Nutritionist and exercise scientist Kathleen Alleaume looks at whether having breakfast is better than skipping it.
Q: Healthy eating advice used to always be that breakfast was the most important meal of the day but now, with the rise of intermittent fasting, people seem to say skipping breakfast is fine. Which is it? I’m confused.
A: Breakfast is an important meal because it ‘breaks’ the overnight ‘fast’ and fuels your body after a long period of sleep. There are many reasons why people avoid eating breakfast: because they are not hungry or in an attempt to reduce their daily calorie intake and lose weight. However, most studies have found no weight-loss benefit to skipping breakfast. On the contrary, there’s good evidence that eating breakfast can make a positive contribution to nutrient intake, including dietary fibre which may help with weight control.
Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity as a weight management tool, but it’s not a diet. Unlike most diets which dictate what foods you should and shouldn’t eat, intermittent fasting (aka time restricted eating) determines the times you eat — that is periods of eating alternated with periods of not eating (fasting). While research on fasting is still in its infancy, there is some evidence to show that time-restricted eating is associated with a range of health benefits, including promoting weight loss, reducing inflammation and improving diabetes management.
The bottom line is there isn’t a definitive answer to your question, as an eating time that suits one person may not suit another. There isn’t a specific time that breakfast should be eaten, but try not to leave it too long after waking — your body has been fasting overnight and not replenishing its energy stores can impact concentration and leave you feeling hungry and tired.
For more advice on eating breakfast, we recommend: Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? or What should you be eating for breakfast?