Who decided breakfast was the most important meal of the day?

The most important meal

I ask this question because (and I’m not going to add references here) most of the research I’ve read seems to be predominantly observational, so any time eating breakfast is associated with lower body fat levels you can’t really separate that from the fact that the same people who eat breakfast are just generally more organised and conscious about their entire food intake. Thus the standard correlation or causation argument caused by all these observational studies. With the rise in popularity of various intermittent fasting style diets I think this myth is on the way out, or maybe, it is the most important meal of the day, to avoid certain foods?

Is this a correlation or can we draw causative conclusions?
Is this a correlation or can we draw causative conclusions?

A “healthy” breakfast

I pity people who eat cereal for breakfast. Did you know that corn flakes were actually invented by the Kellogg brothers, the older of whom worked in a sanitarium around 1894. He had a belief, grounded in his religion, that psychological disorders could be cured by reducing libido, and that a fully vegetarian diet could help achieve this. Corn flakes became the perfect start to the day for his patients, and now normal people who want to be healthy eat them for breakfast!!!

Lets also consider modern day sugary cereals, Frosties for example come in around 37g/100g of sugar. Thats quite a lot of sugar. Now lets consider that victoria sponge cake is only 39g/100g sugar. Who made the decision that it was ok to eat dessert for breakfast?!?!

My Breakfast

So that last 6 months or so I’ve been playing with Bulletproof Intermittent fasting. This basically involves having coffee with butter and MCT oil for breakfast and nothing else. I’ll then proceed to train for 4-5 hours then come home and have a good meal, then another meal a couple of hours later before bed. Not even a protein shake after training. I can already hear the outrage. No carbs pre-training, how will I have energy do my session. No protein, you’ll waste away to nothing-ness. Well below I’ve include my weight and skinfold measurements taken two months apart since I’ve been training this winter.

18/9/13      Weight – 89.0kg       8 site sum of skinfolds – 54.6mm

15/11/13    Weight – 88.8kg        8 site sum of skinfolds – 54.3mm

In the last 6 years I’ve been leaner, but I’ve also been fatter, I’ve been lighter, but I’ve also been heavier. But generally I was drinking coffee for breakfast with added fat, then eating my first meal of the day at around 3pm after my session and I haven’t lost all my muscle and my subjective performance level has been fluctuating between very good and excellent.

I wasn’t trying to put on muscle mass, and probably wouldn’t recommend this diet for that purpose, but what it has done has allowed me to maintain a relatively lean physique (for me) relatively easily. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not the most naturally lean athlete, having to eat extremely clean even when training nearly 20 hours a week just to look vaguely cut but with this I am comfortably maintaining lower body fat levels.

This style of eating has also allowed me to titrate up my carb intake. For a long time I was on the lower end of the carb scale (which I don’t think is good for an athlete performing the volumes of training that I do), but now I’ve managed to up them to a level where I probably would be considered eating like a “normal” person, whilst still maintaining my leanish physique.

Keeping the carbs to after training allows me to get the best bang for my buck, I can take advantage of the non-insulin mediated glucose transport (read Carb Nite by John Kiefer, excellent book), refuelling my body when its primed to take on fuel and getting the best environment for protein transport. Once I’ve re-filled all my muscle glycogen after training, do I do anything really that taxing before my next session? the answer is no, so do I need carbs before the session? The answer for me is no.

But protein though…

I’m not a body-builder. If I was, maybe I would want a constant influx of protein to induce some general inflammation and help build a bigger musculature, maybe even adding leucine and a sugar and whey based shake after training would’ve helped with this. As I’ve stated in previous blogs, I think the importance of protein synthesis is overstated by sports nutritionists for power sports, probably because the research can’t give us any better concrete information just yet. What they do know is that protein requirements are higher for distance runners than they are for power/speed events, so that should probably tell you something.

Performance gains

This is where it gets a little subjective however. its difficult to objectively quantify improvements based on one factor as obviously my training is changing constantly and my programme is designed to make me constantly improve anyway. What I can say is that I turn up to training feeling awesome. I don’t feel hungry throughout my longer than average sessions (and this used to be a real problem for me). And I guess the ultimate test will be if I can make it through to the indoor season without injury and be able to jump a pb, even then I don’t think I can put it all down to the coffee, but only time will tell.

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