Morning Carbs Make Us Fat

Morning Carbs Fat Loss Weight Gain Ben Austin Blog

Image from, Karen Booth

Why Carbs in the AM Make Us Fat

We were all told: “Eat a large breakfast, small lunch and tiny dinner” and “Don’t eat after 7:00 pm”. For the longest time, this seemed to make sense as the talking heads, scientists and doctors were recommending we eat this way.

How could they be wrong? They were on TV for Christ’s sake.

Even more, we were taught that we should eat something healthy for breakfast. Like “heart healthy” oatmeal, a banana and skim milk and a bit of sugar (for taste). Growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s, I noticed something. People kept getting fatter and fatter. As the round faces and bodies of the people close to me started getting more and more circular. I wanted to know why? A truth finally appeared. The people who were gaining weight and increasing their dress sizes were eating exactly how the food pyramid told us to; High-carb/low-fat.

Understanding Insulin and why 65% of Americans are Fat

When I found myself on team “love handles” a WTF moment happened. It became clear that my breakfast of Cheerios  and strawberry yogurt was not the heart healthy option that we were lead to believe.

Let’s use our friends Fat Steve and Slim Sally as an example. When Steve wakes up in the morning, instead of cooking something for breakfast because “it takes too much time, and he’s not hungry” he decides to pop some instant oatmeal in the microwave while at work and then add a banana on top of it. He wants to do the right thing. Slim Sally takes the extra minute to cook herself some whole eggs (in butter) with a few pieces of bacon.

Lets Look at the Chart to See How their Morning Went:

AM Carbs Make You Fat InfoGraphic Ben Austin Blog

What’s going on?

Nerds Only:

When looking at Fat Steve’s breakfast and snack choices, the fast breakdown of the sugars and carbs in his meal cause a rise in blood glucose (blood sugar). He get’s a quick high from the rush of sugar, caffeine, gluten and hydrogenated vegetable oils. This reaction in his brain causes the pleasure centers to light up (the same way some cocaine does). His mood and energy levels are completely unbalanced because of the rising and falling of blood sugar.

He goes from Hypo-Glycemic to Hyper-Glycemic back to Hypo, while feeling HANGRY (Hungry + Angry). The fall of blood glucose sends panic waves throughout his entire body. Telling him to eat snacks NOW!!!!

ANYTIME blood sugar is elevated, your body will release insulin to clear the excess blood sugar. Anytime you have insulin in your system, you are in STORAGE mode. This means the excess glucose can be stored in either fat (as additional fat cells) or muscle cells (as glycogen). If you are not doing resistance training or have excess body fat. You are screwed.

Fat Steve continues to add the extra lbs as the years fly by. The extra fat not only makes him look unhealthy, it ages him faster and makes him dumber.

Let’s Review:

  1. AM Carbs raise blood sugar levels
  2. Your body wants to store the elevated blood sugar (AKA Possibly New Fat)
  3. Elevated blood sugar levels signal an insulin release (Storage Hormone)
  4. AM Insulin release = Storage mode for the rest of the day
  5. Storage Mode = Potential fat gain the rest of the day
  6. Fat gain = muffin top/beer belly/pear-shaped body/Man Laying on Park Bench

Slim Sally is doing the opposite. Her breakfast of meat and fat keeps her blood sugar levels low and she stays in ketosis for the rest of the AM. While in Ketosis her body is utilizing her fat stores as energy and keeping her mood and energy levels stable for the rest of the morning. She gets smarter as she is able to make better decisions throughout the day. Her coworkers comment on how great she looks and how productive she has been.

Non-Nerd Summary:

When we wake up in the AM both our fat and muscle tissues are incredibly sensitive to the effects of insulin. This means that if we eat food that raises our blood sugar (carbs) it will likely be stored in both muscle (GOOD) and fat (BAD). Here’s the really bad news: after eating carbs for breakfast, you are screwed for the rest of the day. You have opened the doorway, for NEW FAT to be stored rest of the day. If you keep your blood sugar levels low in the morning, you will burn fat for the rest of the day.

Lazy Persons Summary:

You will get fat if you eat carbs for breakfast

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully this post caused you to re-evaluate your food choices for breakfast. If you switch to a high fat/high protein breakfast, you’ll notice results in a few short weeks. NOTE: Some people do not feel great if they are addicted to sugars and then try to remove them. Be kind to your body and take care of it.

About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.
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  • Great article Ben! The whole insulin issue is a fascinating one, and I’ve been playing with this for a while now. What I have found really effective for myself is skipping food in the morning altogether! No insulin spike there either =)

    Also, that graphic of energy levels might be the best thing I’ve ever found online.

    • Thanks Harley! I appreciate it.

      I’ve also adopted an Intermittent fasting type approach for myself AKA skipping breakfast altogether. However, When I was starting out eating low carb in the AM was essential for losing fat. I remember looking at my 1 month progress pics and being shocked at my transformation.

      Also thanks for the props on the infographic! I had way too much fun making it :)

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