Breakfast Skipping 101 – How To Skip Breakfast To Lose Weight
I’ve been meaning to do a blog post on Breakfast Skipping and the positive effect it’s had on my life as well as my clients but for a couple reasons I kept on stopping myself:
1. Would people have an open mind to really soak in the information I’m about to share?
2. Would I get trolled on by dogmatic breakfast eaters?
It’s funny how protective people can be in regards to certain meals.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve explained why I get my clients to delay their breakfast eating only to be met with the same objections and myths surrounding this topic.
Regardless of my “fears” of posting this article, I decided to do it for one reason: Skipping breakfast has been the master key I’ve used to to creating and maintaining a lean body for myself as well as my clients.
Ever since I’ve found out about Intermittent Fasting it’s begun to free me from feeling as if I MUST eat first thing in the morning.
This may not sound like a big deal but you’ll find out why it’s been a game changer later on in this post.
Now I know what you might be thinking, “Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?“
Yes it is but it’s not what you think.
If you are still interested then please read on…
The Problem: The “Breakfast Myth”
Most people think that just by eating breakfast they’ll automatically start losing weight.
Like a switch goes off in your body signalling to your fat stores that just by eating this one meal first thing in the morning will keep you lean forever.
They are told by pundits that eating breakfast first thing in the morning “starts your metabolism” and has you burning off fat faster than than Kobayashi at a sausage eating contest.
But, if eating breakfast was so important to maintaining a healthy weight and lean body then why do studies show that 90% of the American population (1) already eat breakfast first thing in the morning…
…yet over half the American population is either overweight or obese.
The math just doesn’t make sense.
A big part of the problem stems from the fact that the foods people tend to associate with breakfast usually resemble something that I’d eat on a cheat day:
- Sugary cereals with minuscule amounts of ACTUAL nutrient values
- Processed and sugary instant oatmeals
- White Bread
- Egg Mcmuffins, hash browns, etc..
- Pop tarts
- Pancakes with syrup
- Fruit juices
- Bagels, toast etc..
I’d highly recommend reading Felicity Lawrence’s article Drop That Spoon for a more in depth look at the proliferation of horrible breakfast foods creeping into our society and being passed off as “normal food”.
The other problem stems from the fact that most people are naturally not that hungry in the morning.
Back in our Palaeolithic days we barely got to eat breakfast because we were always hunting for our food, eating it and then fasting until our next meal came. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that most of our ancestors ate in the afternoon and evening times.
Any breakfast we would have eaten as a cave person was most likely sporadic.
I know we are not living in the Palaeolithic days anymore but it’s worth noting.
This blog post is to try and make sense of it all and provide you a clear understanding of why breakfast is the most important meal of the day BUT…not in the way you think it is.
We’ll talk about the myths of breakfast, go into the benefits of delaying your breakfast, the most overlooked aspect of breakfast that makes it the most important meal of the day and then I’ll reveal an easy solution that I give my clients on how to skip breakfast and lose weight.
Has This Ever Happened to You?
In the past I used to force myself to eat first thing in the morning because I thought it would “kick start” my metabolism. I got sick after the first few times but I stuck with it until it became a habit.
Then a weird thing happened: A few months after adopting a breakfast eating habit first thing in the morning had I started to get hungry…first thing in the morning.
I had re-trained my bodies hunger response to get hungry first thing in the morning. But it wasn’t as if the pounds started dropping off of my body.
My weight stayed the same.
I was still at the same body fat percentage after a month of breakfast eating.
I still had the same body.
It actually wasn’t until I started skipping breakfast strategically that I started to shed off the fat and be able to easily maintain a lean body.
I just made a small change (that I’ll be revealing later) to my morning meals that pretty much set me up for success for the rest of the day.
Look, not everyone is a “breakfast eater” and chances are you are probably are not an inherent breakfast eater either.
You most likely trained yourself to become hungry first thing in the morning just like I did.
The Biggest Myths About Skipping Breakfast
I’m pretty sure you still have your reservations in regards to breakfast skipping, which I can understand because I was in the same boat as you were.
My job here is to help alleviate your fears so in the end you can make a rational decision to see if this could fit your lifestyle.
With that being said; the reason why you may still have some reservations is because of what you have heard or been told about skipping breakfast is either not true and/or highly exaggerated.
I’ll let you know that I have nothing to sell you and I have nothing to gain by revealing these myths to you.
Ninja Note: This blog post is not against breakfast eating in any way, shape or form. Some people truly do well with breakfast while others (like myself and most of my clients) do not. What I would suggest is to read the rest of this article and if it has made enough sense to you then try it out on your own with the guidelines we give at the end.
This is not to say that I never eat breakfast either: I eat breakfast maybe once or twice every few months. Most times I’ll eat it out of pure necessity. Or because I’m on vacation 🙂
Here are the biggest myths about breakfast skipping you’ll find:
Myth #1 – It will slow your metabolism down.
Food and eating have no effect on your metabolism.
We’ve gone at length to discuss this in our Intermittent Fasting article but it needs to be said again: You can’t eat your way to a better metabolism.
Your metabolism relies on exercise and movement. Your breakfast habits have nothing to do with them (2)
Marks et al studied the effects of diet, cardiovascular training, and resistance training on 40 inactive women. The groups were control, diet only, diet + cycling, diet + resistance training, and diet + resistance training + cycling. The diet + resistance training + cycling group gained strength, reduced fat mass, and increased VO2 max.
This was the only group to attain all three of the above goals. Interestingly enough, even those these women were only consuming 628 calories per day, they all maintained their fat free mass while losing fat. It is worth mentioning that the women were able to get these results training for only 30 minutes per session for 3 sessions per week.
What this study shows is that even when following a highly restrictive diet for 30 days and adding 30 minutes of cycling 3 days a week all of the women in the study maintained their muscle and even lost a good portion fat.
Starvation mode is largely a myth and you’d have to work hard to get your body to the point where your metabolism starts to slow down.
Myth #2 Breakfast will “kick start your metabolism” first thing in the morning.
Again this is building upon the myth that foods and eating have a direct effect on your metabolism…which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Look to resistance training exercises and movement to boost your metabolism.
Most people look to eating breakfast first thing in the morning as a tool to lose weight but
A recent study done by Vanderbilt University (4) shows that people who eat breakfast regularly and adopt a delayed breakfast can see a decline in their weight more so than eating first thing in the morning.
But just because you delay your breakfast will you start to immediately losing weight?
Possibly..we’ll cover more of this further down in the blog post.
FINAL Myth – You’ll be slow and lethargic if you don’t eat first thing in the morning.
A funny thing happens when you start delaying your breakfast until later in the day. What we don’t realize is that we are producing a certain hormone in our body that called ghrelin.
This is the main hormone that dictates our hunger response amongst a plethora of other things such as: Increased Growth Hormone output, increased Dopamine and most importantly…Increased awareness and memory function.
It’s probably the reason why the creator of Dilbert tends to be most productive first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
I, along with many other BS’ers, find that our most productive times in the day are first thing in the morning with NOTHING in our stomachs.
Can You Skip Breakfast And Lose Weight?
Weight loss is probably the simplest concept on the planet yet people want to make it as complicated as possible by getting caught up in the details.
The simple fact is: To lose weight you burn more calories than you take in.
It’s why Mark Haub was able to go on a Twinkie diet and lose 27 pounds in two months (3).
Now that may not be the healthiest way to lose weight but you get the picture. Weight loss is all about calories in and calories out.
The Question Remains: Does eating breakfast have a direct result on your weight loss?
There are two schools of thought on this:
On one hand you have fitness experts like Alwyn Cosgrove who swear that by getting clients who were non breakfast eaters to eat breakfast they most likely start to lose weight.
Here’s what he had to say about eating breakfast, which btw was taken from John Berardi’s highly educational Intermittent Fasting book that you can check out here:
“99% of the beginner fat loss clients at my gym come to us constantly skipping breakfast. They don’t eat between 8 PM and noon or 1 PM every day. So they end up fasting between 16 and 18 hours most days, just like a lot of the fasting advocates recommend. Sure, their diets aren’t very good to start with. But they’re fasting and not getting leaner. In fact, many of them are gaining fat.
“When we add in a healthy breakfast within 15 minutes of waking up, we see big differences right away. I don’t know if eating breakfast helps them control hunger, leading to fewer total calories eaten later in the day. I’m not completely sure. Maybe there are other metabolic or nutritional differences that help here too. All I know is that stopping the fast first thing in the morning kicks off a host of positive changes for these clients. It works every time. In the real world.” – AC
To which I replied the other side of the proverbial breakfast coin:
“Based on the last point I believe it is the fact that Alwyn had them eating a healthy breakfast as the first meal of the day.
In the past their first meal of the day was probably a danish or something fast that was processed and quick (ie. bad foods). Just having a good meal at the beginning of the day could have set the context to have good meals for the rest of the day.
They are also under a nutrition program that is supposedly restricting calories in the first place so is it really the “break-fasting” in the morning or is it the fact that they are restricting calories and eating healthier options that has lead to the fat loss.
The only reason I say this is because I have clients who have (by habit) eaten first thing in the morning immediately drop anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds (one girl lost 10 pounds in two weeks) a week when initially adopting a breakfast skipping plan.
On the other hand I have experienced numerous times with our clients where they would lose weight by skipping breakfast and delaying it until 12pm to 1pm.” – Ninja
So which one is right?
Both of them.
Don’t get me wrong because I still believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day …but not in the context that you think.
The first meal of the day is important because it sets the context for all of the meals that follow.
What this means is that if you eat something healthy and good for the first meal of the day you’ll end up having healthy wholesome meals for the rest of the day. This can aid us in sticking within our daily amount of calories and reduce the chances of us eating processed foods.
If you start your first meal of the day with processed crap in the form of donuts, danishes, sugary cereals and oatmeals then the rest of your meals will probably resemble the food list above.
“Your first meal of the day sets the context for the rest of the meals of the day” – Bill Phillips
It is more about what you are eating as the first meal of the day that will set off the positive changes you’ll see for the rest of the day. If you make your first meal of the day a healthy one (good combination of protein, fats, and low GI carbs) and then continue that on for the rest of the week, you should see some positive results.
When my clients adopt my Intermittent Fasting meal structure almost all of them end up losing anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds within the first week.
Why is this?
There are multiple reasons:
- When you wake up you are already burning off fat without even putting anything into your body.
“Fasting is a high-fat meal…of your own adipose tissue.
Remember, every diet is a high-fat diet, because if you’re losing weight, you’re burning your own fat. And fat-burning is most intense in the morning, because we haven’t eaten all night.
So when we wake up, we’re already eating a steady diet…of fat.” – Gnolls.org
- They are taking advantage of the many benefits short term fasting can bring.
- They are unconsciously reducing the total number of calories coming into their bodies by delaying their eating schedule.
- They re-train their bodies hunger response thus enabling them to have much greater control over their meals for the rest of the day.
- They are inherently non-breakfast eaters who work well without a meal in their stomach first thing in the morning. It ends up working for their lifestyle and this provides the best compliance in any diet plan.
In the end it comes down to the fact that they have learned the principles of having a delayed breakfast, applied it to their lifestyle’s for two weeks or more and then played around with the times to better suit their busy schedules.
One of my clients Amanda had lost 53 pounds and this was done by delaying her breakfast eating until later in the afternoon. Her results were so incredible that the Huffington Post decided to do a story on her.
She also got these results while working a 9-5 job, taking care of her family.
So how can you get results by breakfast skipping?
How To Skip Breakfast and Lose Weight…Safely
At this point I hope you can get comfortable with the fact that your metabolism will be safe if you delay your breakfast eating by a couple of hours.
If you were anything like me before then maybe you would have freaked out if you missed a breakfast because you was under the impression that your body was shutting down.
Thankfully that is not the case.
In fact, you’ll be stimulating some of your bodies best fat burning hormones and put yourself in the best fat loss environment just by delaying breakfast by a couple of hours.
If you are thinking of starting a breakfast skipping approach into your lifestyle we recommend you do it in small steps.
This works best for our clients and allows them to maintain the lifestyle.
The worst way to delay breakfast is to just fully throw yourself into it and try to apply all the principles at once.
Sure you can start skipping breakfast cold turkey and make it work for but most of the time you must go through a transition period to ensure the best adherence to the plan.
So here is your 3 step plan to start adopting a delayed breakfast schedule into your daily routine:
1. Follow a structure for at least two to three weeks and then modify the plan to suit your schedule.
I’d follow the structure laid out in this blog post here and then after two weeks modify the plan to suit your daily schedule. Some may work better eating a 12pm, 4pm, 8pm meal schedule while others may adopt a 1pm, 5pm, 9pm schedule.
Follow a structure first and then make the plan personal to your needs.
2. Delay breakfast by one hour at a time.
If you have been eating breakfast habitually for the past couple of years then adopting a delayed breakfast schedule may be hard to do at first.
So I recommend to delay your breakfast by one hour every 1 to 3 days (depending on your mood) until you can get to your desired time.
3. Make your first meal a healthy one.
Now the subject of “healthy meals” is just that…subjective.
Here is what I consider to be a healthy “anytime” meal: Fist size of meat, Half a plate of veggies and a handful of nuts.
Here is what I consider to be a healthy “post workout” meal: Fist size of meat, half a plate of veggies and a fist size of high glycemic carbohydrate (potatoes, rice, grains etc..)
Here are some other tips to consider:
Drink a half litre of water upon waking.
Our bodies have went 7 to 8 hours without water so if you feel hungry in the morning it could quite possibly be due to hydration.
Drink a coffee or tea in the morning.
Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant and will help you stave off the hunger during the morning time. For bonus points put a teaspoon of grass fed butter and MCT oil to increase energy and decrease appetite.
Keep yourself as busy as possible during the time that you are awake until your first meal.
My best work gets done in the morning and I am usually so productive that I have got through most of my high priority items first thing in the morning.
Get Social Support
Sticking to a diet becomes much easier when you have a support team around you. If getting in shape is important to you then join a group and set your goals.
Skipping breakfast is not for everyone and even after these tips it still may not work for you.
Give yourself 2-3 weeks to try it out by following the tips above.
It’s due to having more of a disassociation with food. This alone is what equates to freedom. It also requires less planning on your part. That means less time spent on cooking and eating. That means more time for you.
Give yourself a solid two weeks to apply these principles and monitor your results in terms of mood and physiological changes (weight, inches etc..).
I have a good feeling it could work for you just as it has for myself and my clients.
Other Resources On Breakfast Skipping
The Breakfast Myth Part 1 – Gnolls.org
The Intermittent Fasting Resource Center – This blog
The Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting – This blog
Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked (Look at #7) – Leangains.com
Precision Nutrition on Intermittent Fasting – PrecisionNutrition.com