People often have mixed opinions when it comes to skipping breakfast. For example, some consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day while others consider it optional.
Regarding the latter, forgoing breakfast is sometimes done as part of intermittent fasting, which improves weight loss and metabolic health. This goes to show that just because you skip breakfast, doesn’t mean you’re going to be less healthy than those who don’t.
In this article, we answer the question, “Should you eat breakfast?” Next, we discuss what happens if you don’t eat breakfast, including its benefits and drawbacks by looking at the research and what professionals think.
The saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is based on the idea that it jumpstarts your metabolism and gives you the energy to perform. But whether or not someone eats breakfast depends on the person (their current health, goals, hunger levels, etc.) — which means that breakfast may not always be necessary.
Brittany Lubeck, a Registered Dietitian, and consultant for Oh So Spotless, writes, “Although there is evidence to suggest that breakfast is an essential part of a healthy diet, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to point breakfast out as the sole cause of health. Plenty of people skip breakfast and live long healthy lives.”
Although Brittany admits to being pro-breakfast, she notes that many of the studies on the benefits of breakfast are observational. In other words, these studies only demonstrate a possible relationship, but not causation.
For instance, previous studies have reported that eating breakfast more than 3 times a week is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. However, it is unclear how breakfast affects these diseases (*).
People miss or skip breakfast for different reasons. One is that they have rushed mornings and simply do not have enough time for breakfast meal prep.
Another reason is that they don’t feel hungry at all in the morning. They may have eaten a huge dinner or midnight snack the night before, which was high in fats, protein, or both. Fat and protein increase satiety and regulate appetite. Dietary fat, in particular, slows gastric emptying (* , *).
If not due to a satiating evening meal, some people omit breakfast because it falls within their fasting window. Undergoing a 16:8 intermittent fasting plan — in which you avoid food for 16 hours and eat for the remaining 8 hours — entails skipping breakfast and having lunch as your first meal.
Christine Kingsley of the Lung Institute, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has worked with nutritionists, notes that some people who exercise in the morning prefer eating after, and not before, their workout.
Not only does this prevent nausea and reflux (usually due to a big breakfast), but it has the benefit of burning more fat since your glycogen stores are low. A downside, however, is that those who are new to skipping breakfast before a workout may experience low blood sugar, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
Blanca Garcia, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Health Canal, adds, “Eating a light breakfast after your workout reduces daytime fatigue and keeps you energized throughout the day.”
Making breakfast a part of your healthy routine is not a must, but it offers some important advantages, such as better appetite control, meeting your nutritional needs, and boosting your exercise performance.
According to an older study, eating a protein-rich breakfast can be used as a strategy to prevent overeating and unhealthy snacking later in the evening (*). Eating late at night, when done frequently, may increase your risk of gaining weight and developing a chronic disease (*).
“The best and healthiest option would be a high-protein breakfast,” says Isaac Robertson, Co-Founder at Total Shape and a CISSN and ISSA certified professional.
Good examples of proteins include eggs, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon, and cottage cheese. If your breakfast includes carbohydrates, focus on complex carbs — such as broccoli, green beans, nuts, and berries. Complex carbs are also ideal for breakfast eaters with diabetes and are following a low-carb or keto diet to avoid blood sugar spikes.
When it comes to getting your daily needs of vitamins and minerals from breakfast, it’s best to focus on whole foods. Are your mornings always busy? Start with easy make-ahead breakfast recipes. Avoid highly processed options, such as cereals and muffins. These are high in added sugar and are mostly empty calories.
Is it bad to skip breakfast if it’s part of a dietary strategy that improves your health? Definitely not. This is especially true when you’re doing it to promote nutritional ketosis and autophagy, which have science-backed benefits.
Skipping breakfast is a normal part of intermittent fasting, which improves weight loss, resulting in other health benefits like lower blood sugar and blood pressure, better insulin sensitivity, and higher HDL cholesterol (*).
Fasting triggers autophagy, a process in which your body cleans out old and damaged cells to protect you from chronic disease (*). Not consuming breakfast, even a few times per week, extends your fast a little longer (if you started fasting the day before), which is a simple way to improve autophagy.
Another benefit of forgoing breakfast is metabolic flexibility. The term “metabolic flexibility” means that you are fully capable of switching from glucose to your stored body fat, and vice versa, for energy. In other words, you can thrive on whatever energy is available (*).
In contrast, a person who’s metabolically inflexible experiences fluctuating blood sugar levels, fatigue, anxiety, and irritability when food isn’t readily available or during fasted exercise. Skipping breakfast, along with other strategies like carb reduction and staying physically active, can train your metabolism to become more flexible.
As you’ve learned, there are good reasons to eat breakfast and reasons to skip it. It’s also important to be aware of some potential issues with omitting breakfast, which applies to certain situations. For example:
- If you’re trying to get pregnant: Skipping breakfast is not a good idea for those trying to conceive. Boosting fertility requires consuming the right amounts of micronutrients, such as zinc, omega-3s, and iron. Conception is an energy-expensive process for women — so fasting is probably not the best idea.
- Competitive athletes: Your performance will likely suffer if you don’t fuel enough from food. Forgoing breakfast may help with training-related adaptations, but it’s unlikely to help with gameday performance.
- Taking medications for diabetes: Skipping a meal can be risky if you are taking medications that lower blood sugar. This could lead to hypoglycemia (below normal blood sugar readings). On the other hand, blood sugar levels may rise if you’re not eating enough due to an illness (*).
Get more information on skipping breakfast and its effects.
Does eating breakfast boost your metabolism?
Many experts recommend breakfast because of the belief that it revs up the metabolism. Whether this is true or not, skipping breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting protocol does not slow the metabolism either. In fact, fasting can slightly boost your metabolism and teach your body to be metabolically flexible while you’re also losing weight.
Can I lose weight by skipping breakfast?
Yes, you can. Skipping breakfast (or another meal) lowers your total daily calorie intake, which contributes to weight loss. However, the opposite may happen — you gain weight — if omitting breakfast makes you overindulge on junk food at night.
Who should not skip breakfast?
Certain groups of people benefit from having breakfast, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, trying to conceive, taking blood glucose lowering medications, and competitive athletes.
Is it okay to skip breakfast every day?
Contrary to popular belief, skipping breakfast daily is fine as long as it’s supporting your overall health goals and you’re fueling properly (with whole, nutrient-dense foods) during lunch, dinner, and after your workouts.
Also, if you have a medical condition, consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best approach for you.
Eating breakfast has its own set of benefits, and so does skipping breakfast. For example, a protein-rich breakfast could benefit you by reducing your unhealthy cravings throughout the day — especially at night. Alternatively, avoiding breakfast puts you in a fasted state, which enhances fat-burning, induces autophagy, and helps you achieve metabolic flexibility.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. Always listen to your body and emphasize nutrient density. Planning your meals, no matter the timing, will make a huge difference in your overall health and fitness, along with other strategies like movement, sleep, and stress management.