Why I Always Eat Breakfast, No Matter What

“I only eat when I’m hungry. I don’t get hungry in the morning.” - Me, sometime in 2009
“I wake up too early to make breakfast, and I don’t want to make unhealthy choices at school.” - Also me, probably in 2013
“Intermittent fasting is the best way to lean out. Seriously, I looked it up.” - Still me, in 2014

Guys. I was so wrong.

The positive effects of eating breakfast are well documented. Breakfast is associated with improved attention and energy levels, lowered risk of heart disease, improved metabolism, and a reduced risk of diabetes (among other benefits). Most of these are associated with the fact that breakfast eaters are less likely to be obese.

Still, for years I wasn't sold on the idea. I never woke up hungry, and while I dabbled in breakfast here and there, I never noticed the benefits. Then, all of a sudden, I did.

Instead of throwing statistics at you, I’ll just share my own experience. Here’s why I evolved from a breakfast-skipper to a breakfast-lover.


I didn’t think breakfast gave me an energy boost because I wasn’t eating enough of it.

On the days that I did eat breakfast, I had a granola bar, or piece of toast with a bit of jam or peanut butter, or a smoothie. Something quick and easy.

Those options are all extremely low calorie. I was eating a sub-200 calorie snack and calling it a meal.

When I started educating myself about nutrition and weight lifting, I realized how much more volume I needed to eat in order to keep up with my training. That meant bigger breakfasts.

It wasn’t until I was eating 400-600 calories in the morning that I started to notice the difference. I became more alert, and able to focus for longer periods of time. I also stopped feeling jittery and distracted after my morning coffee (thankfully, because we all know I can’t give that up).


I didn’t think I needed help with my metabolism

The thing is, I’ve never been particularly concerned about my metabolism. Even at my least fit, I wasn’t overweight, and could eat a lot of food without noticeable weight gain.

However, my hunger levels (and my weight) were constantly unstable. Irregular eating habits had screwed with my natural hunger cues. I rarely felt truly hungry, but also had a hard time determining when I was full. I would forget to eat for hours during the day, then have huge meals before bed.

I was also constantly fluctuating between 130 and 140 pounds. Since I’m relatively tall, the weight gain (and loss) wasn’t visually noticeable. Still, I could feel the toll it took on my body. When I began getting more serious about CrossFit, I knew that the inconsistency was making it hard to see the sort of progress I could otherwise be making.

When I made the decision to start eating breakfast, I made sure to include a balanced meal of all my favourite things so I’d actually stick with it. That meant (still means) scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and a few pieces of toast with almond butter and banana or strawberries (or, oats with fruit on the side).

Eating that variety of protein, carbohydrates, and fat encourages your body to initiate thermogenesis. That’s the metabolic process of digesting food and using it for energy, not fat storage. It stabilizes your blood sugar and provides your body with fuel to use throughout your morning.

For me, it also began to normalize my appetite and natural hunger cues. A full breakfast kickstarted my metabolism, so I could more easily tell when I needed to eat again. It provided the base layer for a consistent, healthier diet. As a result, my weight is much more stable - almost always within a pound or two.


I didn't believe breakfast would help my performance

When you first start CrossFit, everything is a PR. You get stronger and fitter, quickly. For me, that lasted almost throughout my first year (with the exception of when I broke my wrist).

After that period of newbie gains, my progress was tapering off. How frustrating is that?!

Since I train at 6:00am, I wasn’t in the practice of eating before my workout. I wanted to compete, though, so I knew I needed to dial in all of the external factors - like rest, mobility, nutrition - that I’d be ignoring.

Incorporating a protein shake with a cup of coconut water before my workout (as well as the big breakfast after) provided me with a longevity that I didn’t have before. I could access energy reserves that I couldn’t on an empty stomach.

Plus, I was building lean muscle faster. Whether that can be attributed to the fact that I had increased my overall protein intake, or the pre- and post-workout nature of my protein intake, I’m not sure. I just know that my strength went up as my protein intake went up, and my energy skyrockets when I get in a good dose of simple carbs and protein before I train.

(That said, I’m generally in the camp that believes post-workout protein is important. It just makes sense to ensure your body has enough protein available for protein synthesis to occur, so it doesn’t fall behind breakdown. After all, muscle growth relies on protein synthesis being greater than muscle breakdown.)


You don’t know what works until you try

At the end of the day, eating breakfast may or may not work for you. Until I gave it the good old college try, I thought I was doing fine. It took committing to breakfast (for better or worse, in sickness or health, etc. etc.) to realize all of its benefits.

Do your research. (Be careful, though; don't trust studies like this, which is commissioned by Kellogg's and actually encourages frozen waffles and orange juice for breakfast. Don’t do that.) Figure out what your body likes, and stick to it. Simple.

If you need me, I'll be eating my bacon and eggs. 


You Have The Time You Make

You’ve heard this before. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day; if you don’t have time for something, it’s not a priority; if the CEO/mother of ten/business owner/PhD student can find time for a spin class before work, why can’t you?

Part of that is true. There’s no getting around the fact that you have to prioritize your fitness and allocate the necessary time. 

Still, that doesn't make it easy. Family is a priority, and work, and the other 3000 things that build a healthy and happy lifestyle.

It's true that even one hour of training, several days a week, will bring you pretty good general health (coupled with nutrition and healthy habits, of course). Still, few competitive CrossFitters are satisfied with that. We all want more.  

Luckily, there are a number of ways to make the time you spend in the gym - whether that’s forty-five minutes, an hour, or three - the most valuable it can be. Here are a few.


1. Plan your workouts

If you’re joining in with the classes consistently, you’re home free with this one. Getting the most out of your WOD can be as simple as chatting to whoever is responsible for programming. Chances are, they’ve got a larger plan in place; if you’re only able to come to three or four classes a week, ask which days will provide the most beneficial balance of strength, conditioning, and gymnastic work. Make sure your plan aligns with your coach’s vision for that cycle.

If you’re following your own programming, you have a bit more work to do. Still, the most important part is knowing the plan when you walk into the gym. Don’t waste time deciding on your rep scheme when you’re warming up.


2. Reduce rest

If you have a lot of volume to get through in a short amount of time, consider cutting back on your rest. That might mean working at a lower percentage of your overall output so you can adequately recover in a shorter time slot. Is it ideal? No. But neither is not finishing your programmed workload.


3. Use extra time wisely

Make two lists: one of all your strengths, and one of all your weaknesses. If you’re anything like me, your list of strengths is going to include movements you enjoy; your weaknesses are probably movements you would rather never do again (looking at you, burpees).

Whenever you have spare time that you can spend in the gym, choose two of your weaknesses and one strength.

My last one looked like this:

Toes to bar (weakness)
Push-ups (weakness)
Wall balls (strength)

Quick, simple, and a good starting point to helping you become a better-rounded athlete.

(If you’re hardcore, pick all weaknesses. I get too frustrated by workouts like that, and prefer to throw in a movement I love.)

If you’re really stuck, head over to Crossfit HQ or Competitor’s Training. Both post daily WODs, and might provide a spark of inspiration.  


4. Remember the big picture

Keep in mind that improvements are made in the gym, in the kitchen, and in your downtime. You have to eat, so make sure your nutrition is geared towards your goals. Recovery is vital for proper training, so do everything you can to get 6-9 hours of uninterrupted rest.

Muscle building, weight loss, injury rehabilitation, anything - it’s all dependent on your overall lifestyle. It’s not just about the volume.

Train smart. Use your gym time carefully, stay on track with nutrition, and rest as necessary. Results will follow.


New Month, New Me (Sort Of)

Okay, not quite a new me. Still, the same me is entering her second full week at our new gym, Studeo55. That means new coaches, fresh programming, and a different routine. 

Not long ago, I wrote about making the switch to morning sessions. That, at least, has stayed the same. The switch to 6:00am training went smoothly, and I decided to keep it up at the new gym. Morning sessions lets me start my day in my favourite way, keeps my schedule synced up with Damien's, and frees up time if I want a second workout later on. Win-win. 

(I'm also staying consistent with morning nutrition. A half-scoop of protein and a few cups of coconut water break the fast well for me. I'm satiated enough to get through the workout, but not stuffed or uncomfortable.) 

Everything else, though, has changed. 

I followed Ben Bergeron's Comp Train programming at the gym I previously trained at, and I had no complaints. I love his programming; the workouts were challenging and it was a perfect mix of gymnastics, strength, and conditioning. 

The only downside? I was training alone. That was fine when I already knew everyone at my gym, and had the space to do so. Studeo is a different story. 

I'm a big believe in the community aspect of CrossFit, but it's hard to get to know people when you're hiding in a corner doing your own workout. There's no better way to make a friend than to suffer alongside them in a tough WOD. 

Which is exactly why I decided to try the Studeo programming, and join in the classes - at least for a few weeks. 

Good, good decision. Studeo's programming has been fantastic so far. My aerobic capacity and endurance are already improving; even the warmup is making me fitter (I'm a sweaty mess by the time we're 10 minutes in). 

I think I'll eventually supplement the programming with a few strength sessions per week, but that's just my own desire to work the weaknesses. Overall, my experience with Studeo has been really positive. 

(Plus, they have fancy change rooms and showers and water-bottle service. Water bottle service, guys.

Yes, change can be hard. I miss the people at my old box. I miss the space (Studeo's classes are packed). I miss the comfort that comes from growing with a place, and becoming a part of the family there. 

Whenever I'm feeling nostalgic about Tactix, I just remind myself that new challenges are good for growth. After all, CrossFit teaches you to be prepared for the Unknown and Unknowable. 

That's exactly what this change will do for me. It's a chance to freshen up my training and refocus. After all, you can't get better if you're always staying the same. 

Source: http://www.studeo55crossfit.com/

Making the Switch to Morning Training

In the two years I’ve been CrossFitting, I’ve done everything from religiously attending the 6:00am classes, to multi-session Ben Bergeron programming in the middle of my day, to powerlifting in the evenings. No set routine has lasted longer than a few months, because I’m 24 and life moves fast and what can you do.

It’s been all over the place – and it’s all been great.

A few factors have changed recently, though, as they have a tendency to do. That means my training is changing, too.


Change #1

I started working a full-time, real-life, 8:00-4:30 type of job. On the upside, I feel like I’ve found my career and I love my work.

On the downside, I spend less time in the gym. I’m there after work for an hour to an hour and a half, and I generally only do one two-a-day per week.

Luckily, this doesn’t seem to have affected my progression very much. I’ve PR’d, competed, and finally figured out butterfly pull-ups. So, no big deal.


Change #2

Because of those PRs, competitions, and pull-ups, I’ve also narrowed in on what I need to work on. Powerlifting has helped hugely in terms of my overall strength. Now, it’s time to get back to technique, upper-body strength, and gymnastics stuff. Sticking to Competitor Training (can you say #BuiltByBergeron?) is the best move for me right now.

If it’s good enough for Katrin, it’s good enough for me. Rules to live by.


Change #3

A few months ago, the gym I’ve been going to since I started training changed ownership. It’s now focused primarily on Olympic lifting, which means there’s a lot more people and a very different feel.

As a result, I’m switching my training to 6:00am across the board. It’s quieter in the morning, I know all the regulars, and I’ll have space to do my thing.

Still, switching to morning training is already taking a physical toll. I am noticeably weaker in the morning, and my energy levels are significantly lower. While I remember training fasted with no issues when I started, I now find myself getting hungry before I’m done my warmup.

I’m in a trial and error phase at the moment. Failing lifts at 75% is no fun, so obviously I need a new approach.


How I’ll Keep From Dying

To figure out how to make my morning sessions as effective as possible, I made a list of all the important things that go along with training. Yes, I love lists. Yes, I am a nerd.



Obviously, this is a big one. Weight training while fasted isn’t recommended, especially since I’m not trying to lose weight (if anything, fasted training can contribute to muscle breakdown). While the jury’s out on whether protein is a beneficial pre-workout, getting some simple carbohydrates into your system before a session is a good idea. Food with a low glycemic index - like fruit, juice, cereal, etc. - digests quickly. That means your body can access those carbohydrates and easily use them as fuel.

Like most people, I can’t stomach a full meal right when I wake up and go to train. I’m currently experimenting with mixing about a cup of iced coffee (hello caffeine), two cups of coconut water (which rehydrates the body and provides simple carbohydrates), and a half-scoop of protein powder (because I’m secretly a bro and want a little protein always).



 If I’m training at 6:00am, I’m up by around 5:15am. Sleep is a crucial component to safe and efficient training, which means I need to commit to being in bed by around 9:30pm. I’m a notoriously light and difficult sleeper, so I’m also committing to turning my phone off by 8:00pm and taking Rescue Remedy as needed.

Since I’m secretly 90 years old, I was already going to bed around 10 and waking up by 6. Hopefully, this won’t be a drastic change.


Warming up

I’m so bad about warming up - I love to just jump into whatever training I have to do that day. Our bodies are stiffer and colder after sleeping for eight hours, though - that means we’re also more prone to injury. I need to spend more time properly mobilizing and warming up before I get into my lifts. Ugh.



No, not in the Russian gymnast sense of the word. Since I’ll be training in the morning before work, I need to be both time-efficient and forgiving to myself if I have to change things up. Today, for example, I modified the RX weight in the programming so I could complete the necessary reps before having to rush home and change.

Is that ideal? No. Is the world going to end? Also no.

One day, I’ll have all the time in the world to kill myself with relatively heavy deadlifts in unbroken sets of 20 (THANKS BEN BERGERON). Until then, I need to be okay with doing as much as I can do, when I can.

Sure, I saw the switch in training to mornings as a bump in the road. I wasn’t particularly excited about it. But instead of being cranky, I decided to take this as an opportunity to reevaluate where I can dial in my attention.

So. Food, sleep, warm ups, mental game on point. Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself about the basics. Now, all that’s left is the execution.

Wish me luck.