You’ll have heard it said time and time again that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. It’s probably something your mum or your gran used to say to you when you were little but have you ever stopped to think about whether there is any truth in it? Why is it the most important meal and what can having, or not having, breakfast do for your performance, energy levels and/or weight loss?
In this blog post I share three reasons why you might want to consider skipping breakfast.
Do you need to eat breakfast to lose weight?
This is a common question for a lot of people when they start their fitness journey. People tend to be split around whether cutting out breakfast can help you to lose weight or whether skipping breakfast slows your metabolism and makes you put on weight.
A recent study considered just this, comparing adults who ate breakfast against those that didn’t and concluded that eating breakfast did not necessarily lead to weight loss and in fact it might have the opposite effect for those who weren’t in the habit of having breakfast.
The researchers found that people who ate breakfast tended to consume more calories per day than people who skipped it. The study also concluded that people who ate breakfast tended to weigh slightly more than people who skipped it.
You can find the full paper in the BMJ here [BMJ 2019;364:l42 ]
So when people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day they can’t mean that it is important for weight loss. There is actually no evidence to support that eating breakfast will help you to lose weight. That is not to say that eating breakfast will prevent you from losing weight but simply that the addition or rather omission of consuming breakfast will not prevent you from losing weight.
Fasted cardio can help you lose weight and improve performance for endurance athletes
If you skip breakfast though, what should you do about your workout? We’ve all heard that fasted cardio can assist with weight loss, but is that true?
Well following on from question one, research shows yes and it’s not just helpful for weight loss it can also assist for performance.
You can find the research results here but essentially researchers discovered that those who had exercised in a fasted state burned almost 20% more fat compared to those who had consumed breakfast before their workout. Concluding that performing exercise on an empty stomach can help lead to fat loss.
They also found that those who had exercised in the morning did not consume additional calories or experience increased appetite during the day to compensate for their earlier activity.
However, it’s important for me to flag that all of the participants in the study went on to eat breakfast. They did not workout and skip breakfast so be sure to fuel up following your workout.
In addition, if you’re a long distance runner or an endurance athlete you may want to utilise fasted cardio as a way of training your body to break down energy stores efficiently to improve performance.
What if I don’t have time to eat a healthy breakfast?
The studies cited above suggest that breakfast isn’t important for weight loss. It is clearly not the case that we can run on fumes though and at some point you will need to eat something. It’s just not crucial for weight loss or performance in endurance sports to eat breakfast if you don’t want to. If you don’t have time for breakfast or don’t enjoy eating it then you certainly shouldn’t force yourself to eat it. Worse still the pressure to eat breakfast in a morning can often lead to poor food choices. The concern to eat breakfast because we feel like we have to can lead us to eat food on the go and that may not always be the healthiest option. Grabbing a croissant with your coffee on the way into the office is arguably worse than skipping breakfast altogether as it’s simply buttery empty calories that are unlikely to fill you up or give you energy and provide little nutritional value. Yet they are calories which contribute to your overall calorific intake which could be used elsewhere in the day to give you more useful energy. Next time you find yourself forcing yourself to eat breakfast perhaps give yourself a break, eat it is you want to but if you don’t then that’s fine too.
I would love to know your thoughts about eating breakfast. Are you a breakfast eater or do you skip breakfast? Do you feel like eating breakfast helps to set you up for the day? Or do you find that fitting in a healthy breakfast is simply another item on your busy to-do list?
P.S. If weight loss is your goal think less about breakfast and more about the calorie deficit. I’ve filmed a video all about how to calculate your calorie deficit without giving up the foods you love. You can watch that here: