Pros and Cons of Skipping Breakfast

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You've probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but an estimated 25% of Americans skip breakfast. Research has been mixed on the implications of skipping your a.m. meal—with some studies showing a connection between nixing breakfast and weight gain, while others show that it can lead to weight loss.

If you're trying to lose weight and you're not sure whether you should eat breakfast or skip it, learn the pros and cons of skipping breakfast and the potential effects it could have on weight loss and weight gain.

Drawbacks of Skipping Breakfast

Many people who skip breakfast may have a tendency to eat more at other meals during the day. Eating breakfast can help curb portion control at lunch and dinner and help keep blood glucose energy levels balanced. That's why consuming breakfast can be a useful strategy for losing weight or promoting weight management. If you skip breakfast, you'll miss out on the following benefits.

Breakfast Can Curbs Cravings

Eating a high-protein breakfast can help prevent late-morning cravings. These cravings may lead to unhealthy food binges when the only food available is from vending machines or fast-food restaurants. These foods are likely to be high in sugar, starch (leaving you hungry again soon after eating), and calories.

Breakfast Can Promote Portion Control

Eating a modest breakfast and small meals throughout the day can help to reinforce portion control. Eating reasonable portions is not only a smart way to lose weight, but it's also the most effective way to maintain your weight once you've reached your goal.

If you stay satisfied with reasonable portions of food throughout the day, you reduce the chances that you'll overeat later at lunch or dinner to make up for a lack of calories.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a diet including three meals and two snacks per day may promote weight loss and weight management. However, the study does not indicate that breakfast is necessarily more important than any other meal of the day.

Breakfast Keeps You Satiated

Eating a healthy breakfast with lean protein and nutrient-dense whole grains will help you to feel full and comfortable throughout the day. Protein as well as fiber—which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels—takes longer to digest which helps you feel full for a longer period of time.

Breakfast Can Maintain Glucose Levels

In a 2019 study conducted in Japan, researchers studied 10 young men across six consecutive days of skipped breakfasts and sedentary behavior to monitor the effect on energy metabolism and glycemic control. They found that people who skip a healthy breakfast have an increased glycemic response, which can lead to weight gain.

A larger study in 2014 found that skipping breakfast caused a spike in blood glucose levels compared with those who did not skip breakfast. The results showed a greater body mass index (BMI) among the 766 Japanese adults who were studied, which researchers concluded was associated with obesity.

Breakfast Can Boost Exercise Performance

Eating breakfast may improve performance during the morning or early afternoon workouts. Getting proper fuel before exercise sessions may help you to work harder during the routine and boost the number of calories that you burn.

Breakfast Can Provide Important Nutrition

One concern with skipping your a.m. meal is that it could lead to nutrient and vitamin deficiencies. A 2014 study looked at the impact of breakfast on Canadian children and adolescents. They concluded that those who didn't eat breakfast were lacking in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and magnesium, as well as vitamin A, phosphorous, and zinc. Insufficient amounts of these nutrients can lead to insomnia, depression, and a predisposition to infections.

Benefits of Skipping Breakfast

Many people skip breakfast simply because they aren't hungry or don't have time. But research shows that there may be potential health benefits for waiting until lunchtime to have your first meal of the day. From weight loss to increased energy, here's what the science has to say about why skipping breakfast may be a good idea for some people.

May Reduce Daily Calorie Intake

Reserving your calories for later in the day can mean that you consume fewer calories throughout the course of the entire day, which can lead to weight loss. A 2019 review, for example, examined 13 breakfast-focused studies and found that those who ate breakfast consumed more calories overall in a day.

Offers A Form of Intermittent Fasting

Waiting until later in the day to start consuming calories is technically a version of intermittent fasting. If you've been wanting to try an intermittent fasting protocol such as the 16/8 method, skipping breakfast could be a way to test drive this eating plan to see if it works for you. On the 16/8 protocol, you fast overnight for 16 hours and eat only during an eight-hour window, which likely means you'd skip breakfast.

The benefits of skipping breakfast are similar to the benefits of fasting. Research shows that intermittent fasting can reduce overall calorie intake, promote weight loss, and improve metabolic health.

May Prevent Upset Stomach

Some people may experience indigestion following breakfast, especially those who exercise after eating without taking enough time to digest. For example, it's common for runners to feel uncomfortable or nauseated if they have any food or liquid (aside from water), before going for a run, which can cause exercise-induced gastrointestinal distress.

If you prefer to have a little something in your stomach before you exercise to give you energy, avoid greasy, fatty, acidic, and even spicy foods. Otherwise, a low-intensity workout on an empty stomach is probably safe.

Does skipping breakfast affect your metabolism? Probably not. Some weight-loss experts used to say that skipping breakfast can cause your metabolism to slow down.

But the same 2019 review stated that although skipping breakfast can help your body metabolize calories and prevent overeating, researchers found no distinct difference in metabolic rates between those who ate breakfast and those who did not.

Making the Decision

So should you wake up for a morning meal or skip breakfast to slim down? The answer depends on your lifestyle and your preferences.

If you skip breakfast and find yourself at the vending machine eating junk food later in the morning, then eating breakfast might be best for you. But if you're trying to cut calories to lose weight and breakfast isn't important to you, then skipping breakfast might be better. Eating a mid-morning protein-rich snack has a higher chance of keeping you satisfied until lunch.

Keep in mind that not everyone is hungry for breakfast. If that's the case for you then there's no need to force it. For many people, it's usually helpful to practice intuitive eating by simply following your body's natural hunger cues.

A Word From Verywell

Whichever method you choose, it's important to keep your expectations in check. If you eat breakfast to lose weight, then you need to monitor portion sizes and keep track of your breakfast calorie count. And if you skip breakfast to lose weight, you can't overeat at lunch or dinner time to compensate. In the end, it's the total number of calories you consume that matters—not the meal in which they are consumed. 

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