Keep reading to see what an ideal breakfast based on your chronotype could look like for you, according to certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant and functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner Kelly Murray. (P.S. Unsure of which sleep animal best represents you? A chronotype quiz can point you in the right direction.)
The benefits of eating breakfast according to your chronotype
Murray begins by emphasizing the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, no matter your chronotype. “Skipping breakfast or eating the ‘wrong’ breakfast can cause blood sugar dysregulation,” she explains. But to take things a step further, aligning your morning meal according to your natural circadian rhythms can promote better blood sugar regulation—and thus more daytime energy and even a better night’s rest.
“Eating a chronotype-specific breakfast will help to stabilize your blood sugar and encourage a healthy cortisol awakening response,” Murray continues. The right breakfast can help cortisol stay elevated in the morning, which can promote greater productivity and liveliness throughout the day. However, starting off the day without a quality breakfast can lead to blood sugar imbalances that can also wind up messing with your sleep quality. “If you experience blood sugar dips at night, your body will release cortisol to bring your blood sugar back to normal.” However, since cortisol helps to keep us alert, evening spikes will stand in the way of catching restful ZZZ’s. “To sleep well, you want your cortisol to rise in the morning, fall throughout the day, and bottom out at night,” she clarifies.
Chronotype breakfast tips
Lions are up and at ‘em as soon as they wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Since they rise and shine with loads of energy, Murray says they may choose to exercise before anything else and wait until mid-morning to eat breakfast. However, she recommends flipping things around to keep their momentum going strong later in the day. “If their goal is sustained energy, they should push their exercise routine to the afternoon,” she explains. “Instead of moving their bodies [first thing], lions should eat a protein-focused breakfast within 30 minutes of waking to help slow them down a bit to encourage more stable energy levels throughout the day.” Murray suggested a sample plate for lions could look like a few eggs, cheese, and sauteed spinach. (Note: Two eggs alone will only offer around 12 grams of protein in total, and experts advise aiming for somewhere around 30 grams of protein for breakfast.)
According to Murray, bears are prone to eating a sugar-forward breakfast, which can work against them in a few ways. “This will lead to daytime fatigue as sugar and carbs trigger the production of serotonin, which then suppresses cortisol,” she notes. “Additionally, the sugar may spike their blood sugar levels resulting in a crash a couple of hours later.”
If you fancy something like a cinnamon bun or stack of syrupy pancakes as your go-to morning meal, Murray suggests prioritizing something more protein-forward instead, such as full-fat yogurt or turkey breakfast sausage. Otherwise, bears can clock in around 30 grams of protein at breakfast by whipping up a three-egg omelet with an ounce of cheese—all the while getting their carb fix (plus extra protein and satiating fiber) with two slices of whole wheat toast.
If you’re a “no talkie before coffee” kind of person, there’s a good chance you’re a wolf who enjoys a cup of java before doing—or eating—anything else. As a coffee-crazed wolf myself, I’m guilty on both fronts… yet it looks like this morning standard isn’t exactly ideal. “Since wolves have such low energy levels in the morning, they tend to rely heavily on coffee to boost energy and forgo eating. But consuming large amounts of coffee on an empty stomach will only make them jittery,” Murray explains.
Instead, Murray recommends that wolves start off with a large glass of H2O. “Hydration will trigger digestion and increase their core temperature, raising cortisol levels and making them feel more energized,” she continues. “Follow up with a balanced breakfast that doesn’t require a lot of preparation, such as hard-boiled eggs or a protein shake with berries.” As for the best time to sip on their beloved coffee? “They should wait about two hours later when their energy levels naturally fall,” she shares.
Similar to bears, dolphins may gravitate towards a sugary breakfast. Yet Murray says that they may specifically reach for the likes of cereal or bagels in response to feeling drained from a lack of sleep, hoping to get a quick source of fuel. “The carbs may make them feel good temporarily as it increases the production of serotonin. However, the production of serotonin then causes cortisol levels to fall, leaving them feeling even more exhausted,” she explains. Although building a balanced plate for breakfast is beneficial for all, dolphins should especially heed this tip to help keep them nourished and alert throughout the day. “Eating a balanced breakfast containing protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will help stabilize their blood sugar and their energy,” Murray shares. She recommends that dolphins prepare an omelet with lots of veggies and a side of oatmeal with nuts or fruit to start the day off on the right foot and ultimately support sustained energy in the daytime and greater relaxation come nightfall.