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What's the Truth About Skipping Breakfast?

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If you’ve been looking to trim your weight recently, you’ve probably heard somewhere that skipping breakfast is the way to go.

Cutting out breakfast is a form of intermittent fasting, and its’ popularity is largely thanks to fasting programmes such as Brad Pilon’s “Eat Stop Eat,” Ori Hofmekler’s “Warrior Diet,” and Martin Berkhan’s “Leangains.”

But what’s the truth about skipping breakfast? Is it a surefire way to fat-burning bliss, or just a bad idea? Let’s find out.

The Good

Intermittent fasting decreases body fat and preserves muscle

Various studies do in fact support the idea that intermittent fasting promotes fat loss. One 2016 study1 published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that eight weeks of intermittent fasting led to significant fat loss, without a loss of lean body tissue or strength.

Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity

One of the key health issues of modern times is insulin resistance, and this condition has been linked to both the obesity epidemic and Type 2 Diabetes.

Studies2 have found that intermittent fasting increases insulin sensitivity, meaning that it likely has various benefits insofar as preventing obesity and pre-diabetic states.

The Bad

Intermittent fasting decreases testosterone, IGF-1, T3

Alas, the same 2016 study found that subjects who underwent intermittent fasting had significantly decreased levels of testosterone, the growth hormone IGF-1, and the thyroid hormone T3.

Needless to say, these hormones are all very important. Especially for fitness fanatics.

As the study had both the fasting and control group eating the same number of calories per day and the same ratio of macronutrients, it seems like the hormonal imbalances were directly related to the fasting itself and not any other factor.

What’s more, the participants in the study were athletes following a standard athletic training program. Since most dieters will be training in addition to dieting, these findings are very relevant.

Skipping breakfast can lead to bad moods 

Another 2016 study3, published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that subjects who underwent an 18-hour fast experienced higher levels of irritability. That’s probably not a surprise for anyone who’s experienced the dreaded “hangry” mood state first hand.

The Ugly

Skipping breakfast hardens the arteries, increases the risk of heart disease

How’s that for a surprising revelation? Despite various purported health benefits to fasting, such as the improved insulin resistance, a 2017 study4 published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that skipping breakfast increased the risk of cardiovascular conditions. This included atherosclerosis — a hardening of the arteries linked to heart attacks.

It’s hard to see how any other benefits could outweigh an increased risk of dying of heart disease.

Conclusion

The evidence is pretty clear. Skipping breakfast can make you lose weight more easily, and that weight will be primarily in the form of fat, not muscle tissue.

At the same time, skipping breakfast may also increase your risk of heart disease and dramatically reduce your levels of certain key hormones, including testosterone.

It’ll also make you cranky.

As those seeking to lose weight are generally health and fitness conscious overall, fasting on a regular basis, therefore, does not seem worth it by any means.

If you're not too keen on waiting till lunch time to have your first meal, we suggest trying this more moderate approach: stick to a small, balanced breakfast that’ll feed healthy hormone levels without hitting the body with a major calorie-crash first thing in the day. If you do want to fast for its other purported health benefits, try it for one day a week or so and see how you feel.

As a rule of thumb, anything that messes with your hormone levels makes you moody and damages your arteries, which ultimately poses significant health risks.

Fasting breakfast or not, it's best to find out and stick to what works for you. 

 

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064803/

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16051710

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4992682/

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28982495

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