IS BREAKFAST THE best meal of the day, or something that will actually benefit us if we skip it? We look at the pros and cons.
Reduce body fat, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, insulin resistance and give more energy.
The University of Surrey worked with a group of time-restricted and none time-restricted eaters. The group who were given breakfast 90 minutes later and dinner 90 minutes earlier lost more body fat and had bigger falls in blood sugar levels and cholesterol than non-restricted eaters.
This is basically intermittent fasting – where weight loss is the main benefit, but it can also help to improve memory, decrease inflammation, lengthen life expectancy, improve glucose regulation, blood pressure, heart rate and abdominal fat loss. The reduction in calories and period of fasting triggers the body to enhance hormone function which facilitates weight loss and more efficient fat burning.
Make sure first meal of the day includes a healthy amount of protein, which fuels the body and makes you feel fuller. It contains a chemical called tyrosine (important in the manufacture of dopamine in the body). Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter which gives us the ‘feel good’ factor. Increasing the body’s supply means that the body doesn’t react to extreme dopamine levels for high calorie food, prompting you to reach for more to get that ‘hit’ again. Experiments have shown that high levels of dopamine reduce food craving.
The body needs energy and topping it up at the start of the day will ensure that you have enough fuel to run on until lunch, or later. Breakfast will help to restore levels of nutrients within the body that have become depleted during the night, as the body works to repair itself while we rest. Eating breakfast can promote energy levels, prevent fatigue, and can also help to regulate appetite. It has been shown that cognition and mental health are improved in a study group who were regularly eating breakfast.
Having irregular eating patterns can have a negative effect on metabolism, whereas whether you eat breakfast or skip it does not affect your metabolism significantly. Intermittent fasting is known to help reduce symptoms relating to Type II Diabetes, whereas irregular eating can put you at a higher risk of developing a metabolic disorder, such as diabetes.
Its not whether you eat, but what you eat that is important. Most processed foods will pass through your digestive system a lot faster and have less nutritional benefit – and you will feel hungry again quite soon! Any good meal (whether breakfast or not) needs to include protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats.
Fasting simply does not suit everyone, especially those taking medications that need to be taken with food, have pre-existing health conditions including any thyroid or adrenal problems, and those who simply find it too unpleasant to skip breakfast.
If you skip breakfast you can easily go without food for between 12-18 hours. Fasting for this length of time can reduce insulin levels and improve blood sugar management. It also leads to increased levels of hormones, including IGF-1, which helps burn fat and preserve lean tissue. If you skip breakfast you may be avoiding eating foods that can trigger an insulin response and kick your body out of a ‘fat-burning’ state.
The only way to know what works for you is to try it – keep a food vs symptom diary, find a way to measure your energy levels and see what suits you best over the course of a few weeks. Listen to your body – if you feel hungry, faint or lack energy to perform well, then eat and don’t feel guilty about it.