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Ask JJ: Breakfast or Fast?

As intermittent fasting becomes more popular and anti-breakfast studies occasionally surface, haters have more ammunition to skip out on the day's first meal.
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Dear JJ: You say to eat a substantial breakfast within one hour of waking up. However, several experts believe intermittent fasting, which usually involves skipping breakfast, is best for fat loss and better health. I'm confused!

As intermittent fasting becomes more popular and anti-breakfast studies occasionally surface, haters have more ammunition to skip out on the day's first meal.

"Now new findings from two randomized controlled trials are poking holes in our common acceptance of the morning meal as a panacea," writes Anna Almendrala. "[T]aken together, the two studies reveal some holes in the so-called 'most important meal of the day.'"

Yet as John Berardi, Ph.D. skillfully argues, breakfast studies are all over the map. Some show benefits, whereas others conclude the day's most important meal perhaps became overrated. "Clearly eating breakfast -- or skipping it -- is not a panacea," he concludes. "Of course, no nutritional solution ever is."

Regardless what the latest studies say, I remain adamant about eating a substantial, healthy breakfast within one hour of waking up.

For one, breakfast sets your day's metabolic tone. Many people screw it up, starting out with a high-sugar impact disaster that creates a blood sugar roller coaster set to crash about 10:30 a.m., or skipping it altogether and setting the stage for hunger, cravings, and overeating.

Two, your body does not store protein. Breakfast literally breaks overnight fasting, and when you don't refuel properly, muscle breakdown usually provides that much-needed protein.

What you eat, then, becomes just as important as when or if you breakfast. "[T]he specific type of breakfast food may well be the key to maintaining a healthy weight, but it's a topic that has only been researched minimally, the experts say, although many studies are currently investigating the issue," writes Sarah Klein.

Protein usually comes out the winner in these studies. One study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a high-protein breakfast decreased your hunger hormone ghrelin more powerfully while increasing satiating hormones better than a high-carbohydrate breakfast.

Eager to get in on the act, manufacturers now offer all types of protein-enhanced shakes, bars, fruit smoothies, pastries, and other Frankenfoods masquerading as healthy. Don't be fooled. These are usually nothing more than high-sugar impact, blood sugar spike-and-crash catastrophes fortified with a little cheap protein.

Instead, think outside the (cereal) box with dinner for breakfast. Who says you can't have wild salmon, asparagus, and quinoa in the morning?

I get it though: Usually you're too rushed, or have no appetite, or otherwise can't make the time for a substantial, protein-rich breakfast. That's why a shake becomes the perfect solution.

In about the time it takes to pour cereal and milk, you can whip up a fast, filling, fat-burning protein shake that keeps you going for hours. My favorite shake blends non-dairy, non-soy plant-based or defatted beef protein powder with frozen raspberries, kale, avocado, freshly ground flaxseeds, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Easy, delicious, and done!

If you have a favorite protein shake recipe, please share it below. And keep your awesome questions coming to Happy New Year!