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Get up & go, go, go

Kiran Manral explains why we shouldn't skip breakfast.

Get up. Get dressed. Go. Sounds familiar? Is that how your day begins? Whatever happened to that 'little thing' called breakfast? For most urban dwellers, breakfast becomes a dispensable meal in the rush to punch timeclocks and catch up on extra sleep. For still others, skipping breakfast is a mode of cutting down on calorie consumption. After all, they rationalise, not having breakfast can be compensated by having a great lunch.

According to research, around 40 per cent of all urban adults leave home without breakfast. While some do this due to lack of time, others skip breakfast in order to diet.

However, cutting down on breakfast can be more harmful than beneficial. Let us take a look at why you must never skip breakfast. Start with the word breakfast itself. When split and literally translated, breakfast is the break of a fast, a fast that your body goes through for the eight hours of sleep that you enjoy. The primary function of the morning meal is to break the overnight fast your body has gone through.

According to scientific theories, your body slows down its metabolism while you sleep and burns calories at a slower rate than when you are awake and active. Skipping breakfast to scrimp on calories is actually a bad idea. In fact, this calorie saving habit backfires by slowing down your basal metabolism and energy and forcing your body to start storing fat. When you wake up from sleep, the body begins responding to the signals it gets.

The brain starts cueing in the body's metabolism to start making appropriate changes according to your activity rate. If you are sluggish in the morning, it is more likely that you are going to burn lesser amount of calories through the day.

Skipping breakfast also forces your body to conserve energy rather than burn calories. Sometimes you might feel that since you don't feel hungry in the morning, you don't really need to eat anything. But in reality, your body is conserving body fat rather than burning it off by slowing down your metabolism. And if you stay physically inactive all morning, your body treats this as a semi-starvation mode and responds by being very frugal in its consumption of body fuel. And sadly enough, this increases your craving for high fat food.

This combination makes you more likely to overeat at lunch time, and frighteningly, when you do that, you are more likely to choose high fat foods because of your body's craving for such foods. When your breakfast is low in fat and has a moderate amount of metabolism boosting protein (for instance skimmed milk, low fat cheese or low fat yoghurt) and some complex carbohydrates, you are less likely to overeat at lunch. Or for that matter, you will not be inclined to binge or snack between meals.

"Skipping a meal nearly always leads to bingeing," says dietician Kathy Stone and author of 'Snack Attack'. "Eating breakfast is vital to control what you eat all through the day. Surprisingly, what you eat in the morning affects how full you feel at the end of the day." And most importantly, if you don't eat breakfast, you are more likely to overeat throughout the day to compensate. According to research reports, people who ate breakfast regularly were less likely to be overweight than those who didn't. They are also more likely to have normal blood pressure levels, constant levels of blood sugar, greater energy and balance and are less likely to overeat.

Breakfast gives your body energy to jumpstart the day. And dietitians recommend a good breakfast to start the day for reasons that are purely driven by body chemistry. According to Sharmila Keni, nutritionist, "The liver is deprived of 75 per cent of its glycogen (which is an energy fuel derived from glucose) in the morning. To combat this depletion, the body will be drawing upon body protein to manufacture glucose. This includes sources like muscle tissue. To keep the muscle tissue protein reserves intact, you should provide carbohydrates to your body early in the morning, to enable it to replace its glycogen reserves. This also has an added advantage in helping your brain function better, as it needs glucose to do all the complex tasks that are required of it." Translated in more practical terms, you won't feel sluggish, tired and unable to concentrate in the morning, if you eat a healthy, carbohydrate-packed breakfast.

But the kind of breakfast you eat is also very vital. An ideal breakfast is light, nutritious and satisfying. Traditional north Indian fare like parathas and samosas or even white bread and fried eggs and bacon aren't exactly the most recommended breakfasts, laden as they are with oils. An ideal breakfast would comprise a fruit, some wholewheat bread, toasted with low fat butter/ margarine/ jam, one serving of cereal with skimmed milk, egg, either boiled or poached and skimmed milk/ fresh fruit juice/ coconut water. If you've been skipping breakfast to control your weight, make sure that your breakfast doesn't contain more than 10 grams of fat.

Start power breakfasting. Your body would be glad you did!

A healthy Lifestyle (Previous Features)

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