Sunday, March 13, 2016

If I Am Not Hungry, Is It OK To Skip Breakfast?

It has been a really big surprise to me as a nutritionist to learn just how many people don’t eat breakfast in the morning.  I, for one, am starving when I wake up and have been ever since I have been a little kid. I don’t know how anyone can wait until lunch for their first calories of the day. Either way, I am often asked if it is OK to skip breakfast, particularly by those looking to lose weight.

Will skipping breakfast impact one’s ability to lose weight?
The research goes back and forth on this one and I don’t think we really do know for sure. I have seen evidence of a decreased weight loss in breakfast skippers and I have seen evidence that there is no difference in weight loss when comparing breakfast eaters to those who skip breakfast.

I can tell you this anecdotally, in the last 15 years, every one of my clients who hits their goal weight eats breakfast. Here is my theory as to why it is important:

Since humans evolved in times of famine and food scarcity, I feel that over the years our bodies developed defense mechanisms to protect us from these events.

When food starts to get in short supply, I believe that our body tries to prevent fat stores from dropping too low. This is accomplished 2 ways. #1) Our metabolism slows down so it takes fewer calories to get through a day. #2) In an effort to preserve fat stores, we start to burn muscle for energy. There is evidence of this in the research literature. When people lose weight by really restricting their calories, you start to see a lower metabolic rate and a significant loss of lean body mass.

Say you eat dinner at 6:30 PM, go to bed, skip breakfast and eat at noon the next day. You have gone 17½ hours without eating food, almost a full day. I believe that this does bad things to your metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight. It is also my opinion that when the body notices a steady and consistent supply of calories every few hours, it is more likely to release its fat stores, and that is why I don’t like my clients to skip breakfast. Again this is my theory, I don’t think there has been enough research on these defense mechanisms to prove or disprove them.

Some other reasons to eat breakfast:
1) It will help keep your blood sugar stable, which has a very nice impact on your energy, mood and ability to focus.

2) When you skip breakfast, you tend to make up the calories by snacking. In general, snack foods aren’t as healthy as planned meals.

3) I don’t think it is possible to get all of the good nutrition your body needs in a day in just two meals. Eating three meals makes it much easier to hit goals for fruits, vegetables, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants, etc.

So in conclusion, everyone should eat a healthy breakfast. This is especially important if you are trying to drop a few pounds.


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