Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kick-starts your metabolism. Metabolism involves every process that goes on in your body, but it most often refers to the conversion of food into energy for immediate use or fat for storage. Eating breakfast increases your metabolism and can help maintain a healthy weight.
After going all night without eating, your body is in a fasting state with very little fuel to run on. Your body is designed to be resourceful and conserve energy when there is a scarcity. Upon awakening from sleep, your metabolism is running on low speed to conserve energy. Eating breakfast is to your body what filling up with gas is to your car. Just as a lack of fuel means a stalled car, no breakfast causes a stalled metabolism.
Any food in the morning will get your metabolism going -- everything you eat must be broken down, but some foods can have more of a lasting effect on metabolism than others. The goal is to give your body long-lasting fuel that will keep your metabolism running until your next meal or snack. Your body’s primary energy source is carbohydrate, and this is what will get your metabolism up and moving in the morning by giving you an immediate source of energy. More complex carbohydrates like oats, quinoa, whole-grain English muffins or even roasted potatoes take the body longer to break down and thus keep your metabolism running at a higher rate. The more slowly a food is digested the more stable your blood sugar remains, enhancing your energy levels and your ability to focus throughout the morning.
Combining these complex carbohydrates with a source of protein is also important. Healthy sources of protein include eggs, beans and legumes, lean meats or poultry, fish and Greek yogurt. Although complex carbohydrates do break down more slowly, carbohydrates nonetheless leave your stomach more quickly than proteins or fats. By pairing carbohydrates with protein, you get longer-lasting energy, keeping your metabolism running at a higher rate. Your body requires more energy to digest protein than any other nutrient, which means that your metabolism burns more calories in the process.
A breakfast that will ramp up your metabolism might include a whole-grain English muffin with one egg, an ounce of lean deli turkey and one slice of 2-percent, reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Another healthy breakfast could consist of whole oats with 1 ounce of walnuts, 1 teaspoon of honey and one small banana. Alternatively, have a fruit smoothie with various fresh or frozen fruits like bananas, strawberries, kiwifruit and peaches -- blended with low-fat plain Greek yogurt.
The keys to ensuring that your body’s metabolism is running as efficiently as possible are exercise, eating at regular intervals and staying hydrated. Though some factors may increase metabolic rate slightly -- such as capsaicin found in spicy foods, caffeine and ginger -- the long-term effects are very small. Consuming a well-balanced, whole-foods diet with at least 150 minutes of exercise per week and drinking plenty of water will provide you with the nourishment you need to have an effective metabolism and a healthy body.
Ashley Ritzo is a registered/licensed dietitian with a B.S. in dietetics from the University of Missouri. She also holds a certificate of training in adult weight management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Ritzo has worked in inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, with community organizations and as a health and wellness coach.