You’ve been hearing the words since you were a child: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But is this really the case? Will skipping breakfast lead to weight gain, a slow, dragging metabolism, and increased stress levels or have we been subject to bias and a misrepresentation of the facts?
Since as far back as the 1960’s several studies have linked eating breakfast (as well as getting a proper night’s sleep and exercise) with a longer, healthier life. While these studies show there is a possible association between eating breakfast and certain health benefits, they DO NOT show causation.
In fact, recent research has shown something far more complicated may be taking place. A Canadian study, published in 2016, examined the breakfast habits of 12,000 Canadian adults and found that “breakfast consumption was not consistently associated with differences in [body mass index] or overweight prevalence.” Another recent study found that in regards to weight loss, breakfast eaters are not any more or less successful than people who skip it.
If the science isn’t actually clear, where are we getting this “breakfast is best” notion? A 2013 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found there to be a significant bias in favor of publishing articles linking skipping breakfast to increased obesity. This review also found flaws in the reporting of these studies. More often than not, the reported findings were littered with misused causal language supporting the idea that skipping breakfast is bad for you. It is also worth noting that many of these studies have been funded by major players in the food industry! The breakfast food giant, Kellogg, funded a study that found eating cereal for breakfast was associated with being thinner while The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence funded research that found people who skip breakfast had higher levels of cholesterol than people who ate oats or frosted cornflakes every day for four weeks. Is this research wrong? Not necessarily. But being aware of the obvious financial interest in the results should make us view these studies with a little more skepticism.
Breakfast: The Greatest Lie Ever Sold? Click To Tweet
So what does all of this mean for you? This means it is time for you to pay attention to both how you feel and what you eat.
When NPR asked David Ludwig, an obesity researcher and nutrition professor at The Harvard School of Public Health, about the importance of eating breakfast, he suggested that what you eat in the morning is more important than when you eat it. “If [your] breakfast is based on highly processed carbohydrates [such as sugary cereals or sweet rolls], it may be as bad [as], or worse than, skipping breakfast,” he said. Processed carbs spike your blood sugar which, of course, leads to fat storage. And because your body burns through these carbs quickly, you will be hungry again before long. This is why eating protein, fat, and fiber in your first meal is so important (for balanced meal ideas, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan). It slows down digestion and helps you stay feeling full and energized for a longer period of time. But that first meal doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning.
If you are someone who isn’t hungry when you wake up and skips breakfast in favor of a cup of coffee, you are not necessarily destined for a life of obesity. There is a great deal of research coming out that points to the benefits of intermittent fasting for some individuals. If you don’t find you feel hungry before 10 a.m. or even lunchtime, that’s okay. You have to do what works for you. If you feel hungry in the morning, eat breakfast. If you don’t, skip it in favor of a later, balanced meal. As long as you are eating fresh, whole, foods and skipping the refined, processed junk, you are ahead of the game. Our bodies require certain nutrients to survive but they don’t require them at a specific time.
Whether you eat breakfast or don’t, trust that you know what is best for your body. Do what makes you feel healthiest and strongest. So many factors like age, sex, genetics, and activity level, play into our body composition and because of this, what works for some (or even most) may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to find your own solution!
Do you eat breakfast? Why or why not? Tell us your story!