Skipping breakfast

By Jill Levy

We’ve all heard it before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” For decades, health authorities have linked a solid, healthy breakfast with better overall health and healthy weight management.

So is skipping breakfast bad then? Some would argue that regularly eating breakfast can help kick-start your metabolism after you’ve been “fasting” (and sleeping) all night. It’s also touted as a way to help reduce hunger, and make it more likely that you’ll eat less and stick to a healthy meal plan later in the day. 

However lately, the trend of intermittent fasting — typically eating an early dinner, and then not having a meal until after noon the next day; in other words, skipping breakfast! — has taken off. This trend has confused many people about what may be best for their health. Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional before starting any new dietary or lifestyle regimen

The truth is, there are both potential pros and cons of skipping breakfast, depending on the person and situation. Let’s look closer at the benefits and drawbacks of breakfast versus no breakfast below.

Benefits of Skipping Breakfast 

While a solid breakfast helps some people keep their energy up, hunger in check and overall outlook balanced, it might not be the answer for everyone. 

Skipping breakfast as a method of intermittent fasting can offer some of the following benefits:

1. Can Help Keep Calorie Intake In Check

If you skip one of your main meals, chances are you’ll consume less calories overall that day, assuming you don’t eat loads of highly processed foods later on. If you’re someone who doesn’t require breakfast to get the day started, you might be better off saving those calories for later on.

2. May Help With Healthy Weight Management

Because intermittent fasting/skipping your morning meal is one way of lowering your overall calorie intake, this method may help support a healthy weight and might even have an advantage when it comes to overall healthy weight management. 

Some fasters find that intermittent fasting is a simple step for healthy weight management without being too hungry or deprived, since it isn’t actually a diet and doesn’t require giving up any particular foods.

That being said, the quality of the food in one’s diet is overall most important, even more than just skipping breakfast alone.

Reasons to Have Breakfast 

While fasting/skipping breakfast has its advantages, it isn’t for everyone. For some, a big-breakfast approach works best, such as among those who like to exercise in the morning and need to refuel with a healthy breakfast afterward. 

If you’re a “morning person” and someone who loves waking up for breakfast, chances are you can’t imagine being any other way. And if that’s the case, you’re in good company because there’s plenty of research that’s found breakfast, especially when your breakfast provides enough protein and fiber, can be beneficial and the best time of day for a big meal.

Here are some reasons to consider having breakfast, at least on most or some days:

1. Might Help You to Not Overeat Later in the Day

Overall, experts think when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition, it really depends what and how much you eat, more so than the timing.

Feel like you’re not very hungry in the morning, but then you can’t stop eating come nighttime? Eating a bigger breakfast might work to solve this issue.

Skipping breakfast often leaves people overly hungry so they’re more likely to make poor decisions when it comes time to eat lunch. 

There’s even reason to believe that those who skip breakfast may have differences in responses to foods consumed later in the morning, higher appetites and an increase in energy intake compared to people who eat breakfast.

2. May Keep Energy and Concentration in Balance

Eating a balanced, substantial breakfast (one with healthy fats, protein and fiber) can help you to avoid feeling fatigued or having less focus, and as a result prevent snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the course of the day due to low energy or low nutrient intake.

Fill up on the right foods upon waking up, and you might find you’re more prepared to work, focus, be more active, and make better decisions in general.

3. May Work Better With Your Schedule (Including Workouts)

Things like your work schedule, the type of work you do and the time of your workouts can all impact when the best time to eat should be for you personally. So we need to consider individual needs when determining meal times and healthy meal plans.

For example, a balanced breakfast may improve exercise performance during morning workouts and give you fuel to push yourself harder. 

So Skip Breakfast, Depending on the Day?

Although it’s not appropriate for some people and you should always check with your healthcare professional ahead of time, a lot of people can benefit from occasionally fasting for a 16-hour period each day — which often means fasting overnight and waiting to eat until lunch the following day. 

Despite the fact that we’ve often been told to never skip breakfast, many people who practice intermittent fasting experience great results.

That being said, despite the health benefits of fasting, it might not be a realistic option for everyone, or a good idea if it doesn’t work for your schedule. 

It likely comes down to the quality of food you consume when you do choose to eat, plus personal preferences. 

Is it a good idea to fast in the morning and then eat junk throughout an eight-hour window? No, of course not!

But if you personally find that skipping breakfast helps you better manage your hunger levels, cravings and food intake while still allowing you to eat plenty of whole-nutrient foods later in the day, it might be a good option for you.

Occasional intermittent fasting/skipping breakfast seems be most intuitive and healthy in certain situations. 

  • When you overeat on certain days: Sometimes we have a lot of calories at night, for instance if it’s a holiday or we eat a big dinner, making it seem more natural to skip breakfast the next day because we simply aren’t that hungry. 
  • On weekends: If your schedule is more flexible on weekends, this can be a good time for a big brunch rather than that pre-work 7:30 a.m. breakfast.
  • If you prefer a big lunch and/or dinner and don’t have an appetite in the morning: Some people simply prefer to eat larger meals later in the day, perhaps because this fuels their workouts better or allows them to eat with their family. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, try to stop eating 2–3 hours before bed so as not to disturb your sleep.
  • On days you’re not very active: Chances are skipping meals may be harder if you’re completing a tough workout. Try to schedule your meals around your workouts so that you’re at least refueling afterwards which supports muscle recovery.

Final Thoughts

  • The bottom line? Forgoing breakfast can help you to stick to your target calorie intake and may support healthy weight management. However, it might potentially make you feel weak, unfocused and overly hungry.
  • Pay attention to your hunger cues and how your body responds to breakfast versus no breakfast. Fasting overnight and through the next morning works better for some people than others, so it comes down to preference. 
  • If you do skip breakfast, make sure you don’t overeat highly-processed foods later in the day because you’re too hungry. Also consider how fasting can fit into your schedule based on your workouts.
  • No matter which meal timing you prefer, focus on including enough fiber, protein and healthy fats which helps to control your appetite. 

Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.

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