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Is skipping breakfast bad for you?

The startling truth of skipping breakfast

This article explores whether skipping breakfast is linked to weight gain and other health problems.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Is skipping breakfast bad for you?
Last updated on February 9, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on September 1, 2023.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We’ve all heard this saying, and it’s widely accepted as truth.

Is skipping breakfast bad for you?

People often see breakfast as a particularly healthy meal, so much so that even official dietary guidelines recommend having it.

The claim is that breakfast aids in weight loss, and skipping it could increase your risk of obesity.

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This could be concerning, considering that nearly one-fourth of Americans regularly pass on breakfast.

However, newer, high-quality research challenges the one-size-fits-all advice to eat breakfast.

This article delves deep into the topic of breakfast, investigating whether missing it is actually harmful to your health and will lead to weight gain.

People who have breakfast tend to have healthier habits

Yes, research indicates that people who eat breakfast generally appear healthier. They’re often less overweight and have a lower risk of certain chronic conditions.

Because of these findings, some experts have quickly said that breakfast must be beneficial.

However, it’s important to note that these observational studies can’t prove cause and effect.

So, while the data shows that breakfast eaters tend to be healthier, it doesn’t mean eating breakfast is the reason for their health.

People who eat breakfast are more likely to also engage in other healthy behaviors. For instance, they often have better overall diets, rich in fiber and essential nutrients.

Conversely, those who skip breakfast are likelier to smoke, drink alcohol, and be less active.

So, the healthier profile of breakfast eaters could be due to these other lifestyle choices, not the act of eating breakfast itself.

In fact, more rigorous research, known as randomized controlled trials, suggests that whether you eat or skip breakfast doesn’t significantly impact your health.

Summary: Breakfast skippers tend to be less healthy and heavier than breakfast eaters, possibly because breakfast eaters have other healthy lifestyle habits.

Eating breakfast doesn’t boost your metabolism

You might have heard that eating breakfast “kick-starts” your metabolism. This is based on the idea of the thermic effect of food, which is the calorie-burning boost you get after eating.

However, what truly impacts your metabolism is your total caloric intake for the day, not the timing or frequency of your meals.

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Research has shown that the total calories burned over a 24-hour period is the same, whether you eat breakfast or not. So, the claim that breakfast boosts metabolism doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

Summary: There is no evidence that skipping breakfast affects the number of calories burned during the day.

Skipping breakfast doesn’t cause weight gain

Contrary to popular belief, skipping breakfast doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain. While it’s true that people who skip the morning meal tend to weigh more, the reason for this isn’t clearly supported by science.

The common thought is that skipping breakfast makes you extremely hungry, causing you to eat more later. While it might make you hungrier by lunchtime, this doesn’t make up for your missed meal.

Some research indicates that forgoing breakfast could cut your daily caloric intake by 400 calories.

This makes sense when you think about it; you’re essentially cutting out an entire meal.

A comprehensive randomized controlled trial lasting 4 months examined the impact of eating or skipping breakfast in 309 overweight or obese adults. The results showed no significant weight difference between the two groups at the end of the study.

This conclusion aligns with other research showing that whether you eat or skip breakfast doesn’t seem to affect weight loss. Skipping breakfast, it turns out, has no observable negative effects on weight.

Other studies on the effects of breakfast habits on weight loss support these results. Skipping breakfast had no visible impact.

Suggested read: What are the healthiest times to eat meals?

Summary: Higher-quality studies indicate that skipping breakfast does not affect overall calorie intake.

Health benefits of skipping breakfast

Many people who practice intermittent fasting skip breakfast as part of their routine.

A popular method is the 16/8 approach, where you fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window. This usually involves eating from lunchtime to dinner, omitting breakfast.

Studies have found intermittent fasting can help you consume fewer calories, lose weight, and boost your metabolic health.

However, it’s worth noting that intermittent fasting or skipping breakfast isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Your experience may vary.

Some people find it beneficial, while others may face issues like headaches, blood sugar dips, dizziness, or a lack of focus.

Summary: Intermittent fasting protocols, such as the 16/8 method, often include skipping breakfast. This can lead to numerous health benefits.

Breakfast isn’t a must-have meal

There’s no real magic to eating breakfast; it’s not the “most important meal of the day,” as many have claimed.

Whether you eat breakfast or skip it doesn’t make much difference, as long as you make nutritious choices for the rest of your day.

The idea that breakfast kickstarts your metabolism or that not having it will make you overindulge later and gain weight is actually a myth. This has been debunked by more rigorous scientific studies, known as randomized controlled trials.

At the end of the day, having breakfast is really up to you and what you prefer.

If mornings find you hungry and you enjoy breakfast, then, by all means, have one. Opting for a protein-rich option is a good idea.

On the other hand, if you don’t feel hungry when you wake up and don’t think you need breakfast, feel free to skip it. It’s that straightforward.

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