The belief that we won’t have our get-up-and-go unless we down our Cheerios has turned the concept of eating upon rising into a die-hard dietary rule. Original research on whether breakfast made an impact on health did find that healthier people ate breakfast. But data, as we know, doesn’t always tell the whole story.
“Lots of people who skip breakfast or practice intermittent fasting are healthy too,” says Dr. John Berardi, co-founder of Precision Nutrition. “About 85% of the clients we work with eat breakfast and tend to follow a guideline of eating small frequent meals throughout the day, but that’s largely to help them learn to practice healthier eating habits. If you’re a person who regularly makes good nutritional choices, then eating breakfast is more negotiable.” In fact, skipping that first meal may lead to some real benefits — from possibly losing a few pounds to increasing your level of anti-aging growth hormone. And don’t worry, your metabolism won’t suffer. Eating small meals throughout the day, starting with breakfast, isn’t necessary to stimulate metabolism, says Berardi, who co-authored an extensive study review on meal frequency for the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
His suggested revise to the dictate: Breakfast is optional. Hard-and-fast rules don’t allow for much mindfulness, anyway — and that’s an integral part of any nutritional approach. So if you love how breakfast gets you going, feel free to stick with that routine, but if you’re not a morning person, there’s no harm in forgoing food first thing.
1. It’s not required to boost metabolism. The idea that metabolism slows radically in response to not eating certain meals in a single day just isn’t accurate. The amount of calories you’re taking in and the composition of those calories — proteins, carbs, and fats — are really what impact metabolism.
2. It may lead to eating less overall. If you skip breakfast, you can eat fewer, larger meals beginning later in the day, rather than 6 smaller meals throughout the day, which may be less satisfying. This can lower your total caloric intake for the day and may lead to weight loss.
3. There’s a payoff even if you’re an occasional skipper. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels, so you can actually increase your insulin sensitivity for better blood sugar management. At the same time, your body will release more growth hormone, which helps to preserve lean tissue and burn fat tissue.
4. It can help lower your total carb intake for the day. Most of us are over-carbed. We eat too many refined carbs, too little protein, and too much fat. So by skipping breakfast it can steer you away from the typical high-carb breakfast foods — toast, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes — that may trigger an insulin response that kicks you out of fat-burning mode.
5. It can help you tune in to your body. You just might feel better sipping water with lemon or a green juice rather than forcing food in the morning. Some people feel nauseous and not ready to eat right when they get up and in that case you’re better off listening to your body’s cues. Ideally, you want to figure out what works best for you.