Skipping breakfast or ‘intermittent fasting’ has become a craze in health and fitness circles. Whether scrolling through social media or listening to a podcast, you’ve probably come across countless experts promoting its benefits, from weight loss to heart health and reduced inflammation. As an uneducated carb lover who is a sucker for fitness trends, I concluded that eating for only 8 hours a day wouldn’t just get me shredded for summer but was perhaps the secret to immortality.
However, a nutrition expert on TikTok has slammed the notion of skipping a morning meal, sending the internet into a spin. He even went so far as to say that not being hungry in the morning could be a worrying sign for your health. As someone who has experimented with intermittent fasting, I wanted to investigate this further, so I reached out to various organisations and other experts in the field.
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@theclovisculture Replying to @vaselinesavedmylife #intermittentfasting #weightloss #weightlosscoach #howtoloseweight ♬ original sound – Clovis Nutrition
Nutrition therapist Justin Nault, who founded nutrition brand Clovis, recently responded to a follower question about why it is terrible to skip eating in the morning ‘if you’re not hungry’.
In the now viral clip, Nault made it very clear that “if you’re not hungry in the morning when you first wake up that’s a really important signal that you’re getting from your body; that there may be metabolic adaptation in the wrong direction, meaning a down regulated metabolism”.
One thing I discovered in my intermittent fasting journey was as I persevered through the initial morning hunger pangs, my appetite gradually waned, and I adapted to having my first meal at lunchtime. This adjustment made me feel like I was aligning with the traditional eating patterns of my ‘primal ancestors,’ who purportedly hunted throughout the day and consumed their meals at night – a presumed natural eating rhythm for humans.
However, Nault’s perspective challenges this notion, suggesting that such a pattern might not be advantageous for optimal health.
“There’s a lot of talk online about fasting and intermittent fasting and how it makes your hunger go away – that’s not a good thing,” said Nault. “Hunger is one of our most basic primal instincts; it’s a message from your body asking for nourishment.”
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He continued: “Being hungry is not a bad thing, and we need to stop looking at it as a bad thing. So if you’re hungry first thing in the morning that’s actually a sure sign that you should start eating when you first wake up.”
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that because your instincts are pushing you towards waffles and pancakes in the morning, you should whip out the maple syrup. Nault gave his ideal morning meal plan that should set you up for a day of energy and metabolic mastery.
“When you first wake up I recommend 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. This could look like three or four whole eggs and a scoop or two of a really high-quality collagen protein powder. You want protein first thing in the morning to kickstart your metabolism.”
Like Nault, the Victorian government’s Better Health organisation emphasises the vital role breakfast plays in replenishing the body’s energy and nutrient levels after a night’s sleep. According to their findings, having breakfast is key to restoring glycogen levels and priming your metabolism for the day ahead.
Contrary to the belief that skipping breakfast aids in weight control, their research suggests that individuals who consistently have breakfast are less prone to being overweight or obese. Ongoing studies aim to unravel why this correlation exists. One prevailing hypothesis is that breakfast consumption may support weight management in several ways:
Firstly, it helps in stabilising blood glucose levels, curbing fluctuations that often trigger increased appetite. Secondly, having breakfast satiates your hunger before it escalates, reducing the likelihood of impulsively reaching for high-energy, high-fat foods loaded with added sugars or salt when hunger strikes intensely.
I consulted renowned high-performance coach Joe Cotton to gain his professional insight into the breakfast question. He believes the key lies not in fasting or eating in the morning but in maintaining consistency for optimal results.
“In my opinion, the most important factor of when we eat is not whether you follow a 16/8 window or whether you eat within 30 minutes of waking. But rather whether you follow a consistent eating rhythm ie: eating your first and last meal at similar times each day,” said Cotton.
He continued: “Our metabolism, hormones & digestion work best when in rhythm. The reason why people who eat breakfast have better health markers in studies is because they follow a regular rhythm, not because there is anything magical about breakfast.
Cotton’s conclusion, drawn from coaching numerous clients, is that the ideall approach for most men to feel, look, and perform their best involves eating all their meals within a consistent 10-12 hour window. Additionally, leaving a gap of 2-3 hours between their last meal and bedtime is recommended.
The health and fitness realm is a maze of contradictory information scattered across the internet. Take, for instance, the ongoing debate between carnivorous and plant-based diets—a prime example of the confusion. Should I commit to a life of lentils or liver? Both sides boast influencers and experts flaunting robust health and jacked physiques, making it challenging to discern the better choice. Similarly, the breakfast versus fasting dispute mirrors this chaos.
Therefore, as always, it’s crucial to conduct your own research and discover what suits your body best. Personally, I’m going to give Nault’s diet a crack and launch into some boiled eggs and protein powder first thing in the morning and see if it gets this old dog’s metabolism firing again.
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