As soon as you take one bite of your favorite food and or one sip of your favorite drink, your body starts working to convert these substances into energy it can use. This process is called metabolism.
Metabolism is almost always discussed alongside weight loss or weight management, but it can begin to feel overwhelming if we don’t know how to keep our metabolism at a healthy level.
One of the main ways you can boost your metabolism is by maintaining a healthy diet. In order to learn even more about this, we talked with a couple of dietitians to have them weigh in on common breakfast habits that might be slowing your metabolism.
“While many people think skipping breakfast is better for your metabolism, nothing could be further from the truth,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD “Think of a fire. In order for it to start burning, you have to light it. Then you add small amounts of wood every couple of hours to keep it blazing. The same is true with your metabolism! You want to jump-start it in the morning with a high-fiber carbohydrate and protein, then add small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep the fire burning.”
According to a recent review published in Nutrients, avoiding breakfast has been found to interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which is known to negatively impact your metabolism and overall health.
If you need some inspiration for an easy breakfast to make, “consider eggs, whole grain toast, and milk or oatmeal with nuts, seeds, and nut butter paired with Greek yogurt to kick off the day,” says Goodson.
“When you eat too much added sugar first thing in the morning, your blood sugar rises and then ceases,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN.
Added sugar, especially in the form of sugary drinks, has been shown to slow down metabolism as well. In a study published in the European Journal for Clinical Nutrition, it was found that participants who were considered overweight and consumed heavy amounts of sugary beverages saw a drop in their metabolism.
“The healthiest breakfasts for your metabolism include a combination of nutrients and creating the perfect pair,” says Dr. Young. “For example, including protein, healthy carbs, and good fat like an omelet and adding greens and tomato, or including avocado for healthy fat on a slice of whole grain toast.”
Along the same lines of not starting your day with added sugars, Goodson warns that beginning your morning with only carbohydrates of any type can still cause a spike in blood sugar.
While your body needs carbohydrates for energy, if you eat them by themselves they can often spike your blood sugar causing it to drop later, setting you up for an energy crash. When your blood sugar drops, people often crave sugar and it sets them on a blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day,” she says.
Instead of only eating carbs, Goodson suggests balancing your breakfast out with protein. “Protein helps you get full faster and stay full longer after a meal because, in comparison to carbohydrate and fat, it takes the longest to break down,” says Goodson, “and while the thermic effect of food does not burn turns of calories, it does burn some, and protein revs that calorie burning system up. So, adding protein can help rev that metabolic process.”
“So many people think they should eat something light for breakfast and save their calories for the rest of the day! That is a metabolism no-no,” says Goodson. “Instead the goal is to rev up your metabolism in the morning by ‘starting the fire,’ then continuously adding small amounts of wood (aka food) to keep it burning throughout the day.”
Instead of eating your smallest meal at the start of the day and eating larger meals later on, try eating a full, satisfying meal for breakfast that will set you up for success the rest of the day.
“And typically when people start the day with a high-fiber, protein-rich breakfast, they tend to eat less at night and avoid some of those evening cravings,” says Goodson.
Another unhealthy habit that many of us have is forgetting to stay hydrated first thing in the morning.
“Your body needs water to function at a cellular level, so when you’re dehydrated your metabolism becomes sluggish,” says Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN. “Be sure to include a drink, whether it be water, coffee, tea, or juice, with your breakfast. Better yet, drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to prevent dehydration.