EVER wondered why you’re more hungry after having breakfast than you are when you haven’t had anything?
It’s pretty frustrating; there you are, chowing down on oats in the hope of curbing your snacking and, if anything, having a bowl of porridge first thing makes you more ravenous.
But why is that?
Well, it’s all down to blood sugar.
When we eat a carb, our bodies convert it into glucose and that goes into our blood. Our blood glucose levels then rise.
The quicker they rise, the quicker they fall – and that’s what causes hunger, lethargy, sugar cravings.
The difference between healthy whole grains and refined sugars and white carbs is how long that process takes.
The more fibre you eat, the longer it takes to digest – and the fuller you feel.
Ian Marber, nutrition consultant and founder of The Food Doctor, agreed that post-breakfast hunger was probably down to blood glucose levels.
“A very high carb breakfast with little fibre and protein to slow the digestive process can lead to short-term energy as well as hunger, often within a couple of hours,” he told The Sun.
“As protein, fibre and fat all take far longer to break down in the digestive system, having a breakfast that includes these elements can lead to longer lasting energy.
“For example, a teacup worth of oats (just for guidance) and another with 75 per cent berries or chopped apple, and 1/4 mixed nuts will extend energy and minimise hunger.
“Or an egg with avocado and a small piece of toast. Maybe a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt and a plum – any protein eaten with a fibre-rich carb has the same outcome.”
In order to deal with the incoming glucose, the body then starts to produce insulin.
“When you eat a meal with lots of refined carbohydrates, your pancreas sees a huge spike in blood glucose levels, so it starts to release insulin as quickly as it can to try to catch up,” Harley Street nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert, told us.
“But this can often result in too much glucose being removed from your blood, causing a blood sugar crash or very low blood sugar levels, which is when you often may want to reach for that biscuit to give you more sugar.
“For example, having a slice of white bread with jam for breakfast will rarely keep you full for long owing to the rapid release of energy.”
For some of us (although definitely not everyone), the answer is to simply skip – or delay – breakfast.
Our bodies produce a load of cortisol (stress hormone) first thing in the morning, to get us out of bed and moving.
If you time your breakfast with that cortisol release, your insulin levels will be higher.
As insulin controls your blood sugar levels which in turn control your hunger pangs, that can have a real effect on how hungry you feel during the morning.
Later in the day, your cortisol and insulin levels go down.
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So that explains why some of us can go for five hours without thinking about food in the afternoon, but bearly make it a couple of hours after breakfast without dipping into our biscuit drawer.
Oh, and the fitter you are, the more insulin-sensitive you become (urgh!).
In that case, something like intermittent fasting – condensing all your eating into a specific time period (usually around eight hours) – might work.
For many, that means going without breakfast and eating a relatively early dinner, so that they have a 16 hour period of fasting.
Ian told us that while some people do well on fasting, others struggle and can’t function.
“I don’t think its possible to predict who will go which way.
“Fasting can be successful, again for some people, not for others.
“For example, I tried 5:2 but couldn’t manage on so little food.
“I like 16:8 as it doesn’t seem hard to fast until midday every day and finish dinner by 8pm, and if some people find that hard then at least it’s only until midday rather than the measly amount of food on a 5:2 type plan.”
Rhiannon said that she never recommends anyone skipping breakfast if they feel that they function better with it.
“Our body needs energy to get going in the morning (mentally and physically), so choose a nourishing breakfast like eggs on wholegrain toast with some spinach and avocado.
“This is a well-balanced plate that contains complex carbs, protein, healthy fats and micronutrients.
“That being said, we are all unique and there are people out there who will have a different routine that works for them.”
While fasting programmes will work for some people (although, as Rhiannon says, more research needs to be done to determine just how beneficial they are), eating breakfast is known to have some very real benefits – particularly if you tend to exercise in the morning.
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Earlier this week, we revealed that having a pre-workout bowl of porridge not only improves the quality of your session but can also help you to burn fat throughout the rest of the day.
Just make sure that you’re not just having a carb-fest.
If you want porridge, try adding nut butter. Having protein-rich milk and cereal. Toast topped with avocado and/or egg.
Add value to your meals by trying to tick off each macro (fats, carbs and protein) and you’re bound to feel fuller for longer.
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