Breakfast. Good or Bad: Discuss
This is a very interesting perspective –and it’s one that I seriously have never heard before. If any of you have, would love to hear your perspective. I have read about fasting and the benefits of intermittent fasting but never the theory about not eating breakfast at all. I don’t eat before I head out for my 6A workout and don’t eat until I hit my office – around 930-10A and most of the time, I can delay it until 1130-noon if I had too. It’s an odd concept though to think about it actually being good for me to do that as opposed to eating a ‘hearty’ breakfast as I start my long workday.
Your body starts each day as a fat-burning machine, and the key to simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain is to avoid screwing that up. Even when you’re exercising, your body will burn far higher levels of fat than normal on an empty stomach[52, 53]. This also causes the upregulation of enzymes crucial for burning fat, allowing fat to be metabolized faster.
Let’s say you eat a breakfast containing 30 grams or more of carbs. Your insulin levels raise with the rise in blood sugar, and this starts you on a downward spiral. This early-morning release of insulin vastly reduces fat burning for the remainder of the day, which is big problem because your morning cortisol levels remain high. As a result, this insulin release causes new empty fat cells to be created [56-64], and it lowers your levels of ghrelin and growth hormone[29-31, 51]. In other words, by eating breakfast, you’re essentially wreaking havoc on all the positive things that happen when you wake up.
What I’ve just described is reality, not observation. In this light, you’d think we should maybe hold off on breakfast for a while after we wake up—at least until cortisol levels return to normal and growth hormone levels fall on their own, a process that takes a few hours. When looked at from a scientific standpoint, skipping carbs at breakfast certainly appears to be a way to lose body fat faster—or, at the very least, to keep it off.
Researchers studied two groups: one that ate most of their calories at the start of the day (simulating the nothing-after-7 PM rule), while the other group skipped breakfast and ate most of their meals in the last half of the day. What happened? Well, the first group, the one that ate most of their calories early on (including a huge carby breakfast) lost more weight than the second group.
Before you stop reading and tell me I’ve been debunked, let me tell you what else happened. The researchers examined the subjects’ body composition before and after the study, and that’s where we see reality. Yes, the feast-in-the-morning group lost more weight, but they lost a lot more muscle and a lot less fat. The second group—which, again, ate most of their calories at night—lost almost exclusively fat while preserving muscle[65-69]. Interesting, right?
What about the cognitive aspects of skipping carbs at breakfast? Will it really cloud your thinking and slow you down mentally? All the evidence supporting this, at least what I’ve seen, is anecdotal at best. Have experiments proven that a carby breakfast or any breakfast at all improves cognitive abilities? Yes, if the subjects are malnourished[70-73].
Researchers withheld breakfast from one group of kids, letting them eat their first meal at lunch, while a second group of kids at a so-called “balanced” breakfast. The result? When kids skip breakfast, they pay attention, behave, and perform better throughout the entire day[72-83]. We may not want to believe this, but it’s exactly what I’m talking about with regard to observation and proof. In the case of these kids, there must be some other factor relating breakfast to academic performance, because both vary in the same way with socioeconomic status, i.e. well-to-do parents have and spend time helping their children with academics, and they almost always serve breakfast.
What I’m trying to do here is limit this discussion to what’s relevant—as opposed to giving credence to observational justification from every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes down the fitness pike. Breakfast, simply stated, is definitely not the most important meal of the day, and you’d be better off skipping it. Although CBL and Carb Nite® both incorporate breakfast effectively by excluding carbs, I still tend to delay my first meal of the day for a few hours or more when using either of these strategies to lose fat.