“Why eating breakfast will help you lose weight” or “why skipping breakfast may not be bad for you after all” are just two contrasting headlines from a long list that tend to appear on our social media feeds or in tabloids every week. So, of course, it’s impossible for people to know what to do, especially if weight loss is a goal and you’re constantly being exposed to such articles.
So, what does the evidence suggest?
A recent article published showed that skipping breakfast >3x per week increased the risk of being at an unhealthy weight by 11%. But there was also no notable difference between those who skipped breakfast and Body Mass Index (BMI).
So, it’s still very contrasting right? Although there is no absolute evidence for or against it, breakfast is still essentially a very important meal. It’s the first opportunity to include nutrients and can set us up for the day. When you consider you have not eaten for perhaps the previous 8-10 hours when you waken, we want to provide our body with fuel through various vitamins, minerals & fibre.
In doing so this may improve concentration, avoid feeling high levels of hunger and snacking on less nutritious foods as the day goes on. Breakfast also provides energy that may increase motivation and activity, and of course, it can be extremely tasty (depending on your choices).
So, although research can be conflicting, it has been suggested that those of us who consume breakfast are likely to be more active throughout the day. This may be a reason for the conflicting evidence i.e. eating breakfast may lead to greater amounts of movement and not having breakfast may lead to being more sedentary throughout the day. Again, this is not a definite, simply an observation.
The question remains, what should I have for breakfast?
No different to our main meals across the day for breakfast, it is important to include carbs to help provide us with energy for the day ahead (opting for complex carbohydrates to leave you feeling fuller for longer!). And a source of protein to help us to repair and recover from our daily life and training. It tends to be the one meal we consume with lower amounts of protein, in comparison to lunch and dinner. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, we cannot store protein in the body for later use.
So, for our body to become fitter, faster and stronger it needs protein to build that new muscle and remodel our cardiovascular and other systems! In addition to that, having a high protein breakfast may suppress hunger levels as meals containing each of the macronutrients tend to be more satiating. This again may result in us not opting for more energy-dense foods later in the day. On top of that, we do want to add some fruit/vegetables for extra vitamins and minerals.
Again, like everything when it comes to nutrition, it is individual, we want to create habits around our lifestyle so, aim to consume breakfast at a time that suits you. And when choosing our breakfast be cautious around high-sugar cereals or breakfast bars, check labels before purchasing. Opting for more complex carbs like oats or wholegrain bread will provide a slow release of energy for the day. Thus, leaving you feeling fuller for longer.
Overall, a case can be argued for & against breakfast, and further research is needed to give an absolute answer. But when we weigh up the pros and cons of eating breakfast, the pros include:
- Provides us with energy to fuel our day after our overnight fast
- Contributes to our total protein intake and if we skip a meal, we may not hit targets
- Similarly, when it comes to vitamin & mineral intake
- May increase activity levels
- If you have a high energy expenditure you may risk under-fueling if skipping a meal.
So, if you do/do not eat breakfast, weigh up your own pros & cons and do you find it’s benefitting you and helping you achieve your goals. If not, it might be worth reconsidering your approach! What I would advise is, as mentioned above trying to create balanced meals across the day with foods you enjoy, 7+ portions of F&V, wholegrain cereals & protein.
- Betts JA, Chowdhury EA, Gonzalez JT, Richardson JD, Tsintzas K, Thompson D. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 Nov;75(4):464-474.
- BMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l42 (Published 30 January 2019)
- Wicherski J, Schlesinger S, Fischer F. Association between Breakfast Skipping and Body Weight-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Longitudinal Studies. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 19;13(1):272. doi: 10.3390/nu13010272. PMID: 33477881; PMCID: PMC7832891.