Skip This Meal if You Want to Be Healthier
Most Important Meal of the Day
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
We’ve all heard this, but what if it wasn’t true?
Breakfast is supposed to give us the fuel to power our brains for school, to power our muscles for an athletic event, or to allow us to focus on our work until lunch.
But so many people are eating the type of breakfasts that not only detract from their ability to focus and perform, but may actually harm their health.
When I look at a list of common breakfast foods, all I think about are blood sugar crashes, insulin spikes and poor quality foods with very low micronutrient contents. Bagels, toast, cereal, oatmeal, granola, muffins all contain both antinutrients in the form of oxalates and phytates and high amounts of glucose and starch that raise our blood sugar, spike insulin, and create cravings and crashes mid-morning.
Most of us know we should be eating more vegetables and less sugar. So why is breakfast, which is THE most important meal of the day, or so we’re told, completely lacking in vegetables and so HIGH in sugar? When I’m traveling and have breakfast at a restaurant it’s almost impossible to get enough veggies on my plate. I have to order three extra sides like an avocado, spinach and some of the broccoli they usually add to an omelet.
A huge breakfast and no greens in sight:
Many people who think they’re eating a healthy breakfast are actually doing the opposite. Take two common breakfast foods people think of as healthy – Granola and fruit smoothies. Granola is usually full of added sugars and also contains antinutrients from the grains if they haven’t been soaked, sprouted or fermented before being made into granola. Fruit smoothies are very high in fructose, which should likely be limited to less than 25 grams per day, according to many health experts and yet a fruit smoothie can have up to 20g of fructose from fruit. Table sugar also contains fructose as does high fructose corn syrup, of course. It can be pretty easy to go over that 25g of fructose if you’re eating processed foods with added sugar and fruit.
If your breakfast leaves you with food cravings before lunch, tired and cranky or hungry after less than 3 hours, you have done something wrong. Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day if you are filling up on sugar and carbohydrates.
How Not to Screw Up Breakfast
The new adage goes like this “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day not to screw up.”
As we’ve learned by now, everyone is unique. We all have unique genes, unique stressors and levels of stress, different demands on our days.
If you’re waking up and heading into work and not stopping to perform high intensity exercise, complete in a sporting event or climb a mountain, then you probably don’t need to eat breakfast.
UNLESS. Unless you’re a woman, Unless you’re a woman over 50, Unless you have HPA Axis Disregulation (what used to be termed adrenal fatigue), Unless you had a workout the night before and have another one in the morning or at lunch, Unless you’re trying to gain muscle and mass and so on.
You get the picture, listen to your body. Set up your morning routine for your lifestyle and goals. In general, most people can go without breakfast and probably be healthier for it. For instance there are a lot of suggestions (Mercola, Kruse) that skipping breakfast allows your body to lower its response to insulin and create effects that decrease risk for diabetes and obesity.
Developed over years and years of trial, error, study and finally mental toughness, I fast from dinner the night before, 6pm for me, until lunch the next day, 11am. I do this 3 days a week. That’s a full 17 hours of fasting on those day with no breakfast.
An no, I do not lose energy. I still get in a workout if needed, even an intense one. I still focus and have plenty of energy at work or playing with the kids on the weekends.
On the other 4 days of the week I’ll eat breakfast, but I try to optimize my breakfast to set me up for success for the rest of the day. Either a Bulletproof Coffee, or Bulletproof Coffee with collagen protein added in and some plantain pancakes with nothing on them.
It took me a few months to get used to this schedule and not be hungry in the morning for breakfast. Some if it was mentally adjusting to not eating food in the morning and some of it was allowing my body to adjust to going longer without eating.
Why Intermittent Fast
- Increases insulin sensitivity
- Increases energy burning from stored body fat
- Decreases weight gain
- Decreases inflammation
- Biological repair and rejuvination
Here’s a great infographic from Dr. Mercola
Intermittent fasting is not a form of starvation but a way for you to time your meals to maximize your body’s ability to burn fat.
It turns out breakfast is not the most important meal, and one of the easiest for most of us to skip. We’re already fasting when we wake up. A night spent sleeping and not eating has induced a fasting state and we can continue it for the full 14-16 hours recommended by most biohackers as the critical fasting window for maximum benefit.
In the beginning you may find yourself light headed, low on blood sugar, stressed and even more angry as time goes by. Perhaps you need to eat breakfast and find an alternate way to fast such as full day fasting once a month or fasting from 4pm until 7am the next day. This schedule could allow you to get in a full 3 meals and still fast for 15 hours. There are no rules here people!
Dr. Mercola used to skip breakfast every day as part of his fast, but he has since changed to fasting from 4pm until 7 or 8am. He eats a really early dinner. He does live in Florida and probably all the retired people are eating dinner at 4pm anyway. At least that’s been my experience. But it works for him and he likes to eat breakfast. He also has morning workouts, and has benefits from eating in the morning.
Other people totally perform fasted workouts in the morning or right before lunch. They hit the gym or get in their workout with their last meal a distant 16 hours before. They then eat lunch after their workout. Supposedly this fasted workout massively suppresses mTOR and then provides a huge boost of mTOR once protein and food is consumed after the workout. Coffee, fasting and fasted workouts are all ways to suppress mTOR. mTOR then spikes more than usual after this period of fasting, coffee and fasted workout to yield increased usage of food for muscle building. You can check out the science of it all here and here.
Many experts recommend minimizing or eliminating all carbohydrates in the morning if you do eat breakfast. I try to eliminate carbohydrates at breakfast or eat only complex carbohydrates such as green plantains in the form of my favorite plantain pancakes (3 green plantains, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tbs coconut oil or butter, 4 eggs, ¼ tiger nut flour, ¼ cup cassava flour. Food process and add water to consistency of pancake batter. Optional add protein powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, stevia. Cook like a pancake). I’ll have pancakes, Bulletproof Coffee, a couple eggs and spinach prior to a morning workout or the day after an intense evening workout.
Ben Greenfield and Dave Asprey say that carbs in the morning spike insulin throughout the day and avoiding carbs for breakfast keeps insulin lower throughout the whole day, all other things being equal. Because increased insulin levels are not good for us, minimizing or eliminating carbs for breakfast is something to try out. Save the sugar smacks for lunch or dinner, or for the trash.
It’s cheaper and easier than eating breakfast. Don’t let the nutrition overlords distort your reality. Question and experiment. Make sure you experiment for long enough that you can make a real decision if fasting is for you. Yes, in the beginning your body and mind, used to daily 7am feedings will rebel. Resist! Know what your goals are and let them drive you forward in persisting.
After a sufficient time you will notice that fasting is easier and easier and you may just come to prefer it. Rather than wanting to rip someone’s arm off and eat it, lest you become angry and light headed from hunger, you may find yourself on a long flight or in hours of back to back meetings and totally skipping meals and being OK with this. This is progress. You are now more calm. Missing a meal isn’t a big deal.