OOPS! Maybe Breakfast ISN’T That Important

photo: stack.com

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so we have been indoctrinated to believe since early childhood. It’s not just our mothers who pressed us to put some morsels in our mouths; they had the generous help of cereal manufacturers who have been pounding on the “healthy equals breakfast equals cereal” message for decades.

And, as adults, the message includes weight loss, something along the lines of: People who eat breakfast can better maintain weight or lose it. The logic is simple. If you skip breakfast you will be so hungry a few hours later that you will surely overeat.

But, maybe you or someone you know isn’t much of a breakfast person. Is the only thing your mouth meets before noon a toothbrush? If you’ve been living in shame of your unhealthy habit, here’s some news that will cheer you up:

According to a new article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the notion that breakfast can help in weight management is grounded in little scientific evidence. A great breakdown on the subject appeared recently in the New York Times.

While we’re at it, celebrity tips like “Don’t eat anything after 7pm” have no serious evidence or scientific grounding either.

So what should I do?

Mostly, just listen to your body’s rhythm and eat accordingly. For some people this means breakfast is the largest and most important meal of the day. For others, it’s a small 10am snack, light lunch, and big dinner. The options are endless. Just make sure that when you are hungry, there are healthy options easily available to you.

Are you a breakfast skipper? How has that been working out for your weight?

  • Lisa Bluford

    What a relief! I’ve been trying to force myself to eat breakfast for decades. Decades! It just isn’t going to happen, and now I can stop feeling guilty:)

  • Jess

    I’m a coffee-for-breakfast, light lunch, big dinner, late-night-snacker and my weight (and health) are just fine :) Yay for busting those myths!

    • Trey Bandemir

      Keep getting older and become less active…it’s all relative. Nothing was busted here.

    • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

      I’m the same way! I tried to follow the advice that you shouldn’t eat after 7 once, but it never worked. I think my body is on the opposite schedule.

      • Lisa

        I love a bigger breakfast, and I do eat regularly, but I can’t go for that 7 pm rule. Once in awhile I’ll make it, but I’m usually finished dinner by 8. And guess what? I’m fine! I work out hard daily, so it’s not even a case of lucky metabolism.

  • The Lone Marmot

    I suspect part of the old encouragement to eat breakfast was that in the old days there was more uncertainty as to when the next meal might be available combined with the difficulties of storing food.

    Curiously though, I think this is still valid today. If one prepares one’s own breakfast, there is control over what is consumed – good or bad. But, finding oneself hungry and under time pressure later in the day may lead to poor choices for the sack of convenience and availability.

    Thus, I think eating breakfast is, after all, probably a good plan.

  • wondering mind

    I read an article somewhere recently that talked about a study done on men who skipped breakfast having higher instances of heart disease, was that study inaccurate?

    • Trey Bandemir

      Probably not, this article is fool (yes I said fool) of flaws.

  • Trey Bandemir

    This is really dumb…if you eat a meal filled with healthy fats, complex carbs, and a healthy serving of protein in the morning within the first 30 mins of waking up, you increase your metabolism’s health three fold, encouraging fat loss and cellular function.

    You should force breakfast on you if your wake up time is a reasonable time after your initial sleep time. Don’t wake up after a 6-8 hour rest and decide you aren’t hungry so you go 2 hours without eating…want something ground breaking?

    Mix bodybuilding into this equation and try skipping breakfast..your gains will SUCK and you will lose muscle mass and fat because of the increased caloric need per hour not being fulfilled. Obviously stagnant individuals can get away with this more which is the majority of our country…perhaps this is why the research is crappy.

    • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

      Luckily, we are not all body builders and don’t have the same energy requirements. If I loaded up on breakfast, even if it was filled with healthy fats and complex carbs, it would come right back out during my morning session of cardio or yoga. I’d rather just listen to my body and not fill it with food it didn’t want in the first place.
      It sounds like you’ve found something that works for you. That’s great, but it doesn’t mean it works for every other person.

      • Trey Bandemir

        I’m sorry, when I was typing this up, I used body building as an example but not the reason to eat breakfast. Do what you must but in my studying and experience of different body types and athletic styles, it has been mostly detrimental and depriving for long term exposure to exercise in the morning without amino acids, water, and at least a small amount of food source.

        Yoga is very different indeed as you aren’t burning calories the same way and it is a lot of detox and release of tension and realignment. If you were to run, which is typically a 70% carb 30% fat burning ratio, those 70% carbs can potentially come out of your muscles,

        Just because our bodies adapt to these conditions doesn’t make it appropriate for the body; while this may seem subjective it is not. Lack of gut stimuli therefore food intake after your major sleep cycle is depriving of balance in the inverse way of over eating or too much nutrient intake.

        I experience a lot of older yoga practitioners who are extremely healthy on blood-work over the years and in their most vibrant self, lose muscle tone after 5-10 years of depriving adequate food amounts and at the wrong time. There is no proper science to this which is why it is subjective to each their own experiences.

        Key point-even if it is just supplemental amino acids maybe in lemon water, a puree smoothie blend, to a biscuit, to a full fledged traditional breakfast, it is imbalanced to regularly deprive upon wake.

        Btw my breakfast is either a nutribullet fruit blended with Garden of Life-Raw Meal combined with a few amino acid powders or a simple builder cliff bar, far from the traditional body-builder-type breakfast.

        As you said with me, if it works and you do not experience these problems at any point in your life, congratulations, there is a mind over matter aspect i’m sure to all of this.

        • Jason Harrison

          Trey, you appear to have many opinions, possibly based on “facts” that you can point to. However your anecdotes are biased. Yes you have lots of wiggle words.

          Try looking up intermittent fasting.

          • Trey Bandemir

            The only reason I started commenting is because this article can be detrimental to a person’s health when they decide it justifies them not eating breakfast. I personally do not want to see this article affect younger teens to elders alike in a negative manner.

            The problem with this research study is it is biased and has too many variables not addressed. Not eating breakfast will reduce cognitive function throughout the day, unrecoverable sometimes till sleep and reset; your perceived self is the last person to notice this malfunction if you know anything about neurology. Just on the effect to the brain can cause a depression of the entire body and its endocrine system. We can adjust our hormones, emotions, skeletal, and organ health all from eating and at the right times. A person’s biological clock isn’t always right so listening to our bodies is kind of convoluted and speculative but we live it.

            The brain needs on average at least 160g of converted sugar from macro-nutrients each day to function and skimping on that will decrease functions on a subtle to large level based on the individual and the other variables that coincide.

            Lastly, I already addressed fasting being okay and it was not a part of my write up so ?intermittent fasting? I don’t know why you felt the need to bring this up…it’s healthy to give the digestive system a break and consume chelation compounds and gels formed from flax/ect that will pull bad stuff off the lining of our gut.

            People are far to quick to make assumptions about one’s character based off of how they feel from the critical feedback provided. I’m not some 18 year old regurgitating false information from a GNC clerk selling me a muscle milk jug claiming it will keep me in good health when in fact it’s poison.

            Goodluck everybody with whatever you decide.

          • Lisa

            I’m curious, what do you mean by 160 g of converted sugar from macronutrients? Are you talking 160 from carbs or all sources?

          • Trey Bandemir

            Because the body will convert any macro-nutrient into sugar if it needs to. You don’t have to load up on 160g carbs to fulfill your basic brain needs even though what it will ultimately use is sugar in a simplistic sense regardless. So you can have eggs and bacon and you brain will still have a need of sugar out of those ingredients.

          • Trey Bandemir

            Here is a well presented write up on this actually. It’s not that it’s okay to neglect carbs but it isn’t the do or die ingredient to keep your mind vibrant at least. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201104/your-brain-ketones

          • Lisa

            Thanks for both replies! I’m of the low-carb camp, though I hate to call it that, because to me it’s just regular eating.

          • Trey Bandemir

            You’re very welcome! Low carb is likely healthier for most people that do not deplete their sugars each day.

          • Lisa

            I should say lowER, since I don’t fuel on carbs, but am active daily, whether it’s a formal workout or not. I bump up my intake when I need to, but I run pretty well on fat/ketones too :)

    • Jason Harrison

      Any eating, at any time, will increase your metabolism.
      You can easily eat more calories than you can use with exercise. While you can eat high fibre, low calorie food, it is very easy to eat more than you can burn leading to weight maintenance or gain.

      The article cited is only examining the published evidence for the hypothesis that “eating breakfast will help lower your obesity” the bias used when the published articles are cited. Evidence for the hypothesis is very weak, and authors tend to exaggerate the very weak (positive) effect.

      Off the topic of obesity, eating breakfast may have other benefits not addressed by this publication. Cognitive function. Emotional regulation. Etc.

  • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

    I’ve never been a breakfast person. I’m not hungry in the mornings so I usually just have a cup of tea and maybe some eggs on the weekend. Forcing myself to eat when I’m not hungry isn’t a habit I want to pick up. My health and weight are great.

    I agree that everyone’s body had a slightly different rhythm that they need to learn how to take care of. Even in these studies, the findings aren’t true for 100% of the participants.

  • LG

    “Mostly, just listen to your body’s rhythm and eat accordingly. ”
    This is the most sensible sentence I’ve read in a long time. In the noise of fads and free-advice, we have simply stopped listening to our body.
    Maintaining a reasonably consistent routine in tune with the body’s needs is extremely important. I am invariably very hungry around 10 at night and eat a fruit or sometimes, a small piece of cake before bed time, much against the advice of health-”experts” who claimed main years ago that I would be obese by the time I am forty. Apart from the psychedelic dreams that I sometimes get when I eat high-carb stuff before bedtime, I’ve remained at the same weight (+/- 1 kg depending on my menstrual cycle) for the past 15 years (I am 41 now). My grandmother, who has never had touched food until noon everyday for the past 85 years, has never been unhealthy (touch wood) or overweight yet.
    It is important that we eat healthy, and I think we know what is healthy instinctively – call it self-preservation. It is really freaky to listen to other people rather than your own body on what your body needs.

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Yes!!! I couldn’t agree with you more. There is no one size fits all! I do not eat breakfast and it works perfectly fine for me! Do what feels best for you! That’s the best advice anyone could give!

  • Carol H

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but one of the main sensible reasons for not eating a big dinner is that you are at higher risk of ulcers if you go to bed (or get horizontal on the couch) with too much food being processed in your GI tract.