Breakfast: A running start to your day

By: Alexis Williams, Aug 25, 2010

It's the most important meal of the day. Are you eating it?

The 6 a.m. alarm buzzes and John squeezes in a run before jumping into his car for a long commute to work. Jen struggles to get her kids to school and herself to her 9 a.m. spinning class. Judy grabs a coffee and doesn’t feel hungry until 10 a.m., long after she’s gone for her morning power walk and done chores around the house. These three active people share one little secret: they skip breakfast.

Here are three reasons an active person (like you) needs breakfast:

1. Breakfast jump-starts your calorie-burning engine. Skip breakfast and you will put the brakes on your metabolism. Eating breakfast starts the body burning calories as soon as you begin your daily routine. Not eating breakfast confuses the body and causes it to hold onto stubborn body fat. Waking up hungry is a healthy sign, and means your metabolism is working in high gear. Sometimes when you start eating breakfast you find yourself hungrier throughout the early part of the day. It’s normal to be hungry every three to four hours; this is a good sign that your metabolism is working efficiently. By eating in the early part of the day, you’ll likely feel less of a need to over-eat at dinner or to nibble the night away.

2. You need to fuel your body. Trying to get through your day without breakfast is like trying to run your car without fuel. You wouldn’t go on a road trip without filling up with gas, so think of food being to your body what gas is to your car. When skipping breakfast, we’re asking our bodies to work their hardest with the least amount of fuel. Breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to get through a busy day. Just like keeping the gas tank of your car topped up, you need to fuel your body in a similar fashion by eating first thing and then every three to four hours afterwards.

3. Breakfast foods are a great way to get more fibre. Fibre maintains gastrointestinal health, prevents major diseases and makes you feel full. High-fibre cereals, whole wheat bread products and fruits all are great sources. Getting the recommended minimum 25g of fibre per day is difficult if you skip breakfast. Just one half cup of All Bran cereal has 12g of fibre, half a grapefruit has 2g, and two pieces of whole grain toast give you about 4g.

Easy breakfast ideas

  • Whole wheat toast, pita or a wrap with peanut butter or sliced low-fat cheese — Go easy on the bagels with cream cheese. Cream cheese is high in fat, low in calcium and doesn’t have enough protein to keep you full. One bagel can have as many calories as three to five slices of bread. If you like your toast plain or with margarine, just have a glass of milk or a yogurt on the side to get some protein.
  • Yogurt and fruit — Add some bran cereal for extra fibre. If you don’t find yogurt filling, try mixing it with cottage cheese to get more protein.
  • Trail mix — One-half to one cup dry cereal (one with at least 3g fibre per serving) with one-half cup nuts or dry roasted soy nuts with one-half cup of dried fruit. Make it up in small containers or Ziploc baggies so you can grab it on the go. If you want to reduce the calories of this breakfast, use only two tablespoons of the nuts and dried fruit.
  • Smoothies — In your blender, mix one-half cup of fruit yogurt, 1 cup milk and a frozen banana.
  • Sandwich with lean deli meat or low fat cheese — Make up two sandwiches the night before, one for lunch and one for breakfast.
  • Cereal and milk — It’s basic, but simple and quick. Add some berries, a sliced banana or a few spoons of dried fruit to sweeten things up. Don’t skimp on the milk; it provides protein
    to keep you feeling full.


Don’t wait! Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up to kick-start your metabolism. If you’re exercising in the morning and don’t like to eat beforehand, make sure to eat within 30 minutes of when you finish exercising. If you can stomach a little bite before your workout, grab some easily digestible carbohydrates like a piece of toast or banana. Studies show that those who eat before their morning workouts can exercise longer and harder.

Alexis Williams, B.A.Sc., M.A.N., RD, is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. She counsels all types of people, including athletes, on how to eat for better performance and to improve their overall health. Alexis uses practical eating and strategies to guide her clients toward achieving their goals. She believes that nutrition and activity go hand-in-hand to shaping a healthy lifestyle.