Breakfast: the Most Important Meal?

A recent article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) argues that previous studies used to portray breakfast as the most important meal of the day may be biased. A case for breakfast has been built on the idea that spreading out meals throughout the day and eating little and often can help to speed up metabolism. These opinions have been built upon the fact that some studies also showed that obese and diabetic people skipped meals more often than normal weight or thin people. This research has resulted in the thought that having breakfast was essential for maintaining a healthy body weight. The bodybuilding community has embraced breakfast as the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day: Fact or Myth?

It’s important to note that this study mainly looked at calorie intake and its effect on bodyweight. Therefore, a meal being removed from anyone’s diet will result in a decrease in calories and will lead to weight loss. It’s easy to skew data from a study and forge a misleading headline rather than paint the whole picture. So to answer the question—is it fact or myth?—it depends on a host of variables. For example, it’s well documented that athletes who skip breakfast will compromise their performance if their training is later that day or even at night. However, those who wish to lose weight will benefit from skipping meals as this will reduce the total number of calories they consume throughout the day.

Breakfast & Building Muscle

Those looking to put on muscle should also prioritize breakfast (most notably protein) as this is the first meal after the night, and follows what can typically be a 10- to 16-hour fasting window. If an individual is fasting for this long, then muscle protein breakdown is inevitable, which delays recovery and can lead to decreased performance in the gym.

Breakfast & Bodybuilding Final Thoughts

As always, context is key with regard to nutrition. Understand your fitness goals and you can make sense of whether eating breakfast is a good option for you or not. Indeed, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular among people looking to lose weight or maintain overall health; however, if muscle maintenance/gain is a priority, a protein source in between would be worth considering.

Steve O’Mahony, BSc MSc
Performance Nutrition