Intermittent fasting (IF) is the hot diet trend right now. If you are not familiar with it, it involves limiting your eating window to a specific number of hours a day and fasting for the other hours. Most people follow a 16:8 protocol, which involves fasting for 16 hours and only eating for 8 hours during the day. For many people this means skipping breakfast.
Although there are many benefits to intermittent fasting, isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? Should you really skip breakfast to improve your health? Let’s explore.
Evidence for Breakfast
There is a lot of evidence to support eating a healthy breakfast for weight loss and overall health. Data collected from the National Weight Control Registry found that people who were successful at long-term weight maintenance were also more likely to eat breakfast daily.
Eating a healthy breakfast probably means you are less likely to be hungry mid-morning, giving you the will power to skip the office donuts. When you are not starving, you are able to better control your overall calorie intake.
There is also no evidence that skipping breakfast results in overall lower calorie intake. People seem to make up for the missed calories later in the day, so you are not “saving” calories by avoiding breakfast.
Breakfast may also help protect your heart. A report by the American Heart Association found that men who regularly skipped breakfast were 27% more likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease.
People who eat breakfast do seem to have an overall lower risk of chronic disease as well as healthier habits overall. Breakfast is a great meal to get in a good dose of protein and produce to set yourself up for better eating throughout the day, specifically with maintaining blood sugar. People who regularly eat breakfast tend to also eat more fiber and micronutrients compared to those that don’t.
The problem is that much of the research done around breakfast is correlational, there are only connections found between breakfast eating and lower risk of disease. But, is it the breakfast itself that is lowering the risk of disease or other lifestyle factors of those who tend to regularly eat breakfast? For now, the research is unclear.
Should you eat breakfast?
As you can see, there are many benefits to eating breakfast. It can help you get more nutrients into your day, as well as control appetite, blood sugar and insulin levels.
If you are skipping breakfast as a weight loss method, it may backfire and cause you to overeat out of hunger to compensate for lost calories.
Yet, the possible benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) are interesting. IF may lower insulin levels, promote weight loss, induce cellular repair, and protect against chronic disease. For these reasons, it might be appealing to skip breakfast and try IF.
I suggest you may want to consider both. Most people who practice IF tend to eat from 12pm-8pm, skipping breakfast and making lunch their first meal of the day. But, to get the best of both worlds, why not modify your eating window from 7am-3pm instead? This way you can still eat breakfast, but skip dinner or eat it early.
A 2013 study suggests that not skipping breakfast, yet still practicing intermittent fasting overnight may be most beneficial for weight loss and other metabolic parameters. In the study overweight women were put into two low calorie diet groups. One ate most of their calories at breakfast, the other ate most of them at dinner for 12 weeks. Those who ate a larger breakfast had significantly greater weight loss, as well as improved glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.
Moving your eating window earlier in the day to include breakfast, may help you tap in to the benefits of both intermittent fasting and eating breakfast. As always, experiment with what works best for you and your personal goals.
Need breakfast ideas?
Eating protein slightly speeds up metabolism helping you burn an addition 80-100 calories a day. This may not seem like much, but it can make a difference in weight loss in the long run.
The reason for these results is that eating a protein-rich breakfast can decrease the signals in the brain that encourage reward-driven food behavior and lead to overeating. This means you are less likely to use food as a reward and be able to more successfully control your cravings.
Starting your day with protein not only helps decrease cravings, it actually positively impacts hormones related to food intake as well. It encourages a drop in ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. A high protein breakfast also increase the fullness hormone peptides YY, CCK, and GLP-1. Protein can help stabilize insulin and blood sugar, preventing energy highs and lows.
What you choose to eat for breakfast matters. In a 2008 study, 152 participants ate two calorically matched breakfast options—either eggs or bagels. Both breakfasts provided 340 calories. Half of the participants were placed on a calorie controlled weight loss diet as well. The rest ate the eggs or bagels, but were told to not restrict calories.
After 8 weeks, those who were in the calorie-restricted group that ate eggs lost 65% more weight compared to those that ate bagels for breakfast. Based on the results of this study, it seems like for weight loss, it is not just about eating breakfast, but the type of breakfast matters as well.
If you are going to eat breakfast, make it high in protein.
- Eggs in any form are a great choice
- but other options like Greek yogurt
- a protein shake
- even leftovers from last night’s dinner can work as well
Need some new breakfast ideas? Here is a list of possibilities.