Ask a Dietitian: Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Breakfast is the first meal of the day and, as the name suggests, it breaks the overnight fast. We have all heard it said before that we need to eat breakfast as it's the most important meal of the day, but is there any truth to this age-old statement?

It can be a little confusing to decipher the importance of breakfast with all the mixed messages we see online so we are here to give you the facts so you can decide for yourself. 

Breakfast is very important if you...

Breakfast will be more important for some people than it is for others, depending on many different factors. Breakfast is especially important if you...

Exercise in the morning

Breakfast is especially important if you engage in high-intensity exercise first thing in the morning. Breakfast will help to replenish your glucose or energy stores as well as assist in muscle growth and repair, along with helping to manage your appetite throughout the day.

Are hungry when you wake up

If you are always hungry when you wake up then you should eat! It is important to listen to your hunger cues, your body is telling you to eat as it is low on fuel!

Don’t have a lunch break until later in the day

If you don’t have lunch until 2 pm this is a really long time to go without food and you are likely to feel fatigued, irritated, and find it difficult to concentrate. It is important to consume breakfast in this case.

Snack a lot in the afternoons

If you find that you snack a lot in the afternoon this may be due to not eating enough in the morning. Having a balanced meal for breakfast may help reduce unwanted snacking, and manage your intake across the day.

Breakfast is not so important if you...

If you're not sold on the benefits above, or you don't include yourself in any of the factors above, breakfast may not be essential for you. Breakfast may not be so important if you...

Are not hungry when you wake up

If you are genuinely not hungry when you wake up then don’t eat! Listening to our hunger cues is important! Just make sure to pack a healthy snack in case you feel hungry before lunch.

If you don’t exercise in the morning

If you don’t exercise in the morning then breakfast may not be as important as you will not be using up as much of your energy stores, nor needing fuel to help you recover from your training session.

Are trying to cut your calories

If you are trying to lose weight and you find that skipping breakfast helps you to control your calorie intake. This is also often referred to as a type of intermittent fasting. NOTE: If you find that you are starving by lunch then this may not be the best option!

The benefits of eating breakfast

Regardless of its status as the most important meal, it does have many benefits. Some benefits of eating breakfast include...

Increased energy levels

This is due to replenishing your glucose levels as they drop overnight. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are more active during the day – when you eat breakfast that contains healthy carbohydrates you are replenishing your energy stores which leads to more energy and activity throughout the day

Improved glucose control in the afternoon

Eating breakfast may help stabilise blood sugar, and as such energy levels across the day, by reducing peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels.

Assist with muscle growth and repair

A breakfast that contains a source of protein will assist with muscle recovery

Improved concentration

Carbohydrates are the key source of energy for your brain. By eating breakfast and keeping blood sugar levels stable across the day, this also benefits how well we are able to concentrate as well. 

But, doesn’t breakfast kick start your metabolism?

It has been thought for a long time that breakfast kick starts your metabolism, but recent studies have shown that this is not true! A randomised control trial (the best quality research study) found that people who decided to eat breakfast had no change in metabolism when compared to people who skipped breakfast. There was also no difference in the amount of calories burnt during the day between the two groups.

Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian

Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.

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