Food and Nutrition

Why a Dietitian Says a Morning Walk Will Boost Your Digestion and Up Your Energy Levels All Day

Allie Flinn

Photo: Stocksy/Juno
For some folks, waking up in the morning is a scene that could be straight out of a Disney movie: eyes bright, tail bushy, eager to nourish their body with bowl of oatmeal prepared by adorable (and germ-free) woodland creatures. To quote SNL's Ms. Rafferty, "Yeah, a little different for me." Shout out to all my people who wake up stiff, sleepy, and without an appetite for anything save for coffee and bad reality television.

That being said, the importance of eating a nutrient-rich breakfast is well-established, and unfortunately a giant cup of cold brew and last night's episode of Bachelor in Paradise doesn't cut it. That's where a recent Instagram post from Bryanna Peace, RD, the registered dietitian behind Golden Guts Nutrition, can help.

In the post, Peace says that going for a short morning walk can help wake up your digestive system—a godsend for those who don't have an appetite in the morning. According to Peace, walking stimulates peristalsis, AKA the "wavelike movements of intestinal muscles." These movements engage your digestive system and increase your appetite, she explains. So not only do you signal to your body that it's time to eat and pave the way for an energy-boosting breakfast, you also get outside and moving, both of which also help boost your energy.

Gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD, confirms that this strategy is effective, and adds that light exercise can help you digest—and, well, poop—after your meal as well."Walking and exercise contract the abdominal muscles, but sitting around for long periods does not," he previously told Well+Good. "Just a simple walk will contract your belly muscles and help push out gas and stool and keep you regular. Once you are regular gas and bloating will subside."

RD recs for post-morning walk breakfasts for those without an A.M. appetite

Now that you know how to wake up your digestive system, let's talk breakfast benefits. For starters, studies have shown that eating breakfast can improve cognitive performance and help with focus. Breakfast also gives your brain and body the fuel they need for energy. The caveat, however, is that you'll reap the most benefits who you choose nutrient-rich foods...and it feels a *bit* much to suggest that anyone without an appetite in the morning go straight for the smoked-salmon-and-raw-onion-topped avocado toast platter. So, what do the dietitians recommend to folks who only feel like eating Fruit Loops?

"In all honesty, no one can say that eating any one breakfast will immediately make you feel great; however there are nutrients that over time are important for our mental health," Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet, previously told Well+Good. "What we can probably say is that if you are a little 'blah' and tired, perhaps the right breakfast can give you a little boost of energy to start your day." Protein and fiber are the key nutrients to target in the morning, and if you can squeeze in some healthy fats, even better. Examples might include some combination of eggs, oats, fruit, nut butter, and/or whole wheat toast.

For more precise brekkie inspiration, Peace shared a few of her go-to dishes in her post, listed below:

1. Fried eggs (using EVOO) over greens with a few chips and guac and pan-seared tomatoes.

2. Leftover steak and veggie frittata. While she notes that she doesn't recommend red meat every day, it is a great source of iron and protein.

3. Greek yogurt and fruit. She recommends berries for fiber, and either crushed nuts or granola with nuts for satiating fats.

4. Savory oatmeal. "Think cooked collard greens, chopped cherry tomatoes, an egg, and some cheese. Bonus points for paprika and/or chili powder," she says.

5. Peanut butter toast. "Use some hearty bread like sprouted grain, whole wheat, or that bread your neighbor made for you," she says. Top it with peanut butter and "any fruit that tickles your fancy."

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