The ADHD Breakfast

The ADHD BreakfastI know you have heard of it before, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day when you have ADHD. It’s vital that the first meal of the day has some good quality protein in it as that is the best fuel available for your ADHD brain to be able to function at its best all day long.

It’s easier to implement advice when know the reasons behind it, particular if it’s advice that you have heard of a million times. So here is what happens behind the scenes.

To protect our brains from bacterial infections and other nasties, there is a barrier called the blood-brain barrier. This barrier is very strict in what it allows to pass from the cells of the rest of our bodies into the brain area. It’s like the VIP area in a club.

When you eat protein, it is turned into amino acids and that, in turn, is made into neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that allow you to focus and concentrate, feel sleepy or be motivated.

Amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine use the same pathway to cross the blood-brain barrier; but there is a ‘first-come, first-served’ rule because they can’t both use the pathway at the same time.

A high-carb meal increases the tryptophan levels and so, serotonin is produced. The result is, you feel sleepy; so eating this type of meal is good in the evenings. In contrast, a meal with protein increases tyrosine levels, so norepinephrine and dopamine are produced. Consequently, you feel alert, energized and ready to focus; so this type of meal is good in the morning.

The reason why breakfast in particular is so good is that we have been fasting for 8 or so hours, and our brain hasn’t received any nutrients during that time. So it’s particularly responsive to that first meal.

If you don’t like typical breakfast foods: eggs, protein powder, etc., make a mental shift and see it as a meal with no rules. This gives you permission to eat any healthy protein, such as chicken left-overs or a tin of tuna…

If you don’t usually have time to eat breakfast, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. You will have a more productive day by eating breakfast than having those 15 minutes to sleep.

Experiment with your breakfasts and find which foods allow you to function best.

What’s your favorite breakfast? leave a note for me in the comments section!



PS. The photo with this article is one of my favorite protein-rich breakfasts: Scrambled eggs with a little bacon and a lot of mushrooms, red peppers and tomatoes.

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  1. M says:

    Finally found a place that “speaks” to me, thanks from the bottom of my heart! Diagnosed at 74 years young 🙂

    • Hi M!! we are happy you found us all here too!!! Welcome! The good news about ADHD is that it keeps you young. So you biological age might be 74, but I bet people mistake you all the time for a 54 year old 🙂

  2. Thank you for explaining the reason why an ADDer needs to eat protein, especially for breakfast. It does make a difference to know the reason.

  3. I understand about the mid morning crash, a hard boiled egg, bagel, glass of collagen and gekatin along with strong coffee is not enough as I swim often. What I find works is; half an avocado or left over dinner that is usually chicken onto a toasted tortilla with cilantro holds me til mid afternoon and then swim and home to tea and good biscuits with a nap and later dinner that is light but full of greens. I don’t take meds. Resting everyday and routines really help!

  4. Steph Gobler says:

    I’ve started doing a pretty easy, simple breakfast that has been satisfying and worked well to energize me for the day.
    I boil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week to make it easy to and grab one or two, a piece of multigrain toast, and some dried apricots every morning. I usually don’t eat it until I get to work around 8:30 or so to avoid getting hungry too soon – if I do eat before then, I save the dried apricots for a mid-morning snack.
    That along w/ some green tea seems to have been a pretty good success so far!

  5. Kerryanne says:

    Some great advice there!
    I always have breakfast mostly due to medication as I suffer from gut issues and severe heartburn which is worsened by taking meds without food.
    I try to cut carbs for prediabetes but it also helps me overall. I find my symptoms of gut issues and ADHD are easier when I have bacon and eggs fried in ghee every morning compared to anything else (protein shakes included). It is time consuming but I always give myself 2 hours before I leave the house; then I can enjoy my morning and not feel rushed. I am a heavy sleeper so it is not unusual for me to sleep 9 hours at night, if anything waking up and getting motivated is my problem.
    I prepare everything for my day the night before, what I will eat, what I will wear, when I am leaving, time I’m getting up. Everything! That way I am stress free in the morning and I sleep better.

  6. Tesfay says:

    Thank you so much Jacque. I was fasting this month. I mean I was eating only bread and tea. But I can’t afford that as an ADHDer. It has been so difficult for me to get tasks done in the office. So, I will break the fast and will eat egg and meat as my bf.

  7. Penny says:

    I like the Kitchari recipe, made with mung dal, basmati rice and Indian spices.
    Nice comfort food for cold mornings.

  8. Another option for those of us who don’t focus well, is cook ahead of time & freeze/refrigerate.
    An easy protein packed breakfast/snack:

    You need:
    Muffin tin
    Cooking spray

    12 eggs
    Shredded cheese
    Your favorite add-ins: spinach leaves, chopped onions, chopped peppers, minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, bacon pieces, sausage pieces, anything you like.

    *Preheat oven to 350* F
    *Spray the inside of your muffin tin with cooking spray.
    *Add 1 egg to each hole. You can scramble if you like, but not necessary.
    *Add you add-ins
    *Top with cheese
    *Cook 12-18 minutes. Make sure egg is done & cheese is melted.
    *Let cool
    *Put each one in a zipper bag & store in an airtight container

    (I find it helpful to put a dry erase board on my freezer/refrigerator with a list of meals that are in it, as well as ingredients that will spoil quickly. If I can’t see something, I forget about it. )

  9. Anne Stormfield says:

    Dear Jacqueline,

    My mornings are always a big chaos. It doesn’t matter how early I get up, at the end I always end up running out of time. So then I need to rush to both make my breakfast and lunch, and eat my breakfast. The moment I wake up and I think of my breakfast, I already feel sick. I’m never hungry in the morning. Next to that I need to take my medicine, but I figured out early already to take that after breakfast. My breakfast most of the time consists of a slice of bread with Nutella, or so. Most of the time I take my medicine before making lunch, but then I can’t stand the smell of bread. What should I do about my breakfast?

    • Hi Anne!

      Sorry to hear your mornings are such a rush. Here are a few suggestions.

      1) Do has much as you can the night before, including making your lunch.
      2) Write a checklist of all the things you need to in the morning,and then follow that checklist every day.
      3) Set a timer at regular intervals, perhaps every 15 minutes (some people prefer every 10 or every 5 mins) and that timer helps you do keep moving through your check list and not spend too long on any one task.
      4) Its a good idea to eat something when you take your ADHD meds, so good job doing that even though you aren’t a breakfast person!
      Protein for breakfast is the best option for your ADHD brain. Experiment with a few options till you find your favourite and the one that is easier to tolerate.
      Eggs, you can cook them ahead of time if you are in a hurry. Here is a recipe to try. At the weekend you could make a batch for the week.

      a protein smoothie..just pop some frozen fruit and some protein powder into a blender with a little water into a blender and you have a drink that is so tasty its like a desert!

      Hope these suggestions help. Let me know how you get on!!

  10. Hi Jacqui,

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! I am working hard on to getting my symptoms work for me not against me. I agree that breakfast is the most important meal if we want a productive day. Love eggs, a dash of bacon bits, tons of tomatoes and pepper will make me a happy camper! 🙂
    Onwards and upwards! Love Hazel

    • Hi Hazel!
      Breakfast is a brilliant way to get your ADHD symptoms to work for you and not against you!!
      Your breakfast sounds yummy.

  11. Great article Jacqueline! Breakfast is crucial with helping start our day. I work with parents of kids with behavioral issues, most commonly presenting with ADHD symptoms. This is one of the first things I target is helping parents identify breakfasts that will help their children and prevent “crashing” mid-morning. This mid-morning “crash” many times produces many of the symptoms of ADHD. Teachers see these symptoms and start talking to parents about their child as possibly having ADHD. I experienced this personally with my own son and saw how the world of difference a good breakfast improved his behavior and mood. Thanks again for the article and bringing attention to this. Jayme

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