Breakfast – The Greatest Nutritional Myth
This is going to be a controversial one, just as a heads up. It has long been accepted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You must have a breakfast of champions™ or you’ll drop dead by lunchtime™ and you’ll never grow big and strong™.
There is some credence to all of this. The downside of skipping breakfast is that if you’re dieting and have fudged up insulin sensitivity (from being overweight and having a sugar addiction) then it can mean that you’ll resemble a starving hyena by lunchtime and start cannibalising yourself by 3 or 4 pm.
But, this is only true for certain people. Yes, if you end up eating your bodyweight in food at lunchtime purely because you skipped breakfast then that’s not ideal. But there’s ways to avoid this from happening, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Some more caveats:
- If what you’re currently doing is working, don’t change anything. That applies to training too btw. Only try Fasting if you’re stuck.
- Some people with manual labour jobs that start early may need breakfast (if your income depends on it)
Other than that, there are ways to skip breakfast without killing yourself mentally.
The benefits of doing so are that you are reducing the eating window. Instead of constantly munching throughout the day, you have a smaller time frame to shove however many calories you are permitted to, down your throat. This is great because your stomach expands to a far greater extent during this time than it otherwise would do normally. It sends all the “I’m full so stop feeding me before I explode” signals to your brain.
Conversely, eating breakfast spreads out the “feeling full” signals, so you never feel as full during any particular moment, so as you can imagine, it can play quite an important role. Adding to this, breakfast can sometimes stimulate your appetite. Granted, it depends on the content of your breakfast, but I can give you my experience.
My Experience Playing Around With Breakfast
I used to wake up at 5am a lot of the time whilst working for an airline a couple of years ago. The aviation industry provides a lot of unpredictability and fun, but also a lot of early mornings if you’re involved in the operational side in any way whatsoever.
With this in mind, my thoughts were:
“I’m currently dieting, but at the same time, I don’t want to perform worse at work because I have no food (and therefore energy in me) in the mornings. So, I’d better eat breakfast before I leave the house.”
This is despite having no real appetite at that time of the morning. So, I had my two slices of toast and porridge. Aaaaaand, despite having energy from the food, I started getting hungry again three hours later (!!!) This is disastrous on a diet, considering it was only 8am. I’m not saying everyone will be like this, but many people will be. This means the eating window could potentially end up being 16 hours!!
If I was to spread out my 2400 calories (at the time) across those 16 hours, it would mean that I would never really be satisfied from my food. Reduce this down to 8 hours, and you have periods of being absolutely stuffed and “never wanting to eat ever again™” (lol).
This provokes a different response in your brain in regards to food. The prior state is one of scarcity – scarcity creates value, and you crave more food like nothing else. The second state is one of abundance – you feel so full you hate food and never want to see another morsel in your entire life. Sounds daft but it’s true.
So this is what I did. I thought “fuck this”, and pushed “breakfast” back to 10am, which was just an apple and a very small pot of porridge. This was just as I was starting to get hungry naturally (still 2 hours later than 8am) and wouldn’t need to eat again until 12. Miles better. I would then proceed to stuff my face at 12 and then later again at 6pm. Perfect.
I just want to emphasise that the whole point of this breakfast myth was so that it stopped people from snacking on crap throughout the day, and stopped people from overeating later on. This is often the opposite of how it works, with breakfast making you hungrier for more food. Also, if you have a dieting plan, you shouldn’t be tempted by snacks during the day anyway – this should be a non-issue.
It goes without saying that if you’re not having this problem, don’t worry about it. But it can be a problem if:
- You’re in a sizeable calorie deifict, OR have been dieting for a while, and therefore are struggling to stick to your diet
- You have any sugar whatsoever in your breakfast
- You have somewhat of a food addiction (read my blog post: Why are we fat? Part 2)
Don’t Think Of This As “Skipping Breakfast”
Now we’ve established that not everyone is going to eat anything that comes into sight at midday just because they skipped breakfast, and also that breakfast itself can bring this effect along, let’s get into how to actually do this.
Firstly, DO NOT think of this as skipping breakfast. You’re not skipping anything. You’re still eating your caloric budget. This should not change. This is just a strategy to shift the budget into a more condensed time period. We need to rid ourselves of societally-imposed meal timings and think in terms of cold, hard biological truths about how the body actually operates.
Yes, these are societally-imposed – different cultures eat at different times. Take the Spanish who eat dinner far later than the Brits or Americans, for example. Nothing to do with biology, superiority of one meal over another, or fat loss. Purely societal in nature.
Anyway, you should instead think of this as “delaying” breakfast in order to feel fuller later on. Coffee is incredibly helpful in getting you through the fasting period, and I suggest slowly increasing this “delay” over time – don’t jump straight into pushing breakfast back by four hours. I mean, you could do, but you’re making your life harder for yourself.
Instead, I would push it back by one hour at a time. One hour one week. Then another hour the next. Etc. Etc.
We’re already fasting (hopefully) 8 hours every night, you’re just aiming to increase this incrementally by another 1, 2, 3, 4 hours. Drink plenty of water and 1-3 coffees during the extended fast, and you’ll feel very satiated during your 8 hour eating window.
This myth began with good intentions, but the problem is that it just isn’t true for many people. Eating food often stimulates your appetite, rather than managing it. It also gets your subconscious thinking about food.
I’m not completely biased about this, and I admit that IF won’t be ideal for everyone. However, the Breakfast Myth is 100% a myth, as I, and many others hve proven this. It’s a societally-imposed rule that doesn’t hold much value. It may work for you, but often it won’t, so just be aware.
If you enjoyed this article and are motivated to lose weight, feel free to check out my coaching services here. Thanks, I appreciate it.