“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
This is an all-too-common phrase that I secretly dislike, as the supposed benefits of eating this traditional morning meal have been totally misconstrued by both health experts and enthusiasts.
Skipping breakfast has repeatedly been said to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, and even obesity. What most people don’t realize is that these claims are largely driven by misrepresentations of only a handful of studies linking breakfast skipping to negative side effects on blood glucose (sugar), insulin (the hormone responsible for lowering blood glucose), and metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories).
While these lines of reasoning may seem relatively straightforward and somewhat believable, this isn’t at all the case.
The reality is, skipping breakfast actually helps your body function in ways that promote safe and effective weight loss, long-term weight management, and overall good health.
On both a personal and professional level, I can definitely attest to this.
For years, I’ve regularly incorporated a lifestyle of intermittent fasting, where I essentially skip breakfast on most days of the week. Instead, I’ll opt for a protein-packed, healthy, fat-rich snack for lunch (Greek yogurt with nuts) followed by a big, nutrient-dense dinner. Although I’m a pretty healthy gal who has maintained a vigorous cardio and weight lifting routine for nearly 20 years, I can honestly say that eating this way has greatly improved the way I look and feel.
Skipping breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting lifestyle has been clearly proven to reduce body weight, body fat percentage, and waist girth. Who wouldn’t give up an inch or two of belly fat? You can also find comfort and trust me when I say that dropping the morning meal will not adversely affect your metabolism. It’s actually quite the opposite, since doing so can substantially boost your metabolic potential to burn fat.
Let’s break all of this down a bit.
If you normally sleep overnight, your body’s tendency to burn fat is at its most intense in the morning, as you’ve essentially “fasted” for 6-8 hours. In the fasted state, the body constantly breaks down stored fat and essentially converts it into useable or “burnable” energy. In other words, the body “feasts” on its own stored fat.
Interestingly enough, your body will continue to use stored fat until your fast is “broken” with breakfast. In this light, extending your fast by skipping the morning meal is actually ideal for weight loss and long-term weight management, as the body’s overall fat-burning capabilities are greatly maximized.
To fully understand what I’ve explained here, you must first understand one simple concept: Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast” that your body generally undergoes while you’re asleep.
In this light, breakfast is not a meal; it’s a notion, turned tradition, turned trend.
To suggest that everyone in the world should eat breakfast in the morning is to assume that everyone operates on the same stereotypical clock. What about the many professionals who work overnight shifts, as I did during my years as an undergraduate student?
Since there is a general lack of context behind the word breakfast, most people don’t even realize that a fast can be broken at any time of the day or night. As such, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy breakfast at noon, 3:00 p.m., or even at dinnertime if you so choose.
Now, what about the idea that skipping breakfast (as the morning meal) can negatively affect blood glucose and insulin levels?
Well, unbeknownst to many, in the absence of a morning meal, blood glucose levels are very well maintained by breaking down glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose that’s mainly housed in the liver and muscle. In fact, the average person can hold about 2,000 calories of stored glycogen, which is enough to fuel about two hours of high-intensity exercise training.
Once the liver and muscle cells have met their storage capacity for glycogen, any remaining glucose is converted to triglycerides (fat) and stored in adipose tissue, primarily as visceral fat. But, remarkably, skipping breakfast can actually improve insulin’s ability to store larger amounts of blood glucose as liver and muscle glycogen, which greatly reduces the likelihood of unnecessary fat storage and ultimately belly fat accumulation.
Now, I didn’t write this article to convert you to a lifelong breakfast skipper. My goal is for you to feel empowered and inspired enough to dismiss some of the “rules” that may have been instilled in your head regarding how and when you should be eating.
In reality, the presumptive value of breakfast has never been clearly proven, and much of the evidence surrounding its overall importance is actually contradictory.
While the notion of skipping breakfast may sound unorthodox to some, it’s a way of life for many, as we all have different schedules, lifestyles, and preferences. For people like me, eating in the morning isn’t all that essential. For optimal health, what matters most is your total nutrient intake (carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals) and diet quality over the course of each day.
An abundance of research has proven that you can successfully manage your weight and maintain good health by eating as little as one–or as many as seven–meals a day, so long as you’re obtaining adequate amounts of all essential nutrients, while meeting, but not overshooting, your daily calorie needs.
So, if you’re truly not a fan of breakfast, rest assured, embrace your personal preferences, and do what works best for you.