What you expose yourself to first thing in the morning can set the tone for your entire day. This includes the foods that you choose to eat for breakfast in addition to where you put your attention in the morning. There’s a few things that are for sure: structure will make you more successful, cereal and orange juice are not nutritious breakfast options, checking social media and email is an energy-draining way to start the day. If you start out feeling distracted, rushing, or fueling on empty carbohydrates from cereal and orange juice then you are more likely to feel drained, anxious, bloated and disheveled for the rest of the day. If you want to feel successful and grounded all day then it starts with being strategic and disciplined when creating a successful morning. Elevate your day by incorporating the following morning tips and routines.
1. Be Consistent and Intentional
One of the keys to starting the day off on a successful note is to wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Early in the morning you experience a rise in blood pressure and cortisol in addition to a drop-in melatonin. If the body is on a proper cycle it will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning without feeling the need to hit the snooze button. Once you’ve stepped out of bed, it’s extremely beneficial to follow a structured routine. Having an intentional morning routine is essential for getting the day started on the right note while creating a space for yourself and your own needs. It’s important to note that everyone’s morning routine will be very individualized and it might take a little trial and error before you figure out what’s best.
2. Take Time to Yourself Before Diving into Social Media
Before you are tempted to open your phone and get updated on the lives of friends and strangers, take time to connect to yourself and your body and emotions. We spend so much of the day completely disconnected that it’s important to connect as much as possible first thing in the morning. This is your way to create your own space without being influenced by your family or the external world. New research associates the use of social media with FOMO or “fear of missing out” on experiences that you see others partaking in. Higher levels of FOMO have been associated with less satisfaction in life, a worse mood and feeling emotionally unfulfilled. It’s best to avoid exposure to experiences that can provoke these feelings first thing in the day.
The morning is an opportunity to get centered and present which will carry over the rest of the day. One of the best ways to do this is to start with a meditation and deep breathing—even five minutes makes a difference. If you are new to meditation you can try programs like Headspace, the Calm App or YogaGlo. The other thing that has worked well for me is to play an upbeat song on your phone for 3-4 minutes, incorporate movements that get your heartrate up for the duration of the song, and then sit in meditation immediately after. If you struggle with meditation, this is an easy way to tap it a little faster while also feeling your breath start to come back.
3. Hydrate First Thing in the Morning
Instead of starting your day with a cup of coffee that has a diuretic effect and can lead to dehydration, it’s optimal to start your day with 16 fl oz of filtered water. I commonly recommend breaking the fast with warm lemon water which is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a soothing and digestive-friendly option.
4. Take your Daily Supplements
Get in the habit of taking your daily supplements in the morning, if they don’t need to be taken later on in the evening. Some supplements like magnesium are better to take in the evening because it aids with sleep but others are great to take first thing in the morning. Place them somewhere in your house where you will be reminded to take them. Also consider purchasing a pill organizer that you can use to organize your supplements or this travel pill organizer for when you are away from home. The most common supplements that are recommended in functional medicine are omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium and probiotics. More on supplements in another article!
5. Consider Adopting Time-Restricted Eating
Time-restricted eating is one version of what’s known as intermittent fasting. The idea is to abstain from food and caloric beverages for a designated window of time in order to promote your body’s ability to repair itself. Windows of time-restricted fasting typically range from 12-16+ hours. I always recommend fasting for a minimum of 12 hours and anything more is going to be more individualized. There are numerous benefits of fasting which include weight loss, inducing autophagy, improved cognitive function and increased longevity. Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of fasting for at least 12 hours at night includes improving insulin sensitivity.
When a person has insulin resistance it means that they have high levels of circulating insulin which is a pro-inflammatory hormone. Insulin plays a role in fat storage (especially around the abdominal area), increases production of inflammatory substances in fat tissue, increases circulating fatty acids, increases LDL (bad cholesterol), decreases HDL (good cholesterol), increases blood pressure and is also associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In a small randomized control trial that was just published the researchers found that time restricted eating within 6 hours led to improved insulin sensitivity in addition to lower blood pressure, oxidative stress, and desire to eat in the evening. This was also associated with improved metabolism and weight loss. The improvements in blood pressure from this 6-hour window of eating were nearly as effective as blood pressure medication.
Try to avoid eating three hours before bedtime. This concept is thought to improve melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a hormone that the body is designed to produce at night and stops producing during daytime. The benefits of doing so is that in addition to improving insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure and increasing longevity, restricting food for a specific time improves your circadian rhythm. There are two major factors that can help to reset our circadian clock: the times that we eat during the day and our exposure to light/darkness. Both are important to coordinate with the human circadian rhythm which is responsible for regulating eating, sleeping, hormones, physiologic processes, metabolism and energetics.
Time-restricted eating for an extended period of time is not necessarily beneficial for everyone especially those who are pregnant, people with type 1 diabetes, and those with genetic variants that predispose them to lower feelings of satiety. Women may also do better with only incorporating intermittent fasting a few days per week due to hormonal changes.
6. Cut the Cereal and Choose a Nourishing Breakfast
Stop looking for breakfast foods in the cereal aisle. This robs your body of the opportunity to get nutrients into your body early in the day through real, unprocessed foods. The typical American breakfast is an excuse to incorporate dessert into one more time of the day. Donuts, muffins, pancakes, cereal, fruit-flavored yogurt, bagels, and orange juice are nothing but simple carbohydrates that increase risk of insulin resistance, weight gain, heart disease, bacterial overgrowth and disturbances in the microbiome, Alzheimer’s Disease and more.
Be intentional about the foods that you choose to break your fast. Even if you are following a time restricted eating schedule from 7pm to 9am, you can still break your fast with a nourishing breakfast midmorning. Build a nourishing breakfast by following my breakfast acronym: P-C- Triple F.
Protein (high quality & lean sources): Organic eggs, collagen protein powder, organic ground turkey, organic tofu
Color: A minimum of 2-3 colors from vegetables & fruits such as spinach, arugula, cauliflower rice, blueberries, strawberries, and more
Fats (healthy sources): Avocado slices, extra virgin olive oil, nut butter, chia seeds, etc.
Fiber: Vegetables, fruits, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds
Fermented food: Sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar from the mother, unsweetened almond yogurt, organic yogurt
Here are a few PC Triple F breakfast examples:
Very Berry Smoothie
- 1 scoop collagen protein powder (protein)
- ¾ cup frozen organic blueberries (color, fiber)
- 1 cup kale (color, fiber)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger root (color)
- Tbsp chia seeds (fats & fiber)
- 1/8 slice avocado (fiber, fat)
- ½ cup unsweetened almond yogurt (fermented food)
Overnight Oatmeal Bar
- 1 scoop collagen protein powder (protein)
- ½ cup fresh organic strawberries (color, fiber)
- ½ cup fresh organic blueberries (color, fiber)
- 1-2 tbsp hemp seeds (fats & fiber)
- 1 cup unsweetened nut milk
- ½ cup uncooked overnight oats (gluten-free certified) (fiber)
- 1 scoop unsweetened almond yogurt (fermented food)
Egg Salsa Scramble
- Scrambled eggs (protein, fat)
- 1-2 cups arugula (color, fiber)
- ¼ cup salsa (color)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (fat)
- 1/8 slice avocado (fiber, fat)
- 2 tbsp sauerkraut (fermented food)
7. Determine Whether Coffee Helps you or Hurts You
Coffee can be a healthy energy booster for many people as it is a one of the most common source of antioxidants in the American diet. There are also a lot of large research studies that associate daily coffee consumption with lower risk of early death, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While there are widespread clinical benefits of drinking coffee, in working with thousands of individuals, I’ve observed that many do better without coffee in their diet. Here are a few reasons why coffee may not work well for you:
- Non-organic coffee has higher levels of pesticides. If you aren’t buying organic coffee that’s certified organic then you are exposing yourself to more pesticides which can be harmful.
- Coffee on an empty stomach can trigger acid reflux. If you drink coffee on an empty stomach the acidity can trigger acid reflux or GERD.
- Energy crashes can occur in the afternoon. Some people experience a jolt in the morning from drinking coffee which can be followed by an afternoon crash. This is thought to be associated with a rise in blood sugar and insulin that has been shown in a few randomized control trials that leads to a sugar/insulin crash later on in the day.
- Most instant coffee contains gluten so this can be a hidden source of gluten. For those that are sensitive to gluten, be sure you are not getting gluten in your coffee.
- Based on your genetics, you could be caffeine sensitive.. Genetic variants to the CYP1A2 gene will determine whether a person metabolizes caffeine quickly or slowly. Fast caffeine metabolizers are more likely to be able to fall asleep after drinking a cup of coffee. Other genetic profiles indicate that the rest of people are slow caffeine metabolizers who do better either avoiding coffee or not drinking it past 10am. Slow caffeine metabolizers are more likely to experience sleep disturbances at night if drinking caffeine in the afternoon.
I recommend for everyone, whether a slow or fast caffeine metabolizer to avoid drinking coffee after 12pm. If you don’t drink coffee then you can absolutely incorporate green tea which has about 1/3 of the caffeine or matcha green tea which is more comparable in caffeine content to coffee. The other thing to consider is intermittent fasting and consuming MCT oil first thing in the morning. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides and it’s 100% medium chain in composition which means that it’s metabolized differently than other fats. MCT oil is transported directly from the intestinal tract to the liver which can slightly raise a person’s metabolic rate while also helping to increase energy levels—it’s pretty much like nature’s Adderall.