Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? You would certainly think so based on what you hear from, well, virtually everyone. I think this one can go in the, "hear it enough times, it must be true" category.
And no, despite what these young folks tell you, your "gas tank" does not go empty overnight...
The purpose of this blog is not to encourage my readers to skip breakfast, but to encourage my readers to seek out dietary plans that work for them. I personally can't remember the last time that I ate breakfast, but I can also appreciate and realize that that scenario is not ideal for everyone.
As a teenager I was never a big fan of eating breakfast. I always felt like it made me feel nauseous in the morning and I would also feel quite sluggish. I never knew that such a thing had a "name" (intermittent fasting) until many years later when I started to read so many benefits about fasting for extended periods of time.
As humans, we all fast, since as far as I can tell people can't safely eat while sleeping. The only difference between what I do and what breakfast-eaters do, is I extend my fasting window, and therefore shrink my eating window. In other words, I usually make sure I am fasting for at least 16 hours - typically eating just before bed around 9-9:30pm and then won't eat again until at least 1-1:30pm the following day.
This may sound extreme and crazy to many of you, but it works for me for a number of reasons that I can elaborate on in a future blog for those interested. But to stay on topic, let's get back to the prime reason of this blog.
A recent review discusses the idea that breakfast may in fact not be as important as most think.
Nutritional strategies are vitally needed to aid in the management of obesity. Cross-sectional and epidemiologic studies consistently demonstrate that breakfast consumption is strongly associated with a healthy body weight. However, the intervention-based long-term evidence supporting a causal role of breakfast consumption is quite limited and appears to be influenced by several key dietary factors, such as dietary protein, fiber, and energy content. This article provides a comprehensive review of the intervention-based literature that examines the effects of breakfast consumption on markers of weight management and daily food intake. In addition, specific focus on the composition and size (i.e., energy content) of the breakfast meal is included. Overall, there is limited evidence supporting (or refuting) the daily consumption of breakfast for body weight management and daily food intake. In terms of whether the type of breakfast influences these outcomes, there is accumulating evidence supporting the consumption of increased dietary protein and fiber content at breakfast, as well as the consumption of more energy during the morning hours. However, the majority of the studies that manipulated breakfast composition and content did not control for habitual breakfast behaviors, nor did these studies include a breakfast-skipping control arm. Thus, it is unclear whether the addition of these types of breakfast plays a causal role in weight management. Future research, including large randomized controlled trials of longer-term (i.e., ≥6 mo) duration with a focus on key dietary factors, is critical to begin to assess whether breakfast recommendations are appropriate for the prevention and/or treatment of obesity.
When it comes to healthy weight management, this review suggests that the inclusion of breakfast is not crucial. It also recommends that if breakfast is to be consumed, then it is generally recommend to enrich said breakfast with protein and fibre - presumably to slow digestion and spikes in insulin.
I am always an advocate for consistency. Each individual should choose a diet plan that is sustainable and healthy for you. If you skip breakfast but then over-indulge, gorging yourself on less-than-healthy foods at lunch, then fasting may not be the best solution for you.