The Great Breakfast Debate

The Great Breakfast Debate

Every mom, health teacher, grandma, and media outlet growing up: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Important being a loosely defined, yet widely used term; what does that even mean?  

Breakfast might be very important…. for getting fat.  

Harsh, yet accurate when you look at the average population. Breakfast, for many, is a good excuse to eat desserts at 8 am. Donuts, pastries, cereal, and (some) oatmeal are all cleverly disguised desserts posing as breakfast foods.  

The average “serving” of breakfast cereal contains around 27 grams of carbs. Eh, that’s really not horrible until you realize the average serving size is only ¾ of a cup. Do you know how much ¾ cup of cereal is? Let me tell you, it’s not very much.  

So, the argument against this would be “then don’t eat sugar for breakfast, make healthier choices.” Agreed, and a step in the right direction for sure. But, what if we could flip breakfast on its head and eliminate it completely? What if I told you that breakfast wasn’t just unnecessary, but that it may actually be impeding your progress? Maybe, just maybe, there is a better way to approach your mornings.  

Let’s introduce a novel concept, one gaining steam in the world of fitness, bodybuilding, health based diets (insert any other relating noun).  

Intermittent fasting: one of the most interesting ways to implement a dieting technique. This diet is unique in that it can essentially be transformed to any goal that the person may have. You can implement other dieting techniques around intermittent fasting, so in a way this is just another tool to help facilitate another diet. However, there is some application to those that choose not to follow another dieting style; meaning it can fit into normal eating habits (you know, if you are not disciplined enough to follow a diet).  

Intermittent fasting is a very simple concept, and very easy to follow. You basically have a selected window to eat during the day; otherwise you are fasting, or not eating. Think of it as eliminating breakfast, that evil meal we discussed previously. There are different levels to fasting, meaning that some fasts last longer than others. It’s an interval type style of eating, just as you would interval training or cardio. So, think of it like HIIT cardio, where you go faster, and then at a slower pace. You would not eat, then eat, then not eat essentially (although it’s obviously slightly more complex than that).    

It’s important to understand your daily calorie and macronutrient requirements needed to reach whatever goal you are trying to attain. These requirements will remain the same, but in a shorter period of time. Some will find it difficult to eat that much in such a short window, which is another reason why intermittent fasting leads to weight loss; as a byproduct of undereating. It would seem as though you are eating a lot more than if you were following a normal eating schedule.  

Intermittent fasting goes against the notion that there is a strong thermic effect to food, but is this true? Or is there a thermic effect to food but fasting for a long period of time is more effective? Many believe that eating smaller meals more frequently will yield the best results for fat loss and muscle gain. Is intermittent fasting superior to this, or is it inferior?  

Why Should You Skip Breakfast?

  • Flexibility. This diet is incredibly flexible in the application. It can essentially fit into any other dieting plan, while potentially boosting the effects of the diet. Intermittent fasting can be incorporated into keto, paleo, or any other dieting style. Studies have shown that those following whatever diet they choose to, will actually see increased effectiveness (fat loss) in that particular diet when following intermittent fasting.
  • It’s great for insulin response and insulin sensitivity. When glucose is not present for long periods of time, sensitivity will be increased. When the presence of glucose is then introduced it will be used much more efficiently with a potent insulin response. During a fasted state insulin levels drop significantly, and growth hormone levels actually increase.   This is the perfect environment for insulin sensitivity and decreases the likelihood of insulin resistance.  
  • When cardio is performed during the fasted window, you are assured that the calories being expended will aid in fat burning. Without calories present in the body fat burning will be optimized. The argument for fasted cardio being that with nothing in the body to burn in the form of calories, fat is the energy source used.    
  • Intermittent fasting may help to reduce inflammation in the body by ridding it of free radicals. The absence of carbohydrates is an anti-inflammatory as well. This can help in overall health and has anti-aging type properties.
  • It’s great for those in a caloric surplus who do not want to accumulate unwanted body fat too rapidly. You can eat the same number of total calories in a day, but with the added benefit of burning fat during the fasted window.  
  • When water intake is high, fasting is great for overall digestive health by helping flush the digestive tract. When food is not present during the fasted window, the digestive tract gets a break from digesting food. This can also aid in recovery, where blood is usually rushed to the digestive tract to digest food, the blood can now be allocated to muscle cells.  
  • This is a very easy diet to follow, especially for the casual dieter. You can still reap benefits from this diet even if the total calories consumed during the day remain the same. It’s much more convenient not having to worry about packing so many meals to get through the day.  
  • Nutrient partitioning efficiency could be increased, meaning food is allocated to muscle and not body fat. Nutrient partitioning is increased following a workout; this could actually be amplified following a workout that is completed while fasted.  

Breakfast is making the world fatter. That statement is hyperbolic in nature, but it’s the truth. Not only are breakfast choices typically not the greatest, but just eating breakfast in general might be impeding progress. We have discussed the benefits of intermittent fasting and why it’s effective.  

So, what does breakfast do negatively to us?

  • It does not speed up metabolism (contrary to popular belief).
  • Skipping breakfast does not increase muscle breakdown. Most digestion takes a full day to run its course.
  • Blood sugar needs time to regulate itself upon waking before food should be consumed.
  • Breakfast increases hunger by releasing hunger hormones.

All in all, skipping breakfast and implementing an intermittent fasting protocol is a personal choice.   The benefits are there.  

And thus, ends the Great Breakfast Debate.