In my opinion breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day but with this being one of the most controversial topics in this field, I think it’s a good idea to understand why there are so many confusing statements, affirmations and theories.
Everything about nutrition sounds really complicated nowadays even though most of the people just want to look good and have a long and qualitative life.
A little history
Imagine this: 70.000 years ago, when homo sapiens remained the only human species walking the earth, there wasn’t any sustainable way to eat in the morning. Maybe is not even a matter of sustainability, maybe this is just the way human body evolved: to eat food only when it was available and to fast for long periods of time. It’s absurd to think that this certain way of eating is not applicable for the modern human, as long as, from a biologically point of view we haven’t change.
Even in the Middle Ages breakfast was not “considered a necessary and important meal, and was practically nonexistent during the earlier period” as the book “Breakfast: A History” states. Also, the Catholic church considered breakfast as “praepropere” or the sin of eating too soon in the morning and not being able to refrain from eating.
The myth of three meals per day was rather invented not out of biological needs, but to culture and economics. For some reason, eating in the morning was a matter of being civilized and was associated with a certain social status and culture.
From the Wikipedia page “History of breakfast” we get that: “Breakfast is the first meal taken after rising from a night’s sleep, most often eaten in the early morning before undertaking the day’s work. The Old English word for dinner, disner, means to break a fast, and was the first meal eaten in the day until its meaning shifted in the mid-13th century. It was not until the 15th century that “breakfast” came into use in written English to describe a morning meal, which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night; in Old English the term was morgenmete meaning “morning meal.” (source).
I think is wrong to associate the word “breakfast” with a meal eaten in the morning. When you are not eating, you are fasting and the first meal of the day, even if that meal is at 2 PM, is your “break-fast”.
Other things to consider
If guess that every one of us was raised hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
There are many studies claiming that “Skipping breakfast increases risk of heart disease” but there are a lot of other factors (smoking, drinking alcohol, physical activity, energy intake and diet quality) that has to taken into account.
From an evolutionary point of view there is no need to eat daily, nether the less immediate after we wake up. A lot of studies have found a lot of benefits for skipping breakfast:
- reduced insulin resistance (source)
- reduced inflammation (which is responsible for cancer and heart disease) (source)
- weight loss due to calorie deficit – easier to lose fat.
- it helps with human growth hormone (responsible for more muscle mass, less fat and metabolism) (source)
- life span (only in animals – but it may apply to humans as well) (source)
But what about all the hype about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? If you think about the fact that “The global breakfast cereal market size was valued at USD 37.44 billion in 2016.” (source) is easy to imagine that, for some companies is profitable to spread this rumor (note that the value above represents only the breakfast cereal market and is not taking into account bacon, eggs, milk and orange juice).
I would say that skipping breakfast was a great tool in order to create a caloric deficit that helped me to reach a better physique (read my fat lose article). But more in a future article about intermittent fasting.
It’s convenient because you will lose time preparing breakfast. I prefer not to lose 20 minutes every morning on something that give me no benefit. There is a big problem if you are regularly eating breakfast – if u have no time to prepare it, you are more likely to get hungry and grab a bagel or some pastry from across the street. Starting the day with this kind of food is really detrimental to you.
For me, after I wake up is the most productive period of the day: going to the gym, cardio, reading, preparing my launch and planning my day. Breakfast would be another thing that I would have to take care of.
Fasted training in the morning has absolute no side effect for me and you are not going to lose muscle if you are training fasted.
I often hear from people that can not skip breakfast because they get very hungry. Well, maybe that’s due to proceed food that is messing with our internal signaling systems. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible with hunger when it raises we get hungry, when it decrees we feel no hunger. There is a study that tested the evolution of hunger over 84 hours of not eating. The results are amazing:
You can see how, over this period, the hunger got less and less strong even if the participants ware not consuming any food.
So keep in mind that it’s more a matter of preference and comfort rather than a rule that you have to follow. If you have time to prepare a healthy breakfast, by all means, do it. But, keep in mind that fasting is really good for you and makes losing fat more easy. There is no need to worry about losing muscle, dying of hunger, getting fat or sick only because you skip breakfast!