Written and Medically Reviewed by Dr Babar Shahzad, BSc and MBBS on January 20, 2020.
It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Eating good, well-balanced breakfast is associated with a healthy lifestyle. But a lot of people aren’t big breakfast lovers. Some because they just don’t feel hungry after waking up, some because mornings are just a pain in the ass and including breakfast-making is simply too challenging.
So what’s the actual deal with (not) eating breakfast? And how can not eating breakfast benefit your weight and metabolism?
Read on to find out.
So is eating breakfast really THAT important?
A new study suggests that skipping breakfast may not be as bad for you as commonly believed.
Researchers enrolled healthy kids, ages 8 to 10, and repeatedly measured attention, impulsiveness, memory, verbal learning, and speed of processing information. For each of these measures, the kids did no better (or worse) on the days they ate breakfast compared to the days they didn’t.
On the other hand, several past studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of eating breakfast on the academic performance, behavior, and psychological function of kids. But most of these studies were short-term, small, and therefore not definitive. In fact, some of the largest and best studies showed no impact.
How does (not) eating breakfast impact your weight?
It might seem counterintuitive that skipping a meal might lead to weight gain, but that’s just what a widely quoted 2007 study suggested: people who choose to skip breakfast tend to be overweight or obese significantly more often than those who eat breakfast.
However, such studies have been criticized because of the real possibility that factors other than breakfast habit are usually responsible for the higher rates of obesity among breakfast skippers.
Supporting this concern is a recent study finding that people who eat breakfast are more health-conscious and exercise more regularly. While one of the largest studies to date found that eating breakfast had no consistent effect on rates of obesity or being overweight, a 2013 research found that adults who skipped breakfast actually consumed fewer calories by the end of the day.
That means skipping breakfast won’t make you unhealthy. It can mean otherwise – it will help you lose weight because not having the first meal of the day doesn’t mean your second meal will be twice as big.
“The most important meal of the day” might not be THAT important after all.
How can you use breakfast skipping habit for your benefit?
Have you ever heard about intermittent fasting? It’s a type of diet in which people cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not specify the foods that are allowed during the eating window, though for those, who are specifically interested in losing weight it is recommended to keep an eye on the food they consume on their eating window.
A plethora of intermittent fasting studies suggest that extending the overnight fast is indeed associated with weight loss, but also more importantly, with improved metabolism. Overnight fasting of at least 16 hours (which really isn’t that extended) allows blood sugar and insulin levels to decrease, so that fat stores can be used for energy. This makes physiologic and logical sense: Our bodies can’t burn fat if we keep filling it with fuel. The idea that having a meal first thing in the morning revs up the metabolism isn’t based in reality.
So if you are comfortable with having your first meal of the day at lunchtime, you will have no problem following the intermittent fasting plan. Have you’re last meal at 8-9 pm, avoid late-night snacking and you’ll see what amazing results it can bring you!
Intermittent fasting also slows down the aging process, benefits your skin, reduces inflammation and risk of diabetes, improves resistance to oxidative stress, improves brain health and last but not least, helps to lose weight.
So what’s the conclusion?
Having said all this, those who enjoy having breakfast should keep doing it. Those who naturally don’t feel hungry in the mornings and feel like they have enough energy to start the day shouldn’t worry about changing their morning eating habits too much. Contrary to popular beliefs, this habit can even be used for the benefit of one’s health.
Our advice to you? Whatever your preferred schedule is, try to stretch out the time between meals, and give your body a chance to burn fat. Your metabolism will thank you!