You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it’s going to be what’s fueling your brain during work, school, or whatever you need to be energised for. The go-to, easily accessible option is of course breakfast cereal - frequently marketed as healthy, rich in fortified nutrients, and so on.
Hopefully this isn’t a big surprise, but cereal isn’t really what we’d consider a good breakfast. In fact it’s pretty terrible and here are a few reasons why.
1. You Are Spiking Your Blood Sugar Early In The Day
You might not have realised, but most of your favourite breakfast cereals are likely to be extremely high in sugar and made from ultra-refined grains, putting it pretty high on the glycemic index (GI). High GI carbohydrates (carbs) that spike your blood sugar give the body a fast source of energy (as it’s easy for the body to digest) and will usually follow with what is commonly described as a sugar crash. This happens because the ingested carbs are shuttled into the body’s cells and blood sugar levels return to baseline after the initial spike within a very short period of time. This usually leaves you feeling drowsy and fatigued - certainly not how you want to feel just a few hours after waking up!
Furthermore, the deprived feeling you experience will have your body craving for quick energy to restore those elevated blood sugar levels, making you reach for more. Thus potentially puts you in a vicious cycle that you definitely don’t want to instigate during a fat loss phase.
2. Cereal Has Higher Calories Than You Think For Something That’s Not Very Filling
Take a look at the nutrition label on your cereal box. You might not see it at first as you’re only looking at the calories, but the average serving size of ¾ cups usually isn’t what you’re actually having and will likely be double, triple, heck even quadruple that! Now calculate how many calories that comes to, and then think about the calories from milk you haven’t even accounted for yet. A grand total of 500 calories or more, and you’re likely going to be hungry in just a few hours!
Sure there are exceptions and you might be one of those people having high-fiber, sugar-free cereal with skim milk, but even then the opportunity cost of those calories outweigh what you get out of it. Why? You clearly aren’t getting a balanced nutritional profile from such a carb-focused meal and instead would do better with something that has a quality source of protein along with healthy fats.
What Is A Healthy Breakfast Alternative?
Ideally you want to have a meal with a quality protein source, some healthy fats, and, depending on your needs, some carbs that are preferably fibrous and low GI. Fats and fiber from the will slow digestion keeping you satisfied longer, and the quality protein source will provide your body with amino acids that are required for the production of dopamine - a neurotransmitter that allows us to stay focused, energised, and productive.
For quality protein sources you can opt for meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products. Plant protein sources such as lentils can be good too although the amino acid concentration is lower. Remember, during a diet protein intake should be high in order to retain as much lean muscle mass while you shed body fat. With it’s satiating as well as thermic effect, protein should be the first macronutrient when it comes to thinking about meals.
For healthy fats, you want to be having things like avocados, salmon, cheese or some mixed nuts that will add a variety of vitamins and minerals. Fats are an absolutely necessity during your diet as it contributes to hormonal balance and proper brain function, and trying to avoid fat can actually cause harm when kept chronically low.
Finally for carbs, you want to ideally have low-carb vegetables that provide fiber and nutrients your body will thank you for. Depending on when you generally train and your current training status, you may want to add in slightly higher carb sources such as starchy vegetables, fruits, or whole grains. Try to have carbs around your workouts or closer to bedtime as post-workout your body is highly insulin sensitive, and for pre-bed carbs can provide elevated serotonin levels that can aid in sleep.