only enhances cognitive function if your diet is already severely lacking in other areas. THis basically means that if you eat a well balanced diet and drink enough water on a day to basis it is unlikely that eating breakfast every day has any measurable effect on your cognition or mental performance.

The take home from all of this is pretty simple. If your main goal is fat loss, skip breakfast and if you're really ambitious replace it with a workout. That being said, if you are a morning person and you love your breakfast, just try to keep it to predominantly low glycemic index foods meaning as few simple carbs as possible. There's also some research that says that the amino acid leucine which is an essential amino acid (and therefore found in most animal protein) also causes an insulin spike, but it is not as significant as the spike that results from eating simple carbohydrates. I would not go so far as to say that we should all stop eating breakfast I simply wanted to relay the message to those people out there like me who hate doing it. You're free from the bonds of breakfast, at least until someone publishes a study that proves all of this stuff wrong too.

Hooray, science.

Nice day outside, hope you guys get to enjoy it. Good luck and good lifting.


Today's Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up:
Jump Rope/Dynamic Stretches - 15 min
Shoulder mobility work/thoracic mobility work with a lacrosse ball - 5-10min
(exercises can be found here)

Overhead Press 5-5-5 complex 3-5x (first complex increase weight every set, then after the third set reduce the weight to what you used for your second set, rest, and begin the second complex in the same manner until you've completed all 5 complexes or you are too fatigued to continue)

Barbell Complex:
Deadlift-Hang Clean-Push Jerk-Clean and Jerk (115lbs)
200m sprint
5 rounds for time

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