“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” they said. And by they, we mean our mums, the media and our brains as we rush into the day with only a coffee in our hands. It’s something we’ve all been told and never questioned. Until now. Part-day intermittent fasting methods sometimes involve skipping breakfast. It begs the question, is bypassing breakfast ok? We asked our resident GP, Dr Penny Adams to question the old adage, and her answer might surprise you.
Patients often ask me whether it’s ok to skip breakfast. Some patients simply don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning, others find it takes too much time and they’d rather have more sleep or get to work earlier.
Firstly, when it comes to growing kids, breakfast is essential and the same applies to pregnant women, insulin dependent diabetics – essentially anyone for whom intermittent fasting is contraindicated.
But what about people who are trying to lose weight? Is it OK for them to skip breakfast?
The conventional wisdom has always been “You must have breakfast because it kick-starts your metabolism.” However, if you look for a scientific explanation of how this “kick-start” works, there doesn’t seem to be one. It’s another one of those often stated “rules”, like “You need to have 8 glasses of water per day” that has evolved in Healthy Lifestyle talk but doesn’t actually have any scientific evidence backing it.
Having heard the importance of breakfast for years, I was surprised to hear, at an Obesity Management Conference 2 years ago, that if patients didn’t like eating breakfast then it was Ok for them to skip it. Forcing patients to have breakfast didn’t improve their weight management, if fact, it often meant they ate more calories because they were advised to eat calories they didn’t enjoy in the morning and it didn’t seem to decrease the calories they enjoyed later in the day. Wow – I complete 180 degrees turn around in my advice. Actually, it made me happy because I don’t like eating breakfast.
The problem with skipping breakfast
My joy was cut short this morning listening to the radio when a new study was quoted showing a 2.5 times increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease in people who didn’t eat breakfast. In addition, the non-breakfasters tended to be more overweight.
How am I supposed to know what to advise, let alone do myself?!
If you skip breakfast, skip unhealthy food too
Fortunately, the devil is in the detail. Further analysis of this study revealed that the reason for the worse outcomes in those who skipped breakfast was because they felt hungry mid-morning and tended to snack on foods that were less healthy, usually high in sugar and fat. If they were stopping to buy their “on-the- way-to-work-coffee”, they tended to pick up a muffin as well. Ah, now it makes sense!
So, what is my final recommendation? If you are trying to lose weight and don’t enjoy breakfast, then you don’t force yourself to eat it. However, you need to be mindful of the potential trap of eating high calorie, less nutritious food later in the day. Skipping breakfast can work well if you are using the part-day fasting (often referred to as 16:8) regimen.
But, if you find your hand regularly slipping into the tea room cookie jar when you skip breakfast, then you need to have that first meal of the day.
If you like them, a hard-boiled egg is a great way to go – only 80 calories and it really fills you up. The bottom line is that you need to be mindful of your appetite and eating habits to plan the weight loss regimen that best suits you.
Have you ever tried to skip breakfast for weight loss? Let us know what your experience has been in the comments below.