I frequently have discussions with clients about whether or not to eat breakfast. Although we’ve been told repeatedly that we “should” eat it, many people simply have little appetite in the morning or, wanting to save time, prefer to have breakfast when they get to work. Here’s the latest on your morning meal.
The debate rages in “Breakfast Downgraded From 'Most Important Meal of the Day' to 'Meal'” by James Hamblin (MSN news, originally printed in the 8/22/14 issue of The Atlantic). One small nutrition study from the University of Bath, “found that resting metabolic rates, cholesterol levels, and blood-sugar profiles were the same after six weeks of eating or skipping breakfast. Breakfast-skippers ate less over the course of the day than did breakfast-eaters, though they also burned fewer calories.” Another study concludes: “300 people ate or skipped breakfast and showed no subsequent difference in their weight gained or lost.” And “a strong meta-analysis of all existing research last year by obesity researchers found that ‘the belief in the PEBO (proposed effect of breakfast on obesity) exceeds the strength of scientific evidence,’ citing poor research and bias in reporting.”
Other studies are pro-breakfast. In one large 2013 study published in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, the conclusion was “that eating breakfast was associated with significantly lower risk of heart disease. That remains the most persuasive pro-breakfast case to date.”
So, what’s an eater to do? My advice is to consult your appetite. I find myself hungry about 1 to 1.5 hours after awakening. I eat around 9 a.m. every morning because that’s what my body is used to doing. It’s also accustomed to eating small meals, which means I hadn’t eaten so much the evening before that I’d still be full the next day. But, that’s just how my body works now. When I was younger and had to get to a job on time, I refused to give up one mille-second of sleep to eat and waited til I was at work for breakfast.
The important message about breakfast is not to just grab something because you’re told you must be hungry and eat after a night’s sleep. Whether you’re going to breakfast at home or wait til you’ve clocked in, consider what foods would be satisfying and nutritious. You might be tempted to make a “no time to eat healthy” excuse in order to choose something non-nutritious but, truth is, it’s as easy to find or make foods that are good for your body as not good for it. Your best bet is experimenting with when or if you eat breakfast to fine tune your eating to your body’s needs.