02 Oct Is Breakfast REALLY the Most Important Meal of the Day?
Is Breakfast REALLY the Most Important Meal of the Day?
We’ve all heard the familiar mantra: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”, but is it? Just like anything else nowadays, there’s a lot of conflicting information that can lead to confusion and feelings of frustration. Claiming a certain meal is “more important” than others, to begin with, is not very sensible and already gives way to misconceptions, so it’s worth researching.
In this article, we’ll investigate common beliefs around the importance of (or lack thereof) eating breakfast, so you’re able to make the best decision for YOU!
Common Belief 1: Eating Breakfast Kickstarts Your Metabolism
“Breakfast,” taken literally, means the meal that was eaten that breaks the fast (usually sleeping) of the night prior. Because your body is in a depleted state from your fast, upon waking, “eating sets a variety of biological processes associated with digesting and storing food into action, which results in increased energy expenditure known as diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT).”(4)
REALITY: Breakfast causes your metabolism to kick into gear simply by switching from a fasting state to a fed state, and “one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that contrary to popular belief, there was no metabolic increase after eating breakfast.” Comparatively, skipping breakfast doesn’t KILL your metabolism, rather it only decreases your resting metabolic rate minimally. (1)
Common Belief 2: Breakfast Gives You Energy Throughout the Day
As mentioned previously, eating more in the morning can result in increased energy expenditure, which often results in people moving more and being able to focus better. However, it’s important to note the quality of your breakfast DOES make a difference when it comes to energy.
A higher protein/fat, lower carb breakfast can increase energy expenditure because of the rate protein digests compared to carbs (read more here). Protein takes longer to digest, so your body is going to be fueled with sustained energy, longer. On the other hand, high-carb breakfasts do the opposite: they are burned more quickly, and the spikes in insulin with a subsequent drop in blood sugar 3-4 hours later decreases satiety, leaving you potentially feeling “hangry,” sleepy, and susceptible to making poor diet decisions to take the edge off.
REALITY: Different people have different responses when they eat breakfast. For some, eating breakfast revs their hunger engine for the rest of the day and they feel more satisfied when they have a calorically dense morning compared to skipping that meal. While, others feel at their best when they don’t eat first thing in the morning. Regardless, the quality of your breakfast does have an impact on your energy levels throughout the day, so stick with higher protein, lower carb options if you choose to eat in the morning.
Common Belief 3: Skipping Breakfast Makes You Overeat throughout the Day
A study indicated that skipping breakfast led to earlier and more substantial lunches. However, despite the increased calories during lunch, this didn’t lead to compensatory food intake later on, and breakfast skippers still had a calorie deficit compared to breakfast eaters (as backed by other earlier studies).
Also, the popularity of Intermittent Fasting has led to a new side of the breakfast debate. During the fast period between an early dinner and a breakfast—can be up to 18 hours—the digestive tract rests, and ketosis (a metabolic state in which the body cannibalizes its fat stores) is induced. That means, eating is restricted to around 6-8 hours per day, leading to a do-able form of fasting.
Eating breakfast might not be a necessity after all, and there are noticeable benefits of fasting: “Advocates of Intermittent Fasting say it reduces insulin resistance, combats inflammation, and even helps mood and memory because blood sugar is stabilized and the brain fuels itself with short chain fatty acids instead of glucose.” (2)
REALITY: Whether eating breakfast makes you hungry the rest of the day, leading you to feel ravenous and snack more as a result, or it leaves you satiated and empowered to make healthier decisions throughout the day, is specific to the individual. It’s best to listen to your body and do what’s right for you.
Common Belief 4: Eating Breakfast Aids with Weight Loss
A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated: “A recommendation to eat or skip breakfast for weight loss was effective at changing self-reported breakfast eating habits, but contrary to widely espoused views, this had no discernible effect on weight loss in free-living adults who were attempting to lose weight.”
REALITY: Eating breakfast CAN lead to increased activity, healthier eating choices, and more stable energy levels throughout the day, allowing for weight loss to occur. However, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Weight loss occurs as a result of a combination of overall healthy habits including food choices, exercise, sleep, etc., not simply specific meal timing such as eating first thing in the morning.
To Summarize, Should We Skip Breakfast?
Maybe. It depends.
Personal Preference and Food Quality – the Real Keys
Eating breakfast tends to help many people stick to healthier eating habits overall, but others perform and feel better when they skip breakfast while practicing a form of intermittent fasting. Everyone is unique, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone.
If you find skipping breakfast helps you with hunger and cravings, and you’re still able to get enough nutrients throughout the day, then more power to you! Quality and quantity of food (i.e. portion control) should be your main focus. Once you see results, then shifts in meal timing might be beneficial and worth considering. We wouldn’t suggest neither starting to eat nor skipping breakfast simply because someone said it’s “important”. Do your research and listen to your body!
What are your thoughts about eating breakfast?
-Health & Wellness Coach