You may have seen The New York Times article last week suggesting that breakfast, referred by many as, "the most important meal of the day," was overrated when it came to weight management, and if you don't particularly enjoy it, then science apparently says skipping the meal is no problem.
So should you skip it?
Before we get to the answer I think it's important to first explore the studies that The New York Times piece was basing its conclusions on. The first study compared the total daily calories consumed by people who were instructed to eat 700 calories before 11 a.m. daily, with those consumed by people instructed to fast until noon. The participants were not given any instructions as to what they should be eating for breakfast.
The results? Those who ate "breakfast" consumed significantly more daily calories than those who did not. I put the term "breakfast" in quotations because virtually no one eats a 700 calorie breakfast (that's huge), and secondly because, according to the study, the average participant's breakfast contained an insane 37 teaspoons of sugar -- making up just shy of half those 700 calories. Color me not surprised to learn that a breakfast containing three-quarters of a cup of sugar didn't have much of an impact on fullness for the rest of the day.
The second study's participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups that received instructions either not to consume any calories before 11 a.m., a pamphlet that discussed healthy eating in general or a pamphlet that discussed healthy eating and specifically encouraged breakfast. Participants' weights were then tracked for 16 weeks.
The results? None of the groups experienced significant weight loss -- regardless if they ate breakfast or not. But here's the kicker straight from the paper itself: "Conclusions with regard to the influence of breakfast type or meal timing on weight loss cannot be drawn from this study." In other words, all this study looked at was whether or not being given the trite advice of " eat breakfast" is useful for weight management. It did not evaluate the actual impact of eating breakfast.
So should you skip breakfast?
Looking at just these two papers as the basis for the answer, I'd say if your breakfast consists of insanely large bowlfuls of sugary cereal washed down with sugary beverages like juice -- then yes, by all means skip it, as those sorts of breakfasts aren't likely to keep you full. Consequently, their non-sating empty calories may well just inflate your daily totals.
On the other hand, if my experiences with literally thousands of patients have any bearing, then you might want to consider eating protein rich breakfasts, ideally free from liquid calories, in the neighborhood of 350 to 500 calories. They should be consumed within an hour of waking, as that style of breakfast for many helps a great deal in terms of reducing cravings, hunger and calories not just in the daytime, but in the evenings as well. This style of breakfast tends to most benefit breakfast skippers who regularly struggle with dietary restraint and control in the later afternoon, evening and night times.
But before you start skipping or even starting breakfasting, ask yourself if you really need to change your diet? Frankly, if you're happy with your weight and health, I'd say please don't. As much as many may benefit from breakfast, there are some who definitely don't need it to stay in control of calories or choices.
Ultimately, there isn't a reproducible food formula that works for each and every one of us. There are many different dietary strokes for many different folks.
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