We’ve heard or read it all: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast is healthy and some even say that breakfast is essential. But why? And what if you’re not a ”morning eater”? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
I was always told that breakfast is important. In fact, we should have a heavier breakfast with for example proteins so that we will not be hungry later in the day and we can start our digestion right after waking up. But when it comes to nutrition and health the science is always in motion and I love to figure it all out, read the studies and to share it with you (see my list of sources at the end of this article).
Why I rarely eat ”breakfast”
I have often been criticized that as a ”health foodie” I rarely have breakfast or a very light breakfast (a light smoothie). If I have my ”breakfast”, it’s late (around noon, even if I get up at 7.00 am) and sometimes I exercise before that. And if I do get hungry earlier than noon, well…then I eat earlier.
But why? It’s simple. Every time we decide to eat we have a chance to eat something that contributes to our health (or not), the moment does not really matter that much. Of course, it’s a good idea to listen to your body. I personally couldn’t care less about breakfast. However if you feel you the need to have breakfast and you decide to ignore the hunger and this results in you having a donut on your way to work, then I recommend you go for an early and nutritious breakfast at home. But if you’re not hungry, it is not necessary to have breakfast. Why? Well, why should you?
It has never been scientifically proven that skipping breakfast is unhealthy. Although research shows that people who eat breakfast are healthier and have a lower BMI, this does not mean that this is linked to their breakfast. Probably they are more conscious eaters. From studies it has never been proven that having a breakfast leads to better health.
Did you know that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, the man behind the Kellogg cereal) made breakfast popular? Yes, he was a doctor, but he wanted to sell a breakfast product too. The first prepared cold cereal (named granola) that was marketed to the American consumer was by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in 1878. The product was made from baked wheat, oats and corn flour, and was the first brand name breakfast cereal in the United States.
But what about.…?
I hear you thinking about all the things we have heard about skipping breakfast. I will discuss them one by one. Just a little disclaimer, I’m assuming these answers apply to a healthy person without illness, medication and such.
But how do I get my digestion started?
Since when does our digestion need help to get going before noon? We didn’t eat a whole night so why should you get your digestion started before 12:00? You will not drop dead if you skip breakfast, right? Most of us have some (good) reserve in our bodies, so it’ll be fine. Funnily enough, there is no such ”rule” for lunch or dinner that says at which time we should eat. Why should breakfast be before noon? Why is it nowhere written how late you can still have supper for example? And what time is breakfast then? Anything before noon? And if you sleep in what makes breakfast a breakfast? The type of food?
But don’t our brains need sugar (glucose) in the morning?
Our brains need glucose, thus breaking the nightly fast with fruit sugars can be a good plan. And what qualifies as ”morning” is totally up to you. But if you decide not to have breakfast this doesn’t mean you can’t function or think anymore. You’re not going to be without glucose for days, you will only fast a little longer after already a full night of fasting.
Will this not make me fat?
A number of studies have shown that overweight people often skip breakfast and so we all think there is a link between being overweight and skipping breakfast. There is still insufficient evidence to prove this, because there was never a study conducted with two groups (breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers) that eat the same amount of calories throughout the day. This would be a more fair trial to me.
Skipping breakfast does not make you fat. I can also speak from my own personal experience about this. What has sufficiently been proven in studies though was that people who eat breakfast are healthier. In my opinion this is because they are more conscious about their diet choices (also during the day). When I was heavier, I often denied myself certain meals as a ”punishment” …. This is far from what I think is a conscious and balanced way of eating. If you don’t eat all day and this results in binge eating on unhealhty food at night, you can’t blaim skipping breakfast. If you just eat normally during the day, I see no reason why you should binge on unhealthy foods.
A study from 2014 compared for example people who are overweight and obese with each other on whether they do or don’t eat breakfast over a period of 16 weeks. The result? No difference in weight in both groups. It is true however that in this study the researchers found that people who could keep the weight off in the long run were the ones who ate breakfast. But again, this does not indicate whether these participants also eat more consciously.
Will I not lose muscle mass?
If you think about this question more realistically you might know this is not really an option. Again, at what time is breakfast? In addition, your muscle mass and fat percentage depend on the energy balance (and trainings) over a longer period of time. Weeks, months … If you eat 4 hours after getting up, there is really nothing that will happen to your muscle mass. If this would be the case, then we would never be able to sleep in… Or if we overslept and missed breakfast, we would lose muscle mass? 🙂
It’s actually funny to see that we are overthinking something that actually started from a commercial point of view. If we go back in time without supermarkets and when we walked around naked, there was not a bowl of warm oatmeal upon rising every single day. If you don’t crave breakfast then your body is telling you so and it’s unhealthy to just ignore this and force yourself to eat breakfast. Some people feel better without a breakfast in the early morning. As a child I never really enjoyed breakfast that much and I feel much more productive if I have no breakfast or a lighter breakfast. But everybody is different.
Even scientists continue to believe that breakfast is important although it has never been proven. In fact, some even contnue to write about the importance of breakfast in scientific articles.
As a closing remark: I LOVE the meal labeled as ”breakfast” such as smoothies, oatmeal and porridges and I enjoy these meals a lot. Only later than a typical ”morning-eater” … So I break my fast of the night with a breakfast the only difference is that this takes place later in the day (or late morning). I’m feeling great, I’m not gaining weight and I’m very productive in the morning. So listen to your body and do what makes you feel comfortable when you ”break” your ”fast”.
Are you a ”morning eater”?