“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” says everyone and their dog with confidence. But is it, and if so why? What if you hate eating breakfast? Is it worth force feeding yourself? Here are some of the important facts:
Studies suggest that neither eating nor skipping breakfast is better for weight loss. Generally people who eat breakfast will burn more calories throughout the day. People who skip will burn less. It turns out that breakfast-eaters are unintentionally moving more. In the end it basically evens out in terms of caloric balance and weight loss. (1)(2)(3)(4)
Personally, I’d rather be in the “eat more move more” group, in the hopes of doing more with my tragically short time on this earth. #meta. Interestingly, there is also some evidence suggesting that you’ll be a little sharper mentally if you eat breakfast:
Eating breakfast may improve cognitive performance for a few hours after. (5)(9) However, this effect seems to be larger in children (especially malnourished children(6)) and fairly small in adults(7)(12). While there are many studies supporting this, other studies have been critical of the methods used so far and have pointed out mixed results(8). So take it with a grain of salt. Unless you have diabetes and you’re supposed to be monitoring your sodium intake or something. Speaking of diabetes (wow, such segway) :
Skipping breakfast is associated with higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes (10) :
This remains true after correcting for other risk factors such as obesity (11). Again, there isn’t perfect consensus in the literature about this (surprise!). If you didn’t know though, diabetes is bad. I’m not a doctor or anything, but if you’re concerned about it, maybe just eat your breakfast.
What about Intermittent Fasting??
I actually recommend Intermittent Fasting to a lot of my clients, (here’s an article I wrote on it) just because it’s a simple way to cut calories, and a lot of people need simple or it’s just not gonna happen.
“But won’t fasting cause all the same issues as skipping breakfast?” Interestingly, the available literature seems to show the opposite (12)(13)(14). Intermittent Fasting probably improves risk factors for diabetes, but most studies agree that more research needs to be done on the topic, and concerns about blood sugar regulation during the fast are not unreasonable. To be safe, I would recommend the following if you’re worried about blood sugar issues:
- Try losing weight via normal caloric restriction first. If you have a hard time with that, talk to your doctor about Intermittent Fasting.
- If you do try it, don’t skip breakfast. Eat a good breakfast within an hour or so of waking, fast for 12 hours and then eat a good dinner.
- Feel free to try a “Fasting Mimicking Diet.” It’s like Intermittent Fasting but you can consume a few small, healthy snacks during your fasting period, like kale chips or something. This may help regulate blood sugar throughout the day. (12)
So is breakfast important?
In my opinion, it probably is for most people. It’s likely to help you feel more energetic throughout the day, give you a little cognitive boost and avoid possible associated risks for type 2 diabetes.
As always, I hope this was helpful! Please share with someone who needs to eat their breakfast 🙂