EVERY TIME YOU SKIP BREAKFAST A BABY SEAL GETS CLUBBED TO DEATH.
Seriously, who doesn’t love breakfast? Breakfast is awesome – it is without a doubt my favorite meal of the whole freaking day. I was chatting with a friend of mine about breakfast a while back, sharing our favorite breakfast foods and comparing notes about our typical macronutrient breakdowns and calorie counts for breakfast amidst a lot of drooling and high fives. See, both of us train hard, we lift heavy, and we wake up ravenous for our big-girl breakfasts. It isn’t uncommon for either of us to pack away 30% of our daily caloric requirements at breakfast time.
On the other hand, my husband is just not a breakfast eater. He wakes up, pours a cup of coffee, and MAYBE has some breakfast a couple of hours later. And here’s the thing: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Show of hands, please: who has been gagged over and over with the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? My thought is that any statement that sounds THAT absolute and applies to everyone, is worthy of a raised eyebrow and further scrutiny. Nutrition science is too young and too individual for anyone – ANYONE – to be making blanket statements…unless they’re selling something. You know, like breakfast cereal.
Now there’s a can of worms. I am invoking the wrath of my entire family here, but I just can’t stop myself: most breakfast cereal, along with most other packaged ‘breakfast food’, is shit.
Ok fine, maybe not total shit in that there are worse things you can put into your body…but there are also lots and lots of better options. Let’s move on, shall we?
So if breakfast in the morning really isn’t that big a deal, what IS a big deal as far as attaining optimal health is concerned? Studies have shown over and over again that eating three meals a day is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Simple, right? Three meals that consist of plenty of plants, lean protein, and healthy fats – and nothing else. Now, before anyone accuses me of making the blanket statements that I was just slagging a paragraph ago, that kind of eating pattern is not going to work for everyone and you have to do some experimenting to find what works best for YOU. But really, whether your first meal of the day happens at 7am or noon or 3pm is up to you. For example, people who stay up late tend to not want to eat right when they wake up in the morning. Does this mean that they are killing their metabolisms and messing with their insulin tolerance? Probably – but not because of not eating breakfast! Which leads me to my next point:
Often people who don’t want breakfast are eating too much at night.
Because who needs eggs in the morning when you had four slices of pizza at 11pm?
Again, I have to qualify my statements here: imagine someone who works in a hospital until 11pm. They’re home at 11:30pm, tired and HANGRY because they haven’t eaten since 6:30pm and they just spent the evening running back and forth getting yelled at. They’re mentally and physically exhausted and the temptation to eat the entire contents of the fridge seems insurmountable. With this client I would work on having some quick, healthy options at the ready, because for this client it actually is time to eat.
Now, imagine someone who works from 8am to 430pm. They come home from work, eat a healthyish supper, then park in front of the tv/computer/book/whatever for the evening. An hour goes by and they have dessert. Then, after another hour, potato chips. Hot chocolate would be good too; it’s not that nice out and it’ll help with getting settled. By 9pm it’s getting close to bedtime and they’re a little peckish – time for a light snack. Cereal or a couple pieces of toast.
They go to sleep stuffed and are not hungry for breakfast in the morning. This is the client who, if they want to make a change to their body composition, really does need to start turning their calorie intake around and eat breakfast.
“But coach, I’m not hungry in the morning – do you want me to force myself to eat?”
Nope – you shouldn’t have to force yourself to eat. Not ever (unless you are trying to gain weight). What may take a little bit of mental muscle, is NOT eating late in the day so that you don’t go to bed stuffed – THAT’s where a little bit of willpower will come in handy for the first week or so. Do that for a week and your stomach should start waking up when your peepers fly open in the morning. If it doesn’t, you may just not be a breakfast person and you’ve created a very effective calorie deficit – that may be all you need to do to achieve the physique you’re after!
In a nutshell, it doesn’t really matter when you eat what, as long as you’re eating lots of plants, lean protein, and healthy fats throughout the day.