The Pros and Cons of Skipping Breakfast

is skipping breakfast healthy

You might have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s just not true. Observationally, those who eat breakfast regularly seem to be healthier than those who skip breakfast. However, when two things are connected, it doesn’t mean that one is the cause of the other. Randomized controlled trials indicate that no one meal is the most important meal of the day

Depending on your intermittent fasting plan, you might skip breakfast as part of your daily routine, or perhaps you skip breakfast a few times per week. So, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of skipping breakfast.

You Wake Up in a Fasted State

what happens if you skip breakfast

You’re naturally fasting while you sleep. Assuming you’ve had at least eight hours of sleep, morning time is the most fasted you’ll be all day. Insulin sensitivity is at its highest, and your glycogen levels are at their lowest in this fasted state. 

When you extend your morning fasting window a bit longer, you can increase the benefits of fasting, which extend beyond weight loss. A review of the literature on fasting and skipping breakfast says it’s the fasting that matters when it comes to losing weight, not the time of day in which your fasting window occurs. 

If weight loss is your goal, the total amount of calories you consume per day is crucial, but when you eat those calories doesn’t matter. There’s no evidence to suggest eating smaller meals more frequently increases weight loss. Weight loss studies demonstrate no difference in total weight loss between those who skipped breakfast, those who ate breakfast, and the control groups. 

It’s also a myth that you need to eat breakfast to kick start your metabolism in the morning. The opposite is correct. If you eat, your body will cease to burn fat and will turn to glycogen instead. Studies demonstrate there’s no difference in the number of calories breakfast eaters use compared to non-breakfast eaters.

Thankfully, your metabolism works just fine when you wake up in the morning. Otherwise, how could you function without reaching for a bite of food from the comfort of your bed? 

The choice to eat breakfast or not is a matter of personal preference. So, here are the pros and cons of both. 

The Pros 

When you skip or delay your breakfast, it’s an easy way to practice intermittent fasting since you’ve already fasted eight hours or more while you slept. The most convenient time to fast is when you sleep. Overnight, you don’t have to deal with hunger or boredom. If you eat an early dinner and skip or delay your breakfast until 10 am or later, you can quickly meet the requirements of a 14 to 16-hour fasting window. 

When you forgo breakfast, you’ll have extra free time in the morning, which is another benefit of passing on your morning meal. If weight loss is your goal, the morning hours are a convenient time to add exercise to your daily routine. Studies show when you work out in a fasted state, it helps you burn more fat, improves your response to insulin, and can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. 

When you maintain a shorter eating window, you can eat a little later at night since you delayed your first meal of the day. It’s never a good idea to eat outside of your circadian rhythm, but many social events occur around dinner time. When you pass on breakfast, you can enjoy social time with friends and still stick to your intermittent fasting plan. Just make sure your nighttime meals are nutritious and don’t eat too late. 

So, it’s not harmful to skip breakfast if it helps you stick with your intermittent fasting plan. It may even become comfortable for you. You’re merely extending a natural overnight period of fasting. And if you’re not hungry when you wake up, there’s no reason to eat breakfast.

The Cons 

Not everyone likes to skip breakfast. If you’re hungry in the morning, or if your day requires you to be well-fueled in the early hours, listen to your body and get the calories you need. However, if you want to lose weight, remember that the more meals you eat, the smaller each meal should be. 

If you pass on breakfast, it could cause you to overcompensate at lunch and dinner. But, not everyone will tend to overdo it. You might find it’s easier to keep your daily caloric intake low when you start your day with a small meal. 

Some research shows a correlation between excess caloric consumption and eating the majority of your calories later in the day. If you eat that way, it can lead to obesity and can negatively impact your sleep. However, just because there’s a link between late-night eating and obesity, it doesn’t mean it’s the cause. Those who eat late at night tend to eat more and eat more fast food, but it’s unclear whether it’s the timing of the meal, the poor nutritional quality of the meal, or the excess calories that cause weight gain. 

Life Hacks for Breakfast Skippers

skipping breakfast to lose weight

If you’d like to skip breakfast to lose weight, consider the following life hacks to help you stick to your goals:

  • Stay busy in the morning. Use your mornings to sleep a little later, exercise, or get to work earlier to keep your mind off food.
  • Avoid early morning hunger. When you don’t get enough sleep, overeat, or consume foods high in carbohydrates the night before,  it can cause you to wake up hungry. So, keep the last meal of your day nutritionally dense and high in fats and proteins for a good night’s rest and a hunger-free morning. 
  • Remember to hydrate. When you wake up, you’re in a fasted state, and you’re likely dehydrated from eight hours or more without liquids. Drink plenty of water when you first wake up and remember that it’s ok to drink unsweetened coffee and tea. 

There are many myths surrounding breakfast. If you skip breakfast, that alone won’t make you lose or gain weight, but it can be an easy way to extend your overnight fast and help you reap the benefits of intermittent fasting. If breakfast energizes you and makes you more focused throughout the day, then, by all means, eat an early meal. But if weight loss is your goal, be aware of your overall caloric consumption.

Author's bio

Sara-Mai Conway

Sara-Mai Conway

Sara-Mai is a writer who specializes in physical and mental health, nutrition, and fitness. She has 20 years of professional experience in the health and wellness industry and is a certified yoga instructor.