The Pros And Cons Of Skipping Breakfast

Once considered the foundation of a healthy diet, new research suggests there’s little clinical evidence to justify breakfast’s reputation as the most important meal of the day. Intrigued? We went to Dr. Michael Mosley, one of the UK’s leading authorities on fasting, and registered dietitian Ro Huntriss to find out if skipping your morning meal could be the health boost your body needs…

THE PROS

-Dr. Michael Mosley, creator of The Fast 800

Skipping It Can Improve Body Composition

“Eating breakfast later, or skipping it completely, can help reduce body fat, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, insulin resistance, and give us more energy. In one of the first human trials of time-restricted eating, carried out with the help of the University of Surrey, two groups of healthy volunteers ate the same food, but the group on a time-restricted eating plan (eating breakfast 90 minutes later than usual, and dinner 90 minutes earlier each day) lost more body fat and saw bigger falls in blood sugar levels and cholesterol than the control group.”

It Does Little To Boost Metabolism

“Science says eating breakfast has no discernible effect on weight loss in adults who are actively trying to lose weight. What we do know, however, is that intermittent fasting is beneficial for our overall health, including weight loss. It can help with improved memory, decreased inflammation, lengthened life-expectancy, as well as improved glucose regulation, blood pressure, heart rate, and abdominal fat loss. For many, a midday “breakfast” helps extend the period of non-eating and so draws down the full benefits of fasting. The idea that fasting ‘slows your metabolism’ is a myth. Under conditions of marked energy deficit – 800 calories per day or less – not only do you simply lose weight by eating fewer calories, but your body responds to the stress of fasting by enhancing hormone function to facilitate weight loss and burn fat for energy.”

Forgoing Breakfast Can Help You Lose Weight

“Intermittent fasting, or time restricted eating, is particularly effective for those who have a lot of weight to lose, or have type 2 diabetes. In fact, I reversed my own type 2 diabetes this way, and then created my lifestyle plan The Fast 800 to help other people. As such, skipping breakfast or restricting your eating between certain times is a very good idea if you fall into either of these groups. Studies also show it’s not only the number of calories we eat that’s an important part of weight loss, but the number of times we eat per day, too. Skipping breakfast can be an effective way to lose weight, as long as you don’t make up for it by snacking more throughout the day.”

…But It’s Important To Fuel Correctly

“Eating protein at the first meal of the day helps you to feel fuller for longer because after a protein filled meal, levels of a chemical called tyrosine – a building-block for dopamine – rise inside the brain. By increasing its own dopamine supply as the next meal approaches, the brain experiences a much weaker dopamine “hit” from high-calorie food. To test whether protein at the first meal of the day could help people feel fuller for longer, a US-based study in 2014 divided volunteers into three groups. One group ate a breakfast containing 35g of protein; the second group ate breakfast containing 13g protein; the third group, meanwhile, skipped breakfast altogether. Later on that morning, the volunteers were tested for levels of dopamine, the chemical that drives our reward circuits. They were also asked to rate the intensity of their pre-lunch food cravings. The results were clear: of all groups, the high-protein breakfast group recorded the highest dopamine levels and lowest pre-lunch food cravings. When I do eat breakfast, my go-to is a mushroom omelette with kimchi-style sauerkraut, which is filling and great for the gut. I would avoid most breakfast cereals – they are usually full of sugar, even the ones that contain bran. Oats are good – just make sure they’re not the instant sort.”

THE CONS

Ro Huntriss, lead clinical dietitian and nutritionist at EXALT

It’s A Chance To Refuel

“Eating a healthy breakfast has so many benefits. Breakfast is an opportunity to provide your body with the energy it needs to fuel your morning – it’s a chance to replenish the nutrient stores your body has used overnight. Studies show eating breakfast promotes optimal energy levels, prevents fatigue, and may help regulate appetite in some individuals. Some studies have even shown improved cognitive function and improved mental health in those who consume breakfast regularly.”

Fasting Isn’t Suitable For Everyone

“There is some evidence that intermittent fasting, an example of which is eating within an eight-hour window which may exclude breakfast, can offer benefits to include increasing longevity, decreasing incidence of disease and promoting weight loss, but it’s important to note that skipping breakfast will not be suitable for all. This dietary method is simply unappealing to some people, and such an intervention may be inappropriate for those taking certain medications or those with pre-existing health conditions. For these individuals, dietary changes should only be made after consulting a health professional. And while some studies suggest skipping breakfast will just mean you’ll eat more later in the day, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis (a type of study that combines the results of lots of different studies) found there is great variation in results on this topic. If you want to find out what approach works best for you, keep a food and symptom diary and keep an eye on your energy levels – it may be that skipping breakfast doesn’t agree with you.”

It Supports A Healthy Metabolism

“Breakfast doesn’t necessarily kick-start your metabolism, as your metabolism is actually working 24/7, but eating breakfast does provide you with a load of energy and nutrients, which help support the body to function optimally. Metabolism is all about the chemical processes happening inside your body, which keep it functioning correctly. With regard to food intake and breakfast, having irregular eating patterns has been shown to negatively disrupt your metabolic processes, which may put you at a higher risk of developing metabolic disorders such as diabetes. It’s also important to have regular meals in general as this supports appetite regulation and other metabolic processes.”

What You Eat Matters

“There’s no point eating breakfast if it’s not going to be nutritionally substantial. In fact, lots of studies have shown the type and quality of the breakfast consumed is a really important factor in eating habits later in the day. If you eat, for example, a pastry, this is going to be processed very quickly in the body, and you will feel hungry again relatively soon and may be more inclined to snack. If you compare this to a larger, more filling meal, the studies largely show a reduced energy intake over the course of a day. An ideal breakfast would include carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats with either fruit or vegetables. Research suggests higher-protein breakfasts can be particularly effective to manage hunger and improve performance.”

So what’s the bottom line?

If you skip breakfast and don’t eat until lunch, you’ll have fasted since your evening meal, which could have been some 16 or 17 hours ago. Studies show fasting for this amount of time can reduce insulin levels and improve blood sugar management. Fasting also leads to increased levels of a hormone called IGF-1, which helps burn fat and preserve lean tissue. If you are trying to lose weight, it could be worth giving breakfast a miss – as well as an opportunity to fast, it will also steer you away from typical high-carb breakfast foods such as toast, granola and biscuit bars, which trigger an insulin response and kick your body out of fat-burning mode. The most important thing is to listen to your body – if you’re hungry when you wake up, eat breakfast, but don’t feel bad if you’d rather skip it. 

Just remember fasting should be avoided by those with a thyroid or adrenal issue (fasting can cause a state of stress on the body, which can send already high cortisol levels into overdrive), and keen gym bunnies may struggle with a lack of energy during their workouts. But skipping breakfast could very well be the boost you need, especially when it comes to cognitive ability – those who reach for a sugary bowl of cereal may be the ones who crash at 11am after all.

For more information on The Fast 800, visit TheFast800.com; to book an appointment with Ro Huntriss, visit DietitianRo.co.uk. EXALT drinks are available from EXALT.co.uk.

*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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