Is breakfast the most important meal?

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? See what the research says.

When I was at my grandmother’s over Holiday break, she asked what I wanted for breakfast. I said I was not hungry, and opted for coffee instead. My grandma was shocked that her own granddaughter, a future Dietitian, did not know that breakfast was the most important meal of the day! This led me to question, is breakfast actually the most important meal? Will choosing to skip hinder results in the gym or weight-loss goals?

The truth with nutrition is there is never a “fit-all” diet. Consuming breakfast has long been considered one of the best habits of living a healthy lifestyle, but after doing a little research, there is little evidence showing that it is any more important than the other meals. As the obesity epidemic continues to rise, the percent of individuals skipping breakfast is also rising. However, this is correlation, not causation, so we cannot directly link skipping breakfast to obesity.

I often receive questions from clients asking if they should skip breakfast, if they will lose weight fasting in the morning, or why they sometimes feel hungry right after eating breakfast. After doing some research, I have some answers to these great questions!

What does the research say?

Breakfast consumption is a hot topic for new research, but it is important to point out that most of the studies examined have a high risk of bias. The results are interpreted with caution due to poor study designs.

Habitual breakfast consumers vs skippers

Habitual breakfast consumers were found to have greater hunger responses and reduced satiety following breakfast compared to people that normally skip, regardless if breakfast was even consumed (Douglas et al, 2019). In a 2019 meta-analysis by Sievert et al, there was data that suggests breakfast skippers did not compensate for the skipped meal later in the day. This study also concluded that breakfast consumers consumed more calories overall throughout the day compared to skippers. Alternatively, there is no evidence that consuming breakfast increased weight or skipping decreased weight.

High protein breakfast

A 2015 study by Leidy et al examined the effects of normal protein verses high protein intake at breakfast. Adolescents consuming a high protein breakfast were found to prevent weight gain in body fat over 12 weeks compared to breakfast skippers. A normal protein diet did not prevent fat gain. Consuming a high protein breakfast caused improved satiety in female adolescents in the study by Douglas. It is shown in several other studies that consuming 25-30 grams of protein for breakfast improved satiety, as evidenced by postprandial and daily increases to fullness.

So is breakfast the most important meal?

If you normally skip breakfast, thats’s fine! If you normally do consume breakfast, aim for 25-30g of protein along with whole grains and healthy fats to improve satiety. Skipping breakfast in the morning may be a way to reduce total caloric intake if you normally consume breakfast. Experiment with a high protein breakfast or fasting in the morning, and see which you prefer. Be sure to consult with your dietitian if you have any underlying health conditions before trying a new breakfast routine.

High protein breakfast options

Recipe 1: 25g protein

Recipe 2: 30g protein

Recipe 3: 30g protein

For a high protein snack idea, check out this recipe for a chocolate mug cake!

Francine Hoffman
Francine Hoffman

Francine Hoffman, CSCS is a personal trainer and graduate assistant at South Dakota State University pursuing her masters in Exercise Science and Dietetics. She is a Fitness and Nutrition contributor for Sports and Fitness Digest.

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