This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Skip Breakfast
Here's how skipping your morning meal actually affects your body.
You've almost certainly heard people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But mornings can be a busy and stressful time for many of us, which leads to more than a few skipped breakfasts. In fact, nearly 25 percent of Americans skip breakfast daily, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So how bad is it to miss the "most important" meal of the day? Talking to experts, we found out what really happens to your body when you skip breakfast. Read on to find out what missing this morning meal does to you, and for more health concerns, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.
Your blood sugar could fluctuate.
Chris Riley, a medical expert and co-founder of USA Rx, a digital health marketplace for prescriptions, says skipping breakfast can unknowingly cause "wild fluctuations" with your blood sugar (or glucose) levels. "This can make you feel slower and prevent you from feeling as awake" in the morning, Riley warns.
Trista Best, MPH, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, says that skipping breakfast may actually cause your glucose levels to drop so quickly that your body starts craving foods, particularly carbohydrates. According to Best, this may lead you to overeat throughout the rest of the day. And for more ways to stay on top of your health, If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.
Your metabolism might slow down.
Elliot Reimers, a certified nutrition coach at Rave Reviews, says that skipping breakfast slows down your metabolism. "When you're hungry, it sends signals to your brain that you need to conserve energy and stores fats until you eat again. Skipping meals throws your metabolism off-balance," he says. And according to Harvard Medical experts, people with slower metabolisms burn fewer calories, which means they could gain more weight by eating fewer calories than someone with a higher metabolism. And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Your stress hormone might increase.
A 2015 study published in the Physiology & Behavior journal found that skipping breakfast can actually cause cortisol, also known as the "stress" hormone, to rise. John Fawkes, a certified personal trainer and certified nutritional counselor, says this could mean "your body views the absence of your morning meal as a stressful matter." Over time, increased cortisol can put you at higher risk for disease and a weakened immune system, Fawkes says. And for more health problems to address, If This Body Part Hurts You at Night, See Your Doctor.
Your heart could be in trouble.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who never ate breakfast had an 87 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate breakfast every day. While experts couldn't directly say that skipping breakfast caused heart disease, Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University, told Healthline that "overall, not eating breakfast is a marker for being unhealthy and having an unhealthy lifestyle." And for more you should know about your heart, If You Can't Do This in 90 Seconds, Your Heart Is in Danger, Study Says.
But breakfast doesn't have to be first thing in the morning.
While experts seem to agree that skipping breakfast entirely can have consequences, delaying breakfast could aid in weight loss. Benjamin Bikman, PhD, a metabolic scientist that has conducted extensive research on eating habits, says that the most important meal you eat in a day is the first meal—but that doesn't necessarily have to be a breakfast first thing in the morning. "Too many people feel the need to eat right when they wake up because of this idea, but often they're not hungry," he says. Instead, you may want to wait until closer to lunch to eat. This practice of waiting longer between dinner and breakfast is called "intermittent fasting," which helps your body burn fat as a source of fuel for a temporary period of time and can help with weight loss efforts, Best explains.
However, if you are truly looking to lose weight through intermittent fasting, both Bikman and Fawkes recommend adjusting dinner times instead. "Eating dinner at 7 p.m. and waiting until 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. the following day to eat breakfast can be a wise way to get your morning nutrients and lose weight," Fawkes says. And for more guidance on weight loss, This One Thing Can Help You Drop 20 Percent of Your Body Weight.