Awaken Your Body with Breakfast

Sunday, February 28, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

We've all heard about the importance that breakfast plays in our diet. It's often referred to as "the most important meal of the day", yet rarely explained. For many of us, mornings start with a trip to the coffee maker before we even begin to contemplate what sounds good to eat. For a country that agrees on the importance of this meal to our health, breakfast menus across the board show anything but being healthy. Most trendy establishments are omelet parlors or pancake houses. Traditional American Breakfast is even worse: bacon and eggs. Just how healthy can we be if we start each morning with a cholesterol-laden gut bomb? The Starbucks "go getter" generation may opt for coffee and a muffin, which is only a slight improvement.

Phil Jones runs Power Kauai with Beachbody. It's a weeklong fitness retreat set in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. He is quick to point out that breakfast sets the tone for the entire day of this intensive program:

"The way you begin each day is vital," he says. "So at Power Kauai we always start with a tall glass of water."

While simple, it is also based on sound science. While sleeping, your body repairs itself from the prior day's ActiVit®. This takes both calories and energy -- not the same as while you're awake, but you've just gone probably 6 to 10 hours without any water and are dehydrated. A tall glass of water in the morning can have an immediate effect on how you feel and change your outlook on the day. (Even if you're one of those that has coffee as the top priority when you first get up, a glass of water first will actually help the coffee work better for you because caffeine likes a healthy hydrated body for full effect.)

During Power Kauai, guests then engage in some moderate cardiovascular ActiVit®. Even if it's only for 5 minutes, moving the body in the morning can benefit you for the rest of the day. A brisk walk or easy stretching session is all it takes to warm-up the body, literally, which lubricates your joints and tendons and makes the likelihood of injury from daily tasks much lower. Anything over 20 minutes also mobilizes the body's fat stores and teaches your body how to more efficiently use stored body fat as fuel. It's then time for your body to eat.

"We like to eat a lot of fruit early in the day," says Jones. "Your body needs fruit but because it is high in carbs and sugar we think it's best in the a.m., then we move towards more vegetables in the afternoon and evening." This makes sense as your body has fasted all night and your blood sugar stores are low. If you've done some exercise as well, your body will absorb these nutrients very quickly and you will be fueled up for whatever comes next.

"I felt so light and energized," said Lane, a Power Kauai client from Georgia.

Breakfast in Kauai, however, isn't solely fruit. It can also include whole grain cereals, whole grain pancakes, yogurt and usually some protein.

"We try and change it around a bit," says Jay Sklar, program leader and chef. "It doesn't have to always include a certain amount of protein because we can make up for that in other meals."

"It really depends on what we're doing," adds Jones. "We try and plan meals so that our clients will use the energy from each meal in their activities. Everyone remarks how they can actually feel their body using what they've eaten."

Whether you're in Hawaii or at home, eating this way shouldn't put a cramp into your lifestyle. In the morning, your body is naturally hungry but doesn't need a "traditional" breakfast to fuel up. In fact, the main consequence of the standard eggs, bacon, toast and hash brown meal is that it will bog you down and expand your stomach. If you eat light, healthy, and smart you'll find it easier to cope with the rest of your day.

Said Kayla, another client on a recent trip, "The food seemed so simple and easy to prepare, but it was surprisingly filling."

Here are a few tips to help your body awaken:
  1. Start each day with a glass of pure water. Along with a few minutes of stretching this can change your entire outlook on the day ahead.
  2. Fruit in the morning. No one disclaims the benefits of fruit. However, its high sugar content gives some concern to those worried about an insulin spike. In the morning, this spike will replenish your blood sugar that's low from a night of fasting.
  3. Eat some protein. Even if you've an active day ahead and don't want to be bogged down, eating 15-20% protein in your breakfast will help you perform better. On more sedentary days, this percentage should be even higher.
  4. Eat whole foods. Try to avoid things like spices and cooking oils in the morning. Concentrate on pure nutrition. In the morning, your body craves fuel and is less picky and sensitive to taste, so it's the easiest to keep meals completely healthy and natural.
  5. No enriched anything! As discussed above, carbs are fine in the morning. You're going to use some immediately and burn the rest off throughout the day. But keep these natural. Make breads, pancakes, and cereals all of the natural variety. Read the ingredients and avoid anything with enriched flour.