Skipping meals can be a common dieting approach. If you're trying to lose weight, you might ask yourself: Is skipping breakfast bad? And if so, why?
It's true that skipping breakfast can mean you're consuming fewer calories over the course of the day. However, it could also be counterproductive to your health and weight loss goals — especially for women. This is due to the hormonal impact over time that can lead to an increased risk of health issues and make losing weight more challenging.
The decision of whether to skip breakfast or any meal depends on your individual health. While reducing your calorie intake may be required to lose weight; choosing when, how much too fast and how often are important considerations as they affect your overall metabolism and ultimately your progress in reaching your health goals.
There's a basic biological reason why eating earlier in the day was essential for survival. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, it was critical to be fueled up early in the morning to have the energy required to search for food during daylight. Then, at night, predators would be out, and it was time to rest.
This pattern was hardwired in humans early on. But it's also backed up by modern science. A recent study showed people who ate a higher calorie breakfast and a smaller dinner burned more calories over the course of the day and had fewer cravings for sugary foods. Another study revealed that eating before 8:30am could lower risk factors for blood sugar imbalances. Study participants who did so had lower blood sugar levels and less insulin resistance.
There is also increasing research showing that chronically skipping breakfast can slow your metabolic rate over time. For people looking to lose weight, the goal is typically to boost metabolism — not slow it down. Skipping breakfast can also be a major stressor on your body, which requires fuel (nutrients from food we eat) early in the day just to function plus perform at work, school or in the gym.
Is skipping breakfast bad if you are dealing with stress? The short answer is yes. As your body enters a stressful state, your cortisol, or stress hormone response spikes. Your body responds by breaking down stored glycogen (glucose), sending it to the bloodstream and raising blood sugar. Norepinephrine and dopamine rise to compensate, and serotonin climbs to try to balance those out. Chronic breakfast skipping can exhaust these hormones as your body struggles to maintain equilibrium.
Over time, the more stress you put on your body, the harder it can be to regulate your blood sugar and hormones. Instead of skipping breakfast and adding additional stress, you may want to incorporate more effective strategies that support your nutrient demands and more balanced hormones.
One alternative that works well for most people is overnight fasting. This typically means you don't eat anything after dinner through the following morning, for around 12–14 hours. For example, if you eat dinner at 6pm, your next meal would be from 6am the next day - that means no midnight snacks! If it sounds like a long time, consider that for the large majority of it (ideally 7-9 hours) you will be asleep - a crucial time for rejuvenation. Then in the morning, give your body the nutrients it needs to function. An easy to digest, balanced breakfast with protein can help raise your metabolism, keep you satiated and support balanced blood sugar levels.
Where you can, try to have your largest meals during the day when you're most active. Also aim to eat dinner at least two to three hours before bed to allow digestion to complete, promote restful sleep and support detoxification and repair overnight.
Another more supportive and strategic fasting strategy could be to incorporate a weekly one-day-reset where you give your body 24-hours of digestive rest, shown to increase cellular clean up, balance healthy levels of blood sugar and reduce brain fog.
Drinking cold water with food can weaken digestion, but warm water can do the opposite. According to Ayurvedic tradition, sipping warm or hot water throughout the day could help boost metabolism. You can add freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, herbal tea like ginger or hibiscus, or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for added digestive benefits and flavor. At the very least, have warm or hot water when you wake up to rehydrate and aim to drink half your body weight in ounces across the day, adjusting it based on climate and activity levels.
A healthy metabolism is key to losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight in the long-term as well as supporting balanced energy levels throughout the day. If you are skipping meals to eat less and struggling to lose weight - understanding your hormone levels can provide valuable insight into how to adjust your eating patterns to optimize your metabolism and balance your body. A simple at-home lab test can explain how your thyroid, adrenals and overall metabolism are functioning and alongside a certified health coach you can understand your results and have a targeted diet and lifestyle approach right for you.
To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast is often a common question. While there is always an argument on either side, take a listen to this podcast to learn more about 5 science-backed reasons why you may not want to skip breakfast.