Staying healthy should be relatively simple: Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and stay active. It sounds easy enough. But of course, it’s not always so. As the old saying goes, life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. The wisdom of Lennon aside, it’s often easier to say you will optimize your health than it is to achieve.
One way to get a jumpstart, before the day has a chance to go off the rails, so to speak, is to establish a morning routine. You will have risen after a full night’s sleep. So; one goal down, two to go. Now it’s time to focus on eating well, and getting some exercise.
Refueling and Exercising
The choice to stretch and workout before or after breakfast is yours. Not everyone is ready to eat a full meal immediately upon rising. But avoid the temptation to skip breakfast. It’s inevitably counter-productive. Your body needs fuel to power your brain and body through the day, and you’ll only make it harder to stick to a healthful diet later if you skip this opportunity to refuel. By replenishing blood sugar levels in the morning, you’ll remain less hungry throughout the day, and will avoid overeating.
Some intriguing research suggests that not only is breakfast crucial for weight loss and/or control, it’s also most beneficial to make breakfast the largest meal of the day. This flies in the face of most Americans’ approach to breakfast. Grabbing a light bite on the go, eating a sugary donut at the office, or skipping food altogether are more typical approaches to the morning meal for many people. But none of these will maximize your efforts to foster excellent health.
In fact, according to fascinating research, your best bet for weight control is to turn the typical American eating pattern on its head. Make breakfast the largest—highest calorie—meal of the day. Have a lighter lunch, and save the lightest meal of all for dinner time. It’s long been assumed that the timing of food intake has little impact on weight control. This belief was an offshoot of the mistaken belief that weight control is a simple matter of calories in/calories out per 24 hour period.
But that model is deeply flawed, as it fails to account for the effects of blood sugar levels and various appetite-regulating hormones on eating behaviors, and on the body’s tendency to store excess energy as fat.
In a series of widely reported experiments, Israeli researcher, Daniela Jakubowicz, showed that when one eats—as well as the amount—significantly affects one’s weight-control efforts. In essence, overweight and obese women who ate a big breakfast, smaller lunch, and still-smaller dinner lost more weight than similar women who ate a small breakfast, larger lunch, and still-larger dinner.
And here’s the kicker: They all consumed the same number of calories throughout the day. This number was low enough that it was expected to produce weight loss. But the Big Breakfast group lost significantly more weight over a three-month period that their peers who nibbled on a small breakfast, followed by a modest lunch and a high-calorie evening meal. This research shows that timing clearly makes a difference. The research also revealed that meal composition, meaning the ratios of protein, carbohydrates and fats in a given meal, also affected weight loss success. Specifically, protein at breakfast seems to be especially effective at helping you feel fuller throughout the day. Fats from plant sources, such as avocados, olives, coconut, etc. are generally better for your cardiovascular health than animal-based, saturated fats.
Following a restful night’s sleep (aim for 7-9 hours), exercise for at least 20 minutes, followed by a large, protein-heavy meal. Make this the highest-calorie meal of the day; let dinner be relatively light, in comparison. This approach is tailored to maximize fullness, reduce hunger and cravings, and optimize weight maintenance or weight loss. Remember to incorporate both aerobic (running, swimming, dancing, etc.) with resistance (weight lifting, etc.) forms of exercise, for optimal results.