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To eat or not to eat breakfast? That is the question 🍳

Let’s start with breakfast, to eat or not to eat first thing in the morning? Protein, breakfast, protein! Very popular headline topics that we should most definitely dive into as a part of our April blog! Through my clinical practice as a Registered Dietitian, a lot of my clients often ask whether or not they should be eating breakfast, or if they should consider Intermittent Fasting as a part of their health journey. In addition to this question, another very common one is, how much protein should I be eating throughout the day, and what are the best food sources of protein? After a lot of research on this topic, and over 14 years of clinic experience, I am excited to share my thoughtful, evidence-based response in more detail below. Before I begin, ask yourself, did you have breakfast this morning? And, how much protein was included in your breakfast?

My very short and simple answer is YES to breakfast! For everyone. Here are a couple of reasons why breakfast is beneficial to our overall health:

1. A study conducted by Komaroff el al identified that delayed eating times (i.e. starting your first meal at 1:00PM) resulted in changes in gene expression related to cellular circadian rhythm and burning of fatty acids. These changes led to decreased levels of leptin, an appetite-reducing hormone; greatly increased hunger; increased storage of fatty acids; decreased burning of fatty acids in adipocytes; and decreased waketime energy expenditure (slower metabolic in the morning). Subjects who had an “early-meal” period (i.e. starting your first meal around 9:00 AM) did NOT experience these potentially negative physiological changes.

2. Our bodies very much prefer a consistent and balanced circadian system. This system is signaled in part, by dietary intake, and therefore, eating at consistent times is important for robust circadian rhythms. When you have a more robust circadian system, it prepares our body to be more efficient at digesting, absorbing, and metabolizing food earlier in the day (aka “active phase”). Dramatic changes in mealtimes from day-to-day can alter this physiology (i.e. intermittent fasting likely does not support this optimal circadian system). Dramatic changes to our eating schedule is comparable to a disturbed sleep patterns after abrupt change in time zone from travel. Internal circadian timing system controls not only the sleep/wake and feeding/fasting cycle, but also many metabolic processes in the body, including the timing of our eating behavior, and processes involved in glucose homeostasis. In fact, insulin sensitivity is greater in the morning, so it is ideal to consume foods the first half of the day. Due to increased melatonin in the evening, the release of insulin is reduced, decreasing optimal digestion of glucose-containing foods.

Now that I may have sold you on breakfast, let’s think about what would be ideal to include on your breakfast plate.

It’s all about including 20-30g of protein first thing in the morning (usually 1-2 hours within walking). According to Layman et al, by doing so, you are breaking your overnight fast, and stimulating protein synthesis in the muscles, which in turn helps to support a faster metabolic rate and potential increased likelihood of muscle development combined with regular physical activity. This study looked at meal-based responses to dietary protein, and concluded that after ingestion of a protein-containing meal, stimulation of protein synthesis occurs by the activation of mTORC1 signal via the amino acid leucine. This was achieved by consuming >3g of leucine, which is equivalent to 20-30g of protein from food sources. After an overnight fast, protein synthesis is low, and with insufficient protein intake, your muscles will remain in their “catabolic” or “breakdown” state, and therefore continue breaking down protein rather than building muscle mass.

Let’s put this into ACTION! How do I go about building a breakfast with 20-30g of protein?

Protein-Rich Breakfast Ideas

Tuna Melt

  • 1 can (60g) flaked light tuna

  • 30g cheddar cheese

  • ½ plate with tomato & cucumber slices

Protein Pancakes

Breakfast Sausage and Eggs

That summarizes the Healthy U response to whether or not we should start our day off with breakfast! Yes, yes, yes! Following a regular eating schedule helps to maintain a faster metabolic rate and achieve your health goals faster. Most importantly, by eating breakfast, it sets the tone for the day, which helps to regulate your appetite and promote healthier subsequent food choices; and also role models ideal behaviour in the home!

Blog Collaborators: Elisa Porretta BSc Candidate and Maya Silva BSc


Komaroff, A.L. Late Mealtimes Encourage Weight Gain. NEJM Journal Watch. Published online October 25, 2022. Available at:

Layman, D. K., Anthony, T. G., Rasmussen, B. B., Adams, S. H., Lynch, C. J., Brinkworth, G. D., & Davis, T. A. (2015). Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 101(6), 1330S–1338S.


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