It may sound contradictory, but I want to share why I like the science behind a high protein, high fat diet, commonly known as a “Meat and Nut Breakfast.” This approach to breakfast is from the world renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin. As Poliquin has very little interest in vegan nutrition, and promotes a meat-heavy Paleo Diet, I take everything he says with a grain of salt. Commonly, those belittling a plant-based diet are rarely speaking from a point of experience, but rather outdated nutritional rhetoric. As with any responsible person in the field of health and nutrition, it is my obligation to test out nutrition approaches on myself after researching peer-reviewed studies to come up with my own take on the subject. As an ethical vegan, I am committed to finding a rock solid plant-based approach to sports performance nutrition. This veganized “meat” and nut breakfast is something I have been doing (mostly) for about 4 years, which is the same amount of time I have been known in the vegan fitness community. Is that coincidence, or is there something to this approach to the first meal of the day?
Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausage over
Trader Joe's Power Greens and Raw Walnuts
Well, let's start off with analyzing what a “meat and nut breakfast” really is. This is simply a way of saying to eat a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate breakfast. This is quite different than most of the world's view that breakfast should be toast, pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, crepes, scones, muffins, and the like. This may also be why lean, strong, fit physiques aren't the norm. Some of the primary benefits of eating a high-protein, high-fat, low-glycemic meal are improved mental clarity, increased energy, better appetite control, less sugar cravings, and optimal performance in the gym. This breakfast approach will stabilize energy levels and provide clarity of mind longer, without the low blood sugar crash that always follows a low-protein breakfast. Also, both protein and fat produce higher rates of satiety, and make you feel full longer than carbohydrates. To veganize this meal, all we have to do is get rid of the dead animal flesh, and add in some vegan protein alternative, such as scrambled tofu or a Field Roast sausage or 1 cup of lentils. We want roughly 20-30 grams of protein with this first meal. The lower number is for smaller individuals and the higher number is for larger individuals. The nuts in the equation can stay nuts of course, but other healthy fats work as substitutes, such as seeds, coconut, or avocado. So, with this actually humane alternative, the protein allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. The nuts provide a great source of healthy smart fats that allow the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time. Nuts and seeds also provide additional protein.
This first and most important meal sets up your entire neurotransmitter production for the rest of the day. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that dictate both your cognitive and physical function. For example, if you eat the traditional high-carb, low-protein breakfast of cereal, orange juice, and a banana, you'll trigger a large insulin spike and a quick increase in blood sugar levels. This in turn will elevate serotonin, which is relaxing, but because high-carb foods are high glycemic, these carbs either have to be burned as energy immediately, or they will be stored as body fat. This is not the desired result for most of us. This high-carb breakfast in turn leads to a swift drop in energy levels and a foggy sense of focus which is hard to recover from. This drop in blood sugar is also what causes cravings for high-sugar foods and stimulants shortly after. Protein, on the other hand, boosts dopamine and acetylcholine. These are the two neurotransmitters that give you drive and focus so you can take on the day ahead.
Three easy foods combine to make a powerful nutritional impact!
For example, a study in the journal Physiology and Behavior compared the effect of a breakfast with either a balanced (1 to 1) ratio of carbohydrates to protein, a high-protein (1 to 4) ratio, or a high-carb (4 to 1) ratio on cognitive performance and blood sugar maintenance for 3 hours after eating. Results showed that the high-protein meal produced much better cognitive performance compared to the other two meals, and the low-glycemic nature of the meal allowed for a longer, better sustained attention span in participants.
Here is a sample 7-day rotation of the veganized “meat” and nut breakfast. If your goal is fat loss, it goes without saying that you DO NOT ADD ANYTHING TO IT in terms of food or beverage.
Tea, coffee or herbal infusions are permissible. Non-dairy milk and juice or other liquids are not allowed.
• 1-2 Gardein Chick'n Scallopini patties
• 1 handful of macadamia nuts
• 1 cup Trader Joe's french lentils (precooked)
• 1 handful of cashew nuts
• 1 Field Roast or Tofurky sausage
• 1 handful of almonds
• 1-2 servings of tempeh bacon
• 1 handful of brazil nuts
• 2 servings refried beans
• ½ avocado
(wrapped in a romaine leaf)
• 1.5 servings Trader Joe's Beef-Less Strips
• 1 handful of walnuts
• Chocolate Chip Pecan Protein Cake (High Protein, High Fat, Low Carb)
One of the advantages of this rotating system is that it reduces the development of food sensitivities which are known to increase cortisol in people. If you eat soy- and wheat-based foods, make sure to switch them out occasionally for beans or a protein powder such as PlantFusion. If your goal is increased weight, you can add one serving of quality whole complex carbohydrate such as oatmeal, quinoa, sprouted bread, or fruit. Anyone can add leafy or cruciferous green vegetables as they please. You may have noticed that I didn't list any protein shakes as an option for breakfast. This is simply because shakes do not stay with you as long as solid food does. The gastric emptying rate of shakes is considerably faster than whole food, which means you will find yourself hungry in less time. Stick to solid food for your first meal to truly get the beneficial effects of this approach. Try this veganized “meat” and nut breakfast for 7 days and see how your focus and energy levels are affected. I truly believe this will be your new lifelong approach to the first meal of the day!
French Lentils with Raw Almonds and Pistachio Nuts
Fischer, K., Colombani, P.C., Langhans, W., Wenk, C. (2002 December). Carbohydrate to protein ratio in food and cognitive performance in the morning. Physiology & Behavior. 75 (2002), 411-423
Poliquin, C. (2011, June 24). The Meat and Nuts Breakfast of Champions. poliquingroup.com. Retrieved on 31 October 2013 from http://www.poliquingroup.com
Poliquin, C. (2012, Feb. 23). Wondering What Neurotransmitters Are? poliquingroup.com. Retrieved on 31 October 2013 from http://www.poliquingroup.com