8 August 2019
To Breakfast or Fast? Myths & Misconceptions Surrounding Breakfast
Should the first meal of the day be low carb? Is intermittent fasting superior for fat loss? Should we breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper? Does a high protein breakfast lead to greater satiety? These are a few of the common questions people have pertaining to…
Should the first meal of the day be low carb?
Is intermittent fasting superior for fat loss?
Should we breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper?
Does a high protein breakfast lead to greater satiety?
These are a few of the common questions people have pertaining to breakfast. In this article I hope to dispel the myths & misconceptions surrounding breakfast and serve up some science for you all to chow down on!
Question #1 – Will a low carb breakfast facilitate fat loss?
First, we were told that carbohydrates shouldn’t be consumed before bed because our metabolism is slowed while we sleep and glucose tolerance is impaired, thus increasing the likelihood of fat storage. Since then, the research has largely dispelled this notion by showing that overall metabolic rate while sleeping is not different to waking resting metabolic rate, and glucose tolerance is no different between midday and night time meals. Insulin sensitivity will be marginally higher when you first wake up, however this is not surprising given that you’ve just been fasting for 7+ hours.
Now it seems like the public consensus is to take an opposite approach, by consuming a high fat low carbohydrate breakfast, while backloading carbohydrates in the evening. The rationale behind this strategy is that consuming a high fat breakfast low in carbohydrate will increase post-meal fat oxidation leading to greater fat “burning” throughout the day. However, this concept is flawed as the extra dietary fat just consumed also needs to be oxidised BEFORE actually targeting body fat. So in this context the idea that greater fat oxidation through the morning leads to greater body fat loss is incorrect, as soon as a low fat high carbohydrate meal is consumed in the evening you will shift to oxidising carbohydrate, with fat oxidation coming right down making the net effect zero.
Nutrient intake over 24 hours will be the dictator of body composition. Thinking about nutrient oxidation for the purpose of fat loss in acute timeframes (e.g. post-breakfast) is largely useless. Arrange your meals as you like, if you enjoy salmon and walnuts for breakfast then go for it, but it’s not the secret to getting shredded.
Question #2 – Will skipping breakfast get you shredded?
The big flavour of 2016 was intermittent fasting, and it has run its course well into 2019. TheOnlineCoach showed us that you could have your first meal at 2pm, then have donuts at night and get shredded. Then Kinobody showed us that intermittent fasting gets you rich so you can buy Ferraris. The claims surrounding IF stretch far and wide, including increased fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity and improved testosterone levels. According to the current state of the literature, it would foolish to get drawn into the hype.
In the below paper, there were no differences in fat loss when calories were matched between a normal diet (including breakfast) versus an IF regime. Insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake weren’t any different between the two diet approaches either. What’s more concerning is that there could actually be some potential downsides to adopting IF. The IF protocol decreased resting metabolic rate to a greater degree than the normal diet and phosphorylation of mTORC1 (marker of anabolic signalling) was lower after the IF diet.
Furthermore, short term fasting has been shown in other papers to blunt Leydig cell function (cells that make testosterone).
So, will IF stop you from making progress? Certainly not. Is there a slight advantage to spreading out your meals and not having large fasting windows? Possibly. IF certainly has merit as an adherence tool during a weight loss phase for individuals who have minimal appetite in the morning and are ravenous in the evening. But, if you’re hungry in the morning, it’s very unlikely that you’ll receive any advantage from pushing through the drive to eat for hours and extending your fasting window.
Question #3 – Eat breakfast like a king and eat dinner like a pauper?
In the below 12-week study, the investigators compared weight loss and changes in hormonal profiles in a group who ate 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 200 calories at dinner, versus a group who did the opposite order. The big breakfast group had greater weight loss, greater reduction in waist size, and better improvements in fasting glucose, insulin sensitivity and blood triglyceride levels versus the small breakfast group. They also had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and scored higher on satiety indexes (less hungry).
This data suggests that there may be some upside to loading up on the calories at breakfast (more breakfast means more time for watching morning cartoons too). If you don’t like having a big breakfast, then I don’t think this stand-alone study is enough of a reason to justify adjusting feeding patterns that go against your personal preference. However, if you wake up with an appetite like Goku in the morning, then feel free to chew through a decent chunk of your calories right off the bat. The proverb of eat breakfast like a king and eat dinner like a paupermight just have some truth to it!
Question #4 – Should you consume even amounts of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Researchers have tackled the relationship between protein distribution over the day and muscle growth. Something less talked about is the effect of protein distribution on appetite. In the below study, researchers compared hunger levels across the day when subjects consumed most of their protein at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or equally space it over 3 meals. Fullness over 15 hours was significantly greater with a high protein breakfast, compared to lunch or dinner. So, it’s possible that loading up on the protein at breakfast could play a role in setting up appetite regulation for the day. Funnily enough, a high protein breakfast contradicts how most people in today’s modern society eat, predominantly feeding on cereals, toast, fruit…with minimal protein. It’s possible that low protein breakfasts could cause some individuals to be hungrier later in the day and trigger overeating. Bacon and eggs FTW.
Yours in breaking the fast,
(The People Punching Peacock)