Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Not necessarily. Especially if, like so many Americans, you choose a refined high carb breakfast.
“I don’t like eating a substantial breakfast. I’m just not very hungry in the morning. So I eat a small bowl of Goldfish crackers, or a Poptart.”
I kid you not. This is a direct quote from a weight loss forum that I sometimes visit.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Many traditional nutritionists will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that it’s better to eat something – anything – for breakfast, than eat nothing.
I completely disagree. Let’s not forget that these are usually the same nutritionists who advise eating 300 grams of “whole, complex” carbs per day, and choosing low fat food. Do we really want to listen to them?
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to eat something sugary for breakfast, you’re actually better off not eating breakfast at all. Starting your day with processed, sugary “food” will send your body into a tailspin. Your blood sugar will go up, insulin will go way up as a result (both conditions are very damaging to your body). The excess insulin will rapidly bring down your blood sugar (that is, if you’re lucky and not severely insulin resistant), and you’ll be hungry – ravenous – an hour after that unfortunate breakfast.
Insulin response to a meal is highest in the morning, so morning is NOT the time for something sweet.
It’s natural not to be hungry for breakfast
The circadian system regulates hunger and appetite and, for many people, causes a reduced sense of hunger in the mornings and a peak in the early evening. According to research, old civilizations did not eat breakfast – the Romans, for example, ate once a day in the early evening. It looks like breakfast first appeared in the 17th century. So obviously, our bodies are well adapted not to eat soon after we wake up.
If you think about it, this also makes sense in terms of earlier, pre-agricultural humans. It’s not like they had a fridge where they could keep leftovers and eat them first thing in the morning. They likely woke up, and started looking for food, hunting and gathering until the early afternoon, then setting up camp and preparing the food for an early evening feast.
Breakfast does NOT help with weight loss
A persistent myth says that breakfast helps “wake up your metabolism,” thus assisting with weight loss. Another myth claims that when you eat a hearty breakfast, you’ll be less likely to overeat at lunch and dinner.
Skipping breakfast is a form of intermittent fasting, which has health benefits
I’ll devote a separate article to intermittent fasting, but for now I’ll just say that eating in a smaller time window and prolonging the hours you are in a fasted state is thought to have several health benefits, including fat burning and weight loss, improved blood glucose, and healthier cells through the process of autophagy – self cleansing of the cells.
It’s easy to skip breakfast when you eat a low carb diet
In my high carb days, I NEEDED breakfast. If I waited too long before having breakfast, I would actually start shaking. Low blood sugar was causing this, and the low blood sugar was caused by my high carb consumption.
These days, I wake up and I’m FINE. I still like to eat breakfast, because I’m very active in the morning and it feels good to fuel myself, but I’m in no rush. I wake up at 7am, make lunches for the kids, straighten up the house, do a short workout. Around 8am I make myself a breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee with a splash of heavy cream. And then I’m fine until 2pm – no hunger!
My husband’s story is a great example of why you should not force yourself to eat breakfast
My husband used to be one of those people that were never hungry for breakfast. He used to grab a cup of coffee and head out for work. He had no trouble at all fasting until lunchtime.
Then we got married. Well meaning, I told him that he really needed to eat breakfast. So he started eating a bowl of cereal every morning for breakfast. A few years later, he became insulin resistant.
Sure, anecdotal story – but there IS a moral to this story: if you’re not hungry in the morning, just don’t eat!
The bottom line: eat breakfast if you’re hungry for it, skip it if you’re not
If you wake up hungry, by all means have breakfast – but make it low carb. Some people really do need to eat soon after they wake up. But if you’re not hungry when you wake up, and have no special medical conditions that require you to eat breakfast, then it’s fine to skip it.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Nope. It’s just another meal.