As you probably noticed, most nutrition talk is split between two sides:
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
- You can skip breakfast and call it IF
Which one is true? What are the benefits of having breakfast every day or skipping it? I’m going to share a bit of my experience on this topic – both personal and from people I’ve coached.
I’m not one of the biggest compulsory breakfast promoters. At least not anymore. There are times when I don’t have breakfast (usually when I’m at home in my routine life) and times when I do (training and competition days, holidays etc) and usually each phase lasts for a few weeks. If I do start having breakfast after some weeks of skipping it, then I’m going to keep having it for a while. Maybe the hardest part is alternating breakfast day after non breakfast day. My stomach and hunger get confused.
I must admit that there was a time when I thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day. And it was a kind of self fulfilling prophecy: I got so used to having it every day that, on days when I skipped it, I would feel terrible, low energy and blaming everything that went wrong on it.
I don’t think like that anymore and I notice that I am also way more relaxed: no breakfast, no problem. It’s not the end of the world. In my experience, I’ve noticed some pluses and minuses of having a meal first thing in the morning.
Why have breakfast
- Some people need to have breakfast to start the day, or else their engines just don’t start.
- Having breakfast sometimes helps us avoid overeating in the rest of the day. If you’re starving by lunch and vandalising the fridge, it’s no good.
- If you train in the mornings, I’d recommend having even a small breakfast. A half of a banana or at least a bite of an energy bar. Something light. Training totally fasted kinda sucks.
- For people who are trying to lose weight, it’s a good approach if they can stick to smaller meals, with a higher frequency.
- Trying too hard to skip breakfast and being hungry in the morning is a kind of restriction. It’s a way to do IF, and when it comes to women, it’s a very thin line to cross over an eating disorder.
- A plus I’d like to add is that breakfast is for many of us the only meal we have at home. The quality of a simple and balanced homemade meal can never compare with a takeaway, no matter how healthy the fancy catering says it is. Plus, if you make it a ritual and you enjoy it with others, it can be a highlight of your day.
Why skip breakfast
- I’ve noticed that having breakfast usually causes me to be hungrier and have a constant eager to eat crunchy stuff. So even if I have breakfast at 7, I will need to have a snack at 10.30-11, and then lunch at 1. I just get hungrier and feel like eating all day. Ghrelin and leptin hormones are working their magic.
- Skipping breakfast means you can add more calories at lunch and dinner and this way have more satisfying meals later in the day. It can be called a way of doing IF.
- Saying no to breakfast from time to time helps you understand your hunger cues, and reminds you that it’s ok to be hungry from time to time.
- If you are training early, having a big meal won’t help. So sometimes it’s better to either skip it or have something light or just an energy drink or shake.
- There are people who just can’t eat early in the morning. If you’re one of them, remember there’s nothing wrong about it, as long as you eat enough in the rest of the day. The effort of turning from a breakfast skipper into a morning appetite person may be too much.
- You don’t need to obsess every day over finding time to prepare it or what you’re going to have tomorrow morning.
Also, I have to mention that I really enjoy more having breakfast later in the day. Of course, then it’s not called breakfast anymore. But to me, avocado toast tastes better at 4pm than it does at 8am.
In case you’re wondering what a healthy and balanced breakfast looks like, here are some ideas for you.
- Avocado toast – two slices of wholegrain bread, toasted, 1/4 avocado, lemon juice and cherry tomatoes. For extra protein, add a hard boiled egg. Or sprinkle some seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) or a bit of goat cheese, and/or chilli flakes.
- Overnight oats – 40g oat flakes or muesli left overnight in plain water/milk/vegetable milk with a spoon of seeds (chia, flax etc), some coconut flakes and in the morning just add some fruit to it.
- Protein pancake – blend an egg with a scoop of whey protein, add some flavours (vanilla, cocoa etc) and make two pancakes in a non sticky pan. Toppings can be fruit /honey/peanut butter/walnut and almonds etc.
- Quiche – baking a quiche is always a good idea if you want to be covered for a few days or sharing breakfast with others in the house. One of my favourites is the smoked salmon quiche.
- Small fruit salad
- Super green smoothie – mix some spinach leaves, some parsley, lemon juice and some spirulina with 50-100g of cantaloup/melon/mango. Add water according to the consistency you prefer.
- Bruschetti – two slices of wholegrain bread, toasted, rubbed with garlic, and topped with a mix of finely chopped tomatoes + basil + olive oil.
- Scrambled eggs – No, making scrambled eggs in the morning is not called cooking. Here’s what I like to add: 1-2 eggs, dill, 30g of feta cheese, some cherry tomatoes / 1-2 eggs, sliced mushrooms, and green onions.
The list can go on forever. My point was to show you that you can prepare something in no time and to focus mostly on whole ingredients.
Do you have breakfast? Why or why not? What’s your favourite go to breakfast?