Are you still turning to sugary cereals to break your fast each morning? Or worse, skipping the first meal of the day altogether? Well knock that shit off right now (unless you're doing intermittent fasting). After a night without food, your body needs protein to get back in the muscle building groove. The obvious choice to get yourself the protein you need is to serve up a plate of eggs. I start nearly every day with eggs and vegetables and here's why you should, too.
Why is eating the right breakfast important?
During the night your blood sugar drops and is maintained at a steady level. If you start your day with a meal of refined carbs, your nice, stable blood sugar levels skyrocket. To prevent you from dying (seriously), your pancreas secretes insulin to bring those levels back down.
The only problem with this is that it usually overcorrects and brings your blood sugar levels too low, too fast. You know that empty, shaky feeling you get a couple hours after your breakfast of skim milk and Lucky Charms? Yeah, that's your blood sugar level crashing. Think of it like driving in the snow. If your car starts to drift to the right, you don't want to jerk the wheel and drive into the left-hand ditch, do you? This is basically the effect of a sugary breakfast.
Instead, what we need to do is get a meal in that slows digestion down so blood sugar levels will rise gradually and your body has a much more reasonable insulin response. That's where fat, protein, and fiber come in. They take longer to break down so they keep your blood sugar (and energy levels) stable and keep you full longer.
So, what is the perfect breakfast?
Eggs! For both customary and nutritional purposes. You could choose other forms of protein, but eating a slab of salmon, chicken, beef, or pork first thing in the morning may be a little out-of-the-ordinary for most people. To initiate protein synthesis (i.e., build muscle), we need to consume at least 3.2 grams of the amino acid Leucine. Eating about 5 eggs will get that job done, or less if combined with other protein sources.
Now that we have protein synthesis covered, we need to focus on keeping the blood sugar spike under control. The fat in the eggs will help with this, as will the fiber in the veggies. Both of these nutrients will also help you stay full longer.
But eggs will give me a heart attack!
When paired with cured bacon, sausage gravy, and a pile of pancakes slathered in margarine and maple syrup, maybe. But on their own, eggs are an extremely valuable part of a healthy diet. Whole eggs are the standard by which other proteins are measured for amino acid completeness. Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals and low in calories. This makes them perfect for any weight loss or bulking program.
I can only laugh when people are terrified of eating eggs, which only contain 1.5 grams of saturated fat each. Meanwhile, the same person is perfectly okay with eating a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese and a large order of french fries containing 20+ grams of saturated fat, along with a bunch of sugar, sodium, and an assortment of other chemicals.
Eggs were the first thing I learned to cook for myself that didn't come out of a can, and despite eating 2-3 dozen per week for almost 20 years, my blood lipid panel is stellar.
Making Your Scramble
I don't really like omelettes. It's not the ingredients in the omelettes I dislike, but the cooking technique that browns the outside. As such, my go-to for a quick, stick-to-your-ribs, protein-dense breakfast is the scramble. Follow the steps below for a hearty scramble in 15 minutes or less.
- 2 teaspoons fat (i.e., butter, olive oil, coconut oil)
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 to 1 cup vegetables, chopped (think, multi-colored peppers, mushrooms, onion, broccoli)
- Optional: ~3 ounces pre-cooked meat (good choices include steak, ham, seasoned ground beef)
- Optional: salt, pepper, other seasonings, shredded cheese, salsa
Heat butter, olive oil, etc. in a pan over medium heat.
Add veggies and sauté for a couple minutes. It's easiest to have veggies pre-chopped and ready to go. You can do this the night before or buy a bag of frozen, pre-chopped veggie mixes. You'll probably need to cook the vegetables an additional 2-4 minutes if you opt for frozen.
If you're adding cut up breakfast meats, toss them into the pan when you add the vegetables. It's best to buy a variety without nitrates to avoid that pesky stomach cancer.
Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork. If you're concerned with dietary fat or would just like more protein per calorie, add some egg whites to the mix. Just make sure you have at least one or two yolks in there.
Once the veggies start to soften a bit after 3-5 minutes (this isn't an exact science), pour in the eggs and let cook.
Once the eggs start to firm up you can begin moving them around the pan with a spatula. Watch them vigilantly to make sure they don't burn. When your eggs have cooked through (they're done when they don't look wet or shiny any more), remove from heat and add any extras you like, such as salt and pepper, cheese, or salsa.
My favorite combos
- Chopped steak, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers (top with provolone for a Philly Cheese Steak effect).
- Broccoli and cheddar.
- Ham, green bell pepper, and onion (Denver Style).
- Left-over taco meat and eggs on corn tortillas.
Almost any leftovers can be tossed into your scramble. Extra gyro meat, shrimp-fried rice, or meat and potatoes are all strangely compatible with eggs.
If I'm adding meat to the mix, I'll usually replace one or more eggs with egg whites to keep protein up and overall calories under control.
If you're trying to gain weight, you can add in some carbs on the side in the form of fruit, tortillas, toast, roasted potatoes, or oatmeal.
If you're trying to lose weight, you're better off sticking with eggs, meat, and veggies for breakfast. Skip the cheese and starchy add-ons.
Well, I hope with all this, you now know what you're doing for breakfast tomorrow morning. Enjoy!