Breakfast … the Most Important Meal?

A recent article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) argues that previous studies used to portray breakfast to be the most important meal of the day may be biased. There has been a case for breakfast built on the fact that the idea that spreading out meals throughout the day and eating little and often can help to speed up metabolism. These opinions have been built upon the fact that some studies also showed that obese and diabetic people skipped meals more often than normal weight or thin people. This research has forged the thought that having breakfast was essential for maintaining a healthy body weight.

Fact or Myth?

It’s important to note that this study mainly looked at energy intake and its effect on weight. Therefore a meal being excluded from any subject’s diet will result in a decrease in calories and will lead to weight loss. It’s easy to skew data from a study and forge a misleading headline rather than paint the whole picture.

So to answer the question—fact or myth?—well, I hope after reading any of my previous blogs, you will have come up with the answer by now: It depends. For example, an athlete should prioritize breakfast for performance or continued recovery from training the day before. It’s well documented that athletes who skip breakfast will compromise their performance if their training is later that day or even at night. However, those who wish to lose weight will benefit from skipping meals, which will reduce the number of calories they consume throughout the day.

Those looking to put on muscle should also prioritize breakfast (most notably protein) as this is the first meal after the night before, which can typically be a 10- to 16-hour fasting window, depending on the individual. If an individual is fasting for this long, then muscle protein breakdown is inevitable, which delays recovery and can lead to compromised performance in the gym.

Take Home Message

Context is key as always with regards to nutrition. Understand your fitness goals and you can make sense of whether breakfast is a good option for you or not. Indeed, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular among people looking to lose weight or maintain overall health; however, if muscle maintenance or gain is a priority, then a protein source in between would be worth considering.

 

Steve O’Mahony, BSc MSc
Performance Nutrition