Whether you love or hate breakfast, it’s pretty much accepted that it’s good for you. So what are you missing?
Digestion is by far the body’s most labor-intensive process. Think about a typical evening meal, which, for some people, might include a meat entrée, a starch, a side dish, and maybe a dessert. Now imagine the amount of energy required to break down that dinner—or any meal for that matter. The food must first be gauged by the stomach so it can be dismantled, and its components have to be converted into usable fuel as well as into the building blocks for tissue and hair growth, brain energy, and so on. Then, to complete the process, the digestive system must eliminate unused material—no small feat, if you care to think about it!
It can take the human body two to three hours to process a light meal of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables that have been chewed well and eaten without stress. It will take the body much longer to digest a “junky” array of food or a larger, more complicated repast. Meals that contain animal products can take up to 24 hours or more to get through the system. Many people eat well into the evening, and that is precisely why some folks have a hard time getting up in the morning. Instead of repairing tissue and resting, the body is working overtime to process the late-evening meal.
Break Your Fast
It follows then that delaying breakfast will allow the average person time to get caught up on the previous night’s indulgences. Try this: for three days in a row, stop eating absolutely everything at least four hours before you retire for the evening. So a ten p.m. bedtime means no food after six p.m. (nonalcoholic beverages are okay). I can practically guarantee you’ll have much better rest and an easier time getting up. Often, people who say they’re not morning people are staying up too late at night. Go to bed at a reasonable hour—with your digestion mostly completed—and you’ll begin to embrace the morning hours.
Most people rush into the day with a “fast break” rather than a “break fast.” A cup of coffee, a factory-made cereal, or a protein shake made with pasteurized ingredients—these are not fodder for energy, especially for a body that has barely had time to wake up from its last challenge.
Please remember, I didn’t say don’t ever eat breakfast. I’m also not advocating that children eat the same way as adults. I’m suggesting that most adults delay breakfast as long as possible or skip it entirely if they’re not truly hungry. And if you leave plenty of time to digest before bed the night before, you won’t need to delay breakfast very long, if at all.
Whenever breakfast is eaten, it should—like all meals—be eaten in a relaxed and enjoyable manner. That means not eating breakfast while driving in the car! That advice holds true for all meals. In fact, I promote these general guidelines for eating:
- Eat simply. Try to avoid consuming complex and elaborate dishes and meals on a regular basis.
- Simply eat. Eat and do nothing else (no driving, writing emails, watching TV). Just enjoy your food without distraction.
- Eat only when you’re hungry. Forget that the clock says it’s time for lunch. Disregard that those around you are still grazing. Stop when you’re full. If you follow guideline number two, you’ll be able to hear the voice inside when it says, “I’ve had enough.”
A final note: back in February 2007, the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine announced the launch of the Breakfast Research Institute. The scientific-sounding group was created to “bridge the breakfast gap.” The group’s founders? Quaker and Tropicana. Who is really behind us believing that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? It’s worth considering….
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