Let’s talk about breakfast! I’ve always been a big fan. Although in my youth, I didn’t care too much about WHAT I ate, just that I ate SOMETHING. In my teens and early 20s, my first meal of the day was often soda and a pastry or sugary cereal. At the time, I never understood why I would get so incredibly hungry hours before lunchtime. Now I know better! I eat a balanced breakfast most days (a meal or super shake that includes protein, fats, carbs, and fiber). I purposefully skip breakfast a couple of days per week and occasionally I eat a not-so-balanced breakfast and enjoy the heck out of it! While my days of pop tarts and soda are LONG gone, a cupcake and coffee are definitely not out the question every once in a while.
We’ve all grown up hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Lately, we are hearing that maybe it’s not. Currently, research studies offer conflicting information. I’m not gonna hash out the pros and cons according to the scientific literature here because, as is so often the case, “it depends.”
So, do you need to eat it? What should you eat? If you don’t feel like it, can you skip it? Should everyone skip it (or do intermittent fasting)?
I can’t answer those questions for you. However, I do have questions for you consider. Have you explored what works well for you? Have you experimented with a few different ways of eating? Whether or not you “should” eat breakfast depends on how you feel when you do vs. when you don’t and how your body responds.
A few things to keep in mind:
If you have a metabolic condition such as diabetes, always consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making changes.
If skipping breakfast triggers disordered eating patterns or thoughts, seek professional guidance.
If you find that skipping breakfast leaves you feeling groggy, hangry, and famished by lunch, even after an adjustment period, you may be better off eating something. You can also take a look at what you are eating the evening before and make adjustments to your last meal or snack of the day to see how/if that affects you the following morning.
If skipping breakfast doesn’t bother you or actually makes you feel better than eating it, stick with that!
Whether you eat breakfast or not, your overall eating pattern is what matters most to your health, satiety, and happiness. The quality, types and amounts of foods you are eating for meals will matter more than timing (unless you have certain medical conditions). That being said, a couple of recent studies, such as this one, suggest that spreading out protein intake throughout the day (not eating it mostly at dinner) can be helpful for building and maintaining muscle mass. So, whether you eat breakfast or not, ensure all of your meals include adequate protein (1-2 palm sized servings or 20-40 grams).
What about intermittent fasting? This is a pattern of eating in which an individual only eats within a specific time frame and fasts for the rest of the time. It’s often 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour eating window. One common method is to fast from 8 pm to noon the following day and eat normal daily food intake between noon and 8 pm. Intermittent fasting works well for some people and not so well for others. If you are interested in trying it, read this and this to get a little more information.
What if you exercise in the morning? Some research suggests that there may be benefits to exercising in a fasted state. However, if you find you are dragging or not feeling well during your sessions, it may be best to eat a little something beforehand. Personally, I can do lower intensity or shorter duration exercise in a fasted state but I don’t do well with higher demands.
If you decide eating breakfast is right for you, what do you EAT???
For most people, to feel your best and not have that mid-morning HANGER strike, make sure you’re including protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Getting a balanced meal with traditional breakfast foods can be challenging. Sorry, once you reach a certain age, the pop tarts usually just don’t cut it anymore!
Busy Morning Breakfast Ideas
Whether you are a breakfast eater or not, pay attention to what your body is telling you. You may learn a thing or two! Eat in ways that make you feel good physically and mentally and you are on the right track. What's your favorite way to start your day? Breakfast or no?