Breakfast: Better with or without before training?

Does it matter if you skip breakfast before a workout?

When it comes to your morning training, does it matter if you skip breakfast? For some, the idea of food early in the morning isn’t appealing. Currently, one-fourth of U.S. adults feel that way, and skip breakfast. But are there benefits of working out before breakfast?

Research varies on the pros and cons of eating in the morning before resistance training (lifting weights). A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that skipping breakfast before resistance training impairs performance. The small study group of 16 trained men between the age of 23 and 27 had better results with a typical breakfast prior to squats and the bench press.

We, as humans, are hard-wired, in that eating affects the central clock in our brain. This clock controls circadian rhythms and impacts all aspects of metabolism, including how our organs function. An over-scheduled or chaotic day can certainly thwart our best intentions to eat, and to refuel to be our best.

Renowned sports nutritionist Nancy Clarke explains that skipping meals can disrupt normal biological rhythms. The result, she says, is erratic meal timing that can impact the development of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Athletes who frequently skimp breakfast often get hungry and then devour way too many calories of ice cream and cookies, she says. If this is a nightly habit, the body is poorly programmed to deal with an influx of sweets, and can pave the path to health issues. A good solution, she suggests, would be to eat part of your breakfast prior to training and enjoy the rest afterward.

In terms of weight, it doesn’t matter if you’re dividing your daily calories into one, three, six or nine meals. Calories still matter, and dividing them up throughout the day doesn’t change your body fatness. But, as noted before, it can make a difference in your blood sugar levels.

There is new research to support the old adage of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. A study of more than 4,000 middle-age adults found that those who ate breakfast were less likely to have artery-clogging plaque (atherosclerosis) than those who didn’t eat in the morning. Published in the 2017 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the evidence supported the idea that breakfast eaters typically ate healthier overall and were less likely to be obese or to have high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy cholesterol levels. But even with those factors taken into account, skipping breakfast was still linked to a higher risk of atherosclerosis.

So the question remains about whether it’s sensible to skip breakfast before morning training. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that men who performed exercise before breakfast burned double the amount of fat than the group who exercised after breakfast. While this didn’t have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically increase their ability to respond to insulin.

In effect, exercising in an overnight-fasted state allowed their bodies to use more of the fat from their fat tissue and the fat within the muscle as a fuel. Though the study lasted only six weeks and excluded women, it showed that the muscle from the men who exercised before breakfast had greater increases in key proteins, specifically those involved in delivering glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles.

Everybody starts the day differently. Some people do better eating before a morning workout, while others do not. The choice is yours, so make it one that will energize you for this new day.


Roots of Temptation-Just Say No?

Thanks to our brain’s complex pleasure/reward system, we all succumb to the pull of food differently. For some, the brain sometimes can’t resist the powerful influence of a fabulous bakery or a plate of French fries, yet others are able to eat a little and stop. But for millions of people, food is never far from their minds. Ever. The current trajectory of the number of obese Americans, along with related disease rates and health care costs, is on course to increase drastically in every state by 2030. The analysis findings, based on a model published last year in The Lancet, show that all 50 states could have obesity rates of more than 44 percent, with medical costs associated with treating preventable diseases soaring from $48 billion to $66 billion per year. By contrast though, according to a study released by Trust for American Health and the Robert Wood Foundation, reducing the average body mass index by just 5 percent could prevent an epidemic. For a 6-foot-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction would be the equivalent of about 10 pounds. The good news is that scientists are learning more about the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle of the human brain, so that a 5 percent loss may be quite attainable without entirely giving up your favorite foods.

Neurons and Taste

For some people, certain foods seem to exert a magical pull, writes former Food & Drug Commissioner Dr. David Kessler in his book “The End of Overeating.” The food industry works hard to create high-calorie foods with the most addictive possible combination of intense flavor and “mouth-feel.” In his book, Kessler tells how neurons, the basic cells of the brain, are connected in circuits and communicate with one another to store information, create feelings and control behavior. Tasting tantalizing food stimulates the brain neurons that are part of the opioid circuitry, which is the body’s primary pleasure system. Known as endorphins, these brain chemicals have the same addictive and rewarding effects as morphine and heroin.

The Roots of Temptation

No matter how good the intentions, avoiding fattening foods is always a challenge, and biology is a factor in why it seems so difficult to bypass a bowl of M&Ms. Brain chemicals are in more regions than previously thought. Researchers have traced an unexpected area of the brain in rats that had primarily been linked to movement. This new evidence might help explain why chocolate can be so irresistible and why we binge. Published this week in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, the research team probed a brain region called the neostriatum, causing the rats to gorge on twice the amount of M&M chocolates than they would otherwise have eaten. The researchers found that a neurotransmitter called enkephalin, a drug-like chemical produced in that same region of the brain, surged as they ate more M&Ms. The chemicals increased their desire and impulses to eat more.

“That means the brain has more extensive systems to make people want to overcome rewards than previously thought,” said Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of the University of Michigan. “The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes.”

It’s likely that these neurotransmitters wire us for a little overconsumption and addiction. Understanding what triggers overeating and how our neural pathways can stump us can be useful the next time you walk down the potato chip aisle.  Five percent sounds like a good plan.


The Lure and Myths of Diets

“All excess calories are stored as body fat whether they come from fruit or fudge”
What To Eat by Marion Nestle

 Diets come and go, all promising revolutionary changes, even though they really don’t work.  A recent Gallop poll showed than 52% of the adult population in the US is on a diet, fueling  a $35 billion industry, yet less than 5% of people can actually keep the weight off. In 2003,when the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet was all the rage, research had found that obese men and women , after 6 months on a low-carb diet lost 13 pounds on average compared to  a 4 ½ pound loss on a low-fat diet. But new research shows that eventually all that weight comes back on, and even more than pre-dieting. If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose some weight this spring, recognize that fad diets are just that, often eliminating important macronutrients, hyped by the media, and often ignore  basic exercise physiology. “People have been trying to figure out if it’s the carbs or is it the fat, when really it’s the calories, says Dr. Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “It doesn’t matter where the calories are coming from – carbs, protein, or fat-it’s the calorie balance. We’re trying to get people away from the idea that it’s a single food group or a single nutrient that’s causing the weight gain”

Melting the Myths: Fad Diets

If a diet promises quick weight loss, has limited food selections, is promoted as a cure-all, and recommends expensive foods or supplements, says Laura Kruskall, Ph.D., R.D., and Director of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, you can be sure it’s a fad diet. Typically heavy handed on its’ use of testimonials, or not recommending permanent lifestyle changes are other red flags of a fad diet. Diets such as Scarsdale, Fat Flush, Carb Addicts, Eat for your Blood Type, Food Combining, Suzanne Sommers, Zone, Protein Power, Medifast , Slimfast  and Sugar Busters all promise  quick initial weight loss and do deliver, at first, because they all are low calorie diets. But do they last? If you are losing more than 2 pounds a week, it is more likely the result of fluid and lean body mass loss. Aiming for ½ to 1 pound a week loss is more realistic. Watching your calories and regular exercise is also the key. We gain weight because the body’s furnace is not burning quite enough fuel to keep pace with how much more we are eating. If you’re repeatedly gaining and regaining the same 10 or 20 or 30 pounds year after year, you know that fad diets won’t help you in the long run.  Acknowledgement of the need for lifelong changes, being flexible in your food choices, along with the advice of a registered dietician, Dr. Kruskall says, is your key to success.

Low carb, high carb  or all protein?

It’s a myth that carbohydrates are bad for you. A new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine March 2010 showed that obese people who followed a low fat diet were more likely to keep the weight off after three years than those following a low carb diet. Although they lost more weight in the first year, they regained more during the next two years. The lead author of the study, Marianne Vetter, medical director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, at the University of Pennsylvania, said that it’s really hard to sustain a low carb diet. Carbohydrates provide valuable nutrients, dietary fiber and volume and should generally make up the highest percentage of macronutrients calories when you’re trying to lose, or gain weight. The thrill of the initial weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet is due to several factors: you’re taking in fewer calories as well as losing fat free mass, and losing valuable glycogen stores, which also flushes out valuable water.  Almonds, low-fat yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, red and green peppers, whole grain bread, tomato juice, hummus, lentils, soybeans and oatmeal ; the list is long and colorful, and are all examples of carbohydrates, all providing the body’s preferred energy source. Atkins may work well for some, but the research supports the view that low carb diets, whether extreme or moderate, don’t help you lose weight, says Dr. Frank Sacks, of the Harvard School of Public Health. (Those with metabolic syndrome, or diabetes should always consult with their physician) Healthy eating following a low calorie low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, or fish will also protect you against disease. A study published in the journal Molecular Neurdegeneration tested the effects of several diets and were surprised to find that eating too much protein contributes to plaque buildup that may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.  Mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet (60% protein/30% carbohydrate) were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice, posing the question whether particular diets, if eaten at particular ages, might affect the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease.

Instead of stress, food cues, moods, habits, obsessions, advertising, and social expectations; let  common sense and true hunger be your guide.

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