In the early 1900’s, most Americans usually ate a hearty protein and fat breakfast, typically in the form of sausages and eggs or bacon and eggs. The shift came about through Will Keith Kellogg, who was a seventh-day adventist and did not practice the eating of animal products. He came up with other ways for seventh-day adventists to stay away from meat, hence introducing the very successful Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1922.
At that time, General Kellogg was very influential in the US Government and caused a lot of people to start eating Corn Flakes and other forms of carbohydrates for breakfast. The rest of the country soon got on board with this practise, none of which was based on any science, health or human physiology. In fact, very few people have actually stepped back to study why we eat carbs for breakfast and what is really going on when we do.
Upon rising, the body secretes a high surge of cortisol, as going from a sleep state to a wake state is a very stressful transition for the body. Cortisol levels are relatively low at night, peaking at their highest first thing in the morning and then tapering off very quickly throughout the day.
Cortisol’s main function is to break down complex molecules for fuel. It is a stress hormone and will do anything it can to get glucose to the cells for immediate energy. This is why it is known as a glucocorticoid. If insulin is not present (you are avoiding carbohydrates for breakfast), the complex molecule that cortisol will break down for energy is fat. Cortisol allows the body to burn more peripheral fat, tapping into this energy reserve more efficiently.
Once insulin is introduced though (you are eating carbohydrates for breakfast), the switch is flipped and cortisol will make you store more fat than you normally would. The presence of cortisol and insulin together is a fat-storing recipe waiting to happen.
If you don’t eat carbohydrates in the morning, ghrelin (hunger hormone) will go up a little bit which can make some people hungry, depending on where their insulin levels are at. Many obese people who are insulin resistant, definitely wake up in the morning feeling hungry. If you do eat carbohydrates in the morning, ghrelin levels that you suppress after eating will temporarily go down, then rebound back up shortly afterwards to higher levels than normal. This is why some people who eat breakfast, usually get hungrier about an hour later – even if they weren’t hungry before breakfast.
Yes, those post-breakfast hunger pangs are definitely real!
The ghrelin signal is important because if it stays up long enough in the morning, as it should without carbohydrates, you get a lovely growth hormone release shortly afterwards. Many people associate hunger pangs with muscle loss and fat gain, when the opposite is actually taking place. The ghrelin signal will stimulate growth hormone and and when this anti-catabolic agent is present, it will spare muscle mass and burn more body fat.
In a perfect world, cortisol levels should be left to rise liberally in the morning, allowing the body to burn up fat for energy. The abstinence from food will cause ghrelin levels to spike, secreting growth hormone and causing the body to burn even more body fat.
For a lean body composition, avoid eating carbs in the morning and for the majority of the day. Fuel your body’s needs with protein and fat as an energy source instead. Contrary to popular belief, carbs should be eaten later on in the day (for fat adapted individuals) or directly after a weight training workout.
Such a minor switch in eating preferences can make a huge difference to your health, energy levels and body composition.
As for the cereal, set it aside as chicken feed.