The Science of Breakfast: Is It the Most Important Meal of the Day?
For years we've been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is that fact or myth? Do breakfast-eaters really have an advantage over breakfast-skippers when it comes to dieting and weight loss?
Let's find out!
Eating breakfast may prevent you from overeating later in the day
Skipping breakfast may lead to you consuming fewer calories, especially from "healthy" breakfast cereals.
Whether eating or skipping breakfast, find the strategy that best fits your lifestyle and preferences, while still advancing your health goals.
Supporters of the benefits of breakfast and cereal companies will tell you that after a full night of "fasting", you need to fuel your body for the day and provide it with essential nutrients or risk stuffing yourself with junk food by lunchtime.
On the other side of the camp, breakfast-skippers will tell you that by skipping breakfast, you eat 1 less meal, consume fewer calories, and therefore you lose weight. Simple math.
So who is right?
Like most things, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Humans are all different, with different habits, different hormone levels, different diet preferences, different sleeping patterns, different eating schedules, the list goes on.
So let's look at some of the benefits of both eating AND skipping breakfast, and how to determine which one best suits your lifestyle and goals.
Benefits of Eating Breakfast
There is some truth that breakfast helps to fuel your body in the morning, giving it the fuel that it needs after 8-10 hours of fasting. This may prevent overeating during lunch as you reduce the risk of gorging yourself as a result of stretching your fast another 4 hours or so since your last meal.
It may also prevent unhealthy snacking just before lunchtime as your body starts craving for food.
If you had a particularly long night and had insufficient sleep, chances are also high that you'll crave for food high in sugar and calories during the day. Having a hearty breakfast immediately after waking up could help offset some of those cravings.
If you plan to get a workout in before work, having breakfast is also generally a good idea as it helps to fuel your workout and enable you to push yourself more.
If you are an athlete or serious fitness enthusiast, and counting macros is a norm for you. Having breakfast could be an added opportunity for you to meet your macros without having to overstuff yourself during lunch and dinner.
Benefits of Skipping Breakfast
On the flip side, skipping breakfast may have their own benefits as well. For one, most breakfast cereals that are marketed to you as healthy are usually high in sugar and not that much healthier than their "unhealthy" counterparts. So skipping breakfast may result in lower calorie consumption.
Depending on your culture and background, your traditional breakfast options may also not be very beneficial to your health and fitness goals.
In some cases, working out in a "fasted state" could be beneficial in your weight loss program to lose fat faster. Which would mean skipping breakfast until your first workout of the day. However, that should only be undertaken under the guidance of a qualified coach.
Collect Data and Experiment
In summary, depending on where you fall on the spectrum, eating or skipping breakfast may have different pros and cons for you.
If you are someone who frequently skips breakfast, generally don't feel very hungry in the morning, and is able to avoid overeating at lunch, then that works for you and you probably don't have to change a thing.
If you are a breakfast-skipper that often binge eat at lunch and dinner because you feel deprived of food in the morning, or skipping breakfast makes you irritable, it might be time for you to have an alternate mealtime strategy.
If you're unsure, try it out and collect data on yourself!
Try both strategies and record how you feel, how you eat, and how you perform throughout the day, and come to a conclusion that best fits your lifestyle.