Is Breakfast that Important?
First off, if you don't recognize this guy then you probably never had dreams of him showing up to "Pimp Your Ride' in the early 2000's. I won't judge you for that, but what do the tricked out cars that Xzibit had built, and the role of breakfast in your pursuit of looking great have in common?
There's a lot more going on "under the hood" than most of us have been led to believe.
The cars that got "pimped" out went from busted to beautiful and had everything from backseat TV's, to champagne fridges, and custom paint jobs. Sure, they looked amazing but soon custom parts stopped working and cars broke down, leading participants to realize not much had been done under the hood.
Ok, maybe that was a bad comparison. I don't want you to think of eating breakfast as analogous to cars blowing up, but just to keep in mind that when it comes to nutrition, there is more than meets the eye.
For as long as most of us can remember we have learned that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's the meal that kick starts your metabolism and gets your body to start burning calories early. It gives you energy that you need to thrive, and for anyone conscious of their body fat, it's the essential first step each day.
Is it though?
If approximately 90% of Americans eat breakfast but more than 35% are overweight or obese then the numbers don't add up. Eating breakfast obviously can't be "the answer" to looking good naked (LGN) and losing weight. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone needs to skip breakfast or that it can't contribute to losing weight and feeling great, but there is more going on that needs to be discussed.
The first challenge that requiring people to eat breakfast causes is that it creates a large eating window. This may work for those who subscribe to the 6 meals a day approach but can contribute to too much eating for many people throughout that 15 hour window. Makes sense right....give people more time in which to eat and they are likely to eat more.
But aren't we supposed to eat more frequently?
This could be an entire post of its own, but to keep it simple, NO. Significant amounts of research have shown us that eating more frequently does not increase our metabolism. More frequently is by no means worse but is also not better in terms of metabolism.
Translation: You can't remove psychology and your daily life from the equation so do what works best for you. Whether you eat 1800 calories in 3 meals or 6, it will not impact how many calories you burn. Period.
Back to breakfast. On top of potentially creating a large eating window, chowing down first thing in the morning, directly after sleeping, may also impact your hormones. Fat burning and muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone are at their highest levels during and after sleeping. That is until we take in food and their production quickly down regulates.
The other interesting thing about hormones is that they adapt. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones related to hunger than will adapt over time based upon HOW your body gets used to eating. This means if you decide to start eating just 2 meals a day when you normally ate 5 then you might feel starving at first, but your body will adapt.
Not only will your body be able to burn more fat throughout the day by waiting to eat, but your body will also train itself not to be as hungry while doing so. Sounds like a win-win to me.
So to recap, eating early has the potential to mean more calories taken in throughout the day, and it may down regulate production of hormones that help us shred fat and stack on muscle.
Ready to throw away your lucky charms yet and ditch the first meal of the day?
I am all about you tossing the sugary cereal but as for skipping breakfast, don't be too quick to flip flop. I am by no means a scientist or research expert but have come to realize that we are often easily swayed and convinced by new information.
Like getting your ride pimped by Xzibit, we get distracted by the newness and flash and miss out on the fact that we still need to be looking deeper for sustainable results.
There are few "truths" in the nutrition world on exactly how you should eat and as for research on breakfast (like many topics) there are compelling arguments on both sides. Then why in the world have I been trying to convince you that breakfast is bad then?
Because I want you to question the nutrition and fitness information you blindly follow.
I could have continued on with this post with all the reasons why breakfast is working against your aspirations to feel great and LGN, and lobbied for you to pick up intermittent fasting.
To be honest, there is strongly compelling research in support of this method of eating and it works great for many people. I personally have even used it and seen great results. Not giving you the ability to learn more and make a personal decision however, would be missing the mark on if it would work for you.
There are plenty of nutrition FACTS out there about the biochemical nature of food, such as 1 gram of Protein contains 4 calories. There are however, far fewer ABSOLUTES in the best way for each one of us to consume that food to be lean and healthy.
I wish there was an answer. I wish I could tell you exactly how to eat, in what quantities, and how often but then that just wouldn't be life now would it? There is something to be gained along the journey, and everyone's path will need to look a little bit different.
This can be frustrating when you are trying to figure out how to lose fat, gain muscle, or just have better energy, but pay attention to how you are framing your approach.
If the best speech writer in the world gave you the perfect words to deliver in front of a group, would it guarantee you deliver a great speech? Of course not, because there is a gap between knowledge and execution that comes with time and practice.
It also requires some individualization. Just as the speech given to you might not match your persona, a standardized method of eating might not fit you and your life.
There will always be ways you can eat better or worse but research inconsistencies seem to point to the idea that there are many ways to get there. This requires constant learning, and being open to changing your opinions and beliefs along the way.
The only answer then is to take your evolving body of knowledge and continue to make intelligent choices that work best for you. It's a lifelong process so happy hunting and most importantly, don't give up.
- Joe -
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Want more information on the research out there on the importance of breakfast? This article spurred a lot of my thoughts for this post and also includes some great information and insight on other topics such as meal frequency, eating at night, and more misunderstood nutrition topics you might be interested in.