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5 Surprising Things that Happen to Your Body When You Start Eating Breakfast

NUTRITION

Your mom’s ideas about 100-calorie packs and nonfat cheesecake flavored yogurt being healthy are totally misguided. But she was right on the money when it comes to breakfast. Whether or not it’s the most important meal of the day is still TBD, but eating a healthy something in the morning does deliver some pretty big benefits. Here, five of the most significant ones you’ll reap when you start supplementing your large black coffee with some actual food.
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1. You start thinking more clearly.
If you’re used to moving suuuuperrrr sloooowly for the first hour (or two) at work, get ready for a jolt. It can be tough to focus when your brain is running on fumes, which is pretty much what’s happening when you plop down at your desk after having not eaten since the night before. Give yourself some a.m. fuel, though, and you might be surprised by how much you’re suddenly able to get done. One recent research review suggests that eating breakfast enhances cognitive functions like memory, attention, reasoning, and learning.

2. Your a.m. workout starts to feel a little easier.
Breakfast won’t turn an hour of CrossFit into a cakewalk. But similar to how a morning nosh gives your fuzzy brain a mental boost, it can also give your energy-depleted muscles a physical one. The result? Instead of feeling like you’re gonna pass out five minutes in, you don’t start dragging ’til close to the end. Just make sure to eat at least an hour beforehand so you don’t get nauseous or crampy. But if there’s no way you’re waking up that early—or the idea of exercising on a full stomach just makes you sick—no biggie. “It doesn’t have to be something big or even solid food,” says registered dietician Erica Giovinazzo. Try half a cup of OJ (the carbs will give you a quick energy hit) and factor those calories into your post-workout meal.

3. Your risk for scary health conditions drops.
It doesn’t matter if you chow down on a veggie scramble with whole-wheat toast, a green smoothie, or last night’s salad leftovers. When you eat a clean breakfast, your risk for developing a bunch of chronic diseases drops. Research suggests that eating regular morning meals helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. And one recent study that looked at the eating habits of some 26,000 men found that those who ate breakfast even had a lower risk for heart disease.

4. You’re less likely to eat crap throughout the day.
“Breakfast prevents you from having that ravenous hunger later in the day and can help with sugar cravings,” says Giovinazzo. Because if your belly is already full, you’re not as tempted to raze the break room donut tray at 11:00 a.m. And if you load up on protein, which is really good at keeping your blood sugar levels stable, those benefits might stick around all day long. One study found that women who ate 35 grams of protein with breakfast experienced less hunger throughout the day and were less likely to snack at night compared to those who only got 13 grams of the stuff.

5. You might lose weight.
OK, so the data on this is sort of mixed. Two large studies, both published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, recently found eating breakfast to have no influence on what the scale says. Still, if a morning meal prevents you from loading up on junk later in the day, that definitely could help you consume fewer calories overall—which could translate to weight loss. “If you eat within an hour or two of waking up, that’s fine. If you wait until later, you might feel a lot hungrier and end up eating more,” Giovinazzo says.

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