Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Why is breakfast important? | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Why is breakfast important?

Like many others, I was raised to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Why is breakfast important though?  Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?  Is there any basis for this statement or is it just a great marketing pitch for cereal companies?  I’m open to all potential answers but here’s what I’ve found.

Why is breakfast important?

A lot of so-called health experts proclaim that breakfast is in fact the most important meal of the day.  Let’s start with something easy.  For children, breakfast seems to play an important role in proper development of their physical and intellectual capacities.  However, as most people reading are probably adults, let’s tackle them.  One thought is that breakfast recharges your body and provides you with much needed energy.  In essence, you “break the fast” after sleeping.  This seems to make sense in theory.  Furthermore, studies have been done showing that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese than people who skip breakfast.  The theory here is that won’t be as likely to overeat at the next meal.

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

I’ve successfully gone without breakfast on numerous occasions and haven’t seen any adverse effects.  In fact, skipping breakfast as part of Eat Stop Eat has proven very effective for fat loss.  Personally, I don’t feel like eating until 10 or 11 in the morning.  When I wake up, I’m ready to go with a glass of water.  However, I realize that I may not be like everyone.  Many people need coffee and food first thing.  This is where I’d caution you about breakfast being the most important meal.  Breakfast is only important if you eat right.  Sugary cereals, donuts, muffins, etc. may provide a nice boost of energy but there are healthier things to eat in the morning.  Don’t start off the day by ingesting junk food; that takes away the point of recharging your body.  You’ll get a temporary boost and then crash or feel the need to eat more junk food later.

Furthermore, while studies have shown that breakfast skippers have a higher obesity rate than breakfast eaters, the causal relationship may just be backwards.  Rather than concluding that skipping breakfast makes people obese, I would think that obese people are skipping breakfast in order to lose weight.  Thin people may not worry about eating breakfast because they don’t need lose weight.

I think there’s also a prevalent myth that skipping meals causes our metabolism to slow down because we enter starvation mode.  Based on Eat Stop Eat’s findings, that can’t be further from the truth.  Starvation mode doesn’t occur over night; our bodies were designed to survive without eating for a long time.  However, breakfast proponents vehemently argue this point.

The Importance of Breakfast

When it comes to eating breakfast, just do what comes naturally for you.  Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?  Not in my opinion.  It’s just another point in time to consume calories.  So why is breakfast important then?  Because it can provide you with energy to help you get through the day and may result in a lower calorie intake later.  However, if you prefer to skip breakfast, you can receive all the benefits that come along with intermittent fasting.  Either can be an effective strategy for weight loss.

34 Responses to “Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Why is breakfast important?”

  • I haven’t eaten a weekday breakfast since January 1st.
    My abs have never looked better.

    It’s a huge myth that metabolism slows down by skipping it.
    Check this out…
    http://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com/2011/01/breakfast-doesnt-matter-more-for.html

    and

    read the bit about breaky here…
    http://fitnessblackbook.com/diet-tips/martin-berkhan-scorch-through-your-fat-loss-plateau/?hop=crudefit79

  • Short, simple, to the point and right on target Dave. 4 days out of the week I don’t eat breakfast. It’s kind of odd but, it seems that on days where I DO eat breakfast (usually oatmeal with some blueberries), I tend to get hunger pains within a couple of hours. If I don’t eat breakfast, I’m usually good until around 11:00-noon.

  • Isn’t it odd how breakfast is considered very important and health experts tell us this is so in the newscasts but then a commercial comes on for a sugary kids cereal!? Yeah I don’t get it either.

    I have gone without breakfast plenty of times and it is manageable but doesn’t always go my way and I may become a bit unfocused and irritable. However, what I have found works very well for me is having a protein shake for breakfast (just a shake and nothing else). Protein keeps me satisfied, I won’t feel hungry and when lunch comes around I’m not starving or craving food.

    Having a protein shake first thing in the morning feeds my muscles and paired with my workouts I feel has given my body a more lean appearance.

    -Sam

  • Great article — I definitely agree that breakfast is key to a healthy and productive day. I’m split between deciding whether the post-workout meal is more important than breakfast though. One of the greatest parts about breakfast is that it literally does, as you say, “break the fast” and get your metabolism started. If you add ~30g of protein in that meal, it really starts heating up the fat burning mechanisms as well.

    Good stuff

    - JB

  • @Workout with weights
    Total fallacy right there.
    Eating breakfast doesn’t ‘kick-start’ your metabolism for the day. This is out of date and inaccurate.
    Similar to the theory that eating 6 small meals is better than eating 3 large ones for ‘metabolism-boosting’…. all utter baloney :)
    C.

  • Clint,
    Good resources. I forgot how many valuable insights Martin put in that interview on Fitness Black Book.

    Mike,
    Interesting that even with a healthy breakfast you still get hunger pains. Any reason you don’t just skip every day?

    Sam,
    Good tip on the protein shake. When I perform morning workouts, I like to follow-up with a breakfast protein shake a couple hours later.

    JB,
    Why not combine both breakfast and the post workout meal? The days I exercise in the mornings are the days I eat breakfast. I like to perform fasted training when possible and eat 1-2 hours later. Best of both worlds. My schedule unfortunately doesn’t allow me to do this all the time.

    Dave

  • Dave,

    I usually skip breakfast at least 3 times a week. My energy levels feel fine and it helps me keep my overall calories low. When I do eat breakfast, I usually eat a veggie omelet or something along those lines with a lot of protein and little to no carbs. It really helps me get through a big chunk of my day without feeling hungry. In fact, when I do this, I can often make it well past lunch time before I feel the need to eat again.

    Alykhan

  • I think that people here who are open to intermittent fasting as a fat loss or weight maintenance strategy are comfortable with skipping breakfast. I used to think it was the most important meal of the day, but not anymore. I’m in the same boat as you, sometimes I’ll eat it, other times I’ll skip it…whatever comes naturally.

    Great Article!

    Cheers,
    Jordan

  • Your last sentence kind of confused me, Dave. When you ask if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, do you mean most important for weight loss, or most important in general?

    Breakfast for me is vital. I wouldn’t be able to function without it. It also helps me lower my overall calorie intake for the rest of the day because of that initial boost.

  • Alykhan,
    Sounds like the ideal approach!

    Jordan,
    It takes time for people to break the mold of skipping meals, especially breakfast. For me, it usually feels better to wait until lunch (unless I’ve exercised in the morning).

    Srdjan,
    Either one…important for weight loss or for overall health. It sounds like eating a good breakfast helps you control calories later. For others, it’s just an excuse to eat sugar.

    Dave

  • Melissa:

    Hey guys for me I realized that eating breakfast makes me real hungry for the whole day. I force myself to eat breakfast just so I dont slow down my metabolism, but sometimes I think why am I forcing myself to eat when I am not hungry at all? Also I recently started working the swing shift 3-11 pm. I see that all the eating plans are for those who work the 9-5 schedule, so how do I schedule my eating to breakfast-lunch-dinner? I have been hearing from friends that I should not eat past 7 p.m. but I dont get to bed till 3-4 a.m.. Thanks for any advice!

  • Melissa,
    If eating breakfast makes you hungry, then why bother doing it? The metabolism research is outdated and the benefit is marginal at best. From my reading, the HGH release from fasting offsets any metabolism benefit. So don’t force yourself to eat. Save the calories for later when you are hungry.

    Fitting in diet and exercise around your work schedule must be challenging. As far as eating late goes, the argument goes both ways. Some are adamant that eating late at night, especially carbs before bed, results in fat gain. Others, like Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training, eat before bed every night because that’s when it’s convenient and still maintain low body fat. The only downside to eating before bed from my perspective is that it’s harder to fall asleep. Sleep is critical to weight loss in my opinion so if eating late at night interrupts your sleep pattern, then try to eat a few hours before bed. I don’t think 7pm is a magic number.

    Hope that helps. I’ll try to do a post on this topic in the next couple months where I dig a little deeper.

    Dave

  • melissa:

    Its great to know I dont need to eat when I am not hungry! I also noticed that when I do snack thru out the day I feel I consume more calories than when I just eat a regular meal. Thanks for everything and I am looking forward to that post!

  • I like the point you made about skipping breakfast if that means you’re going to eat a poor breakfast. I do find that somedays I feel like it, somedays I just don’t — good to know it’s not a fat loss sin to skip out every now and then!

  • Kevin,
    Not only is skipping breakfast not a sin, but it can even provide some benefits if done strategically.
    Dave

  • I don’t think that breakfast is necessarily the most important meal of the day, but I do think that a healthy start to the day makes you feel better.

    The human body can function fine without breakfast and if it’s what you get used to, it may be what works best for you. I suppose it’s a case of each to their own.

  • Maxine,
    I agree that everyone should find what works best for them. Some days I eat breakfast, some I don’t. The problem with me is that on days I eat breakfast, I don’t necessarily eat less later.
    Dave

  • Toni:

    If I skip breakfast, I get the shakes and/or a headache. Maybe skipping or intermittent fasting works for some people but not me. But in all honesty, I’m 5’6″ tall and only 117 lbs. so I’m not a very big person, obviously. My husband, on the other hand is 200 lbs. and can skip breakfast and not feel any effects. I think everyone is different when it comes to eating breakfast or taking a pass.

  • Toni,
    Breakfast is one of those things that most people seem to love or hate. I don’t need it and when I eat it, I usually end up eating junk. So I’m better off skipping most days.
    Dave

  • I think you nailed it when you said that many adults each sugar-filled junk and it is worse than nothing. I can’t agree more. I’ve tried to make a habit of eating the right kind of breakfast (yogurt, cereal, low sugar oatmeal, etc.) If I can’t have that then I don’t eat anything (and usually regret it : ).

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Before you start your day be sure you ate your breakfast, you need energy for your daily activities and also keep you away from having bad breath :)

  • Judy:

    I must admit that I eat a donut and coffee in the morning. I know it’s not that healthy, but I feel like I need that boost in the morning. My most healthy meal is usually lunch where I eat mostly veggies or a salad or something like that. Dinner is catch-as-catch can. I’m trying to modify my eating habits, because I’ve taken up weight lifting and bike riding, and I know I need more healthy energy to keep going with this.

  • Chris,
    If you can eat a healthy breakfast, that’s the best way to go.

    Jennifer,
    Some people do need breakfast for energy; others like me can get by without anything first thing in the morning.

    Judy,
    If you can stay in good shape while having a doughnut and coffee every morning, then it’s not a problem. It only becomes an issue if you can’t lose weight. I certainly believe in indulgences, even on a daily basis.

    Dave

  • I run before I eat breakfast most mornings and then drink a protein shake or other lean protein, sometimes followed by berries or other fruit- depending on the workout. I usually skip any carbs if it’s an interval workout- more HGH production that way. Everyone is different. It’s important to listen to your body- as long as it’s not begging for a jelly dougnut!

    Ken Rickerman
    Running Coach

  • Ken,
    All very good points. Thanks.
    Dave

  • Anyone who follows any recommendations to the letter needs a wake up call. Your body is unique and what works for one won’t always work for another. Personally I believe all those cereals aimed at kids that are just sugar in a box should be banned but I can’t achieve that. So I give my kids oatmeal every school morning and let them have the cereals at the weekend. If you suffer from low blood sugar or have hormone problems like many women, having a decent healthy breakfast naturally high in B vitamins can help a lot. My hubby says I “behave” more normally when I have had my oatmeal than when I skip it lol

  • Laura,
    Excellent suggestions especially for kids in regard to cereal. Sugary cereals should be more of a treat than a breakfast staple. It’s all about finding something that works for you.
    Dave

  • As there isn’t a menu definition of what breakfast actually is then I’ll define my breakfast as a cup of English Breakfast Tea. I couldn’t face the day without my strong daily cuppa.
    But I think before you can decide whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you should determine what a typical breakfast really consists of and to be honest I don’t believe anyone could define that…

  • Charlie,
    Good points. It’s hard to describe how important breakfast is without considering what nutritional value it has. For those who eat sugar cereals, I don’t think it’s important. For those having a lite breakfast of tea or a heavy breakfast rich in protein and healthy carbs, it may be more important. Ultimately each person will have to decide on their own.
    Dave

  • Good point…Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kick starts your metabolism. However, if it’s kick started with a hydrogenated, deep fried dough-nut then, well, you probably know that’s not the best for you. If a dough-nut is all you have to eat, then skip breakfast, go for the glass of water and eat a healthy lunch. Pretty simple actually!

  • RC,
    Excellent way to sum things up.
    Dave

  • Something I read this morning said that eating eggs for breakfast also helps you burn more and eat less. Hooray protein!
    Thank you for an important information

  • I think the breakfast must be protein rich and light and not some deep fried or heavy stuff or something high in calories. A good breakfast can make your day smoother and its rightly said that its the most important meal of the day

  • Abhishek,
    As you said, as long as you eat the right breakfast, it can be a good way to start the day. Many studies showing that breakfast is beneficial are funding by cereal companies…they hope you eat the wrong breakfast.
    Dave

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