Skipping Breakfast Means You’ll Eat LESS, Not More

Is it a good idea to eat breakfast every morning if you want to lose weight? This is an extremely common claim when it comes to dieting. The idea is that you’ll get so much hungrier if you skip breakfast that you’ll eat more throughout the day. But this claim lacks reasonable scientific support, and is at best based on inconclusive questionnaire studies.

A recent well-designed interventional study showed that skipping breakfast means you’ll eat less throughout the day. A similar previous study showed the same thing.

Skipping a meal generally means you’ll eat less food. Hardly surprising, or what do you think?

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54 comments

Top comments

  1. Tom Launder
    How about eating when you're hungry? Makes it much easier than "breakfast" vs "lunch". So instead of saying "should I eat breakfast?" say "should I eat when I'm hungry?" I think that makes the answer simple.
    Read more →
  2. Mary
    I find if I eat breakfast it triggers my hunger
    Read more →

All comments

  1. Rob
    My wife was just on me this morning about eating breakfast. I wasn't hungry. I just had coffee.
  2. Mary
    I find if I eat breakfast it triggers my hunger
  3. DonnaE
    If I eat breakfast I get really hungry at around 11 a.m. If I skip breakfast, I don't get hungry until 11:30 or so. My best appetite management is to eat a low-carb breakfast before --but not much before -- 11.
    But that's just me!
  4. PrimeNumbers
    They only tested a high carb breakfast though. I wonder if the results would be the same for bacon and eggs?
  5. Jennifer Snow
    Yeah, but is weight strictly based on the flat *amount* that you eat?

    I try not to skip breakfast because I've found that I don't really "wake up" until I've eaten something, hence I get NOTHING done until I have food in the morning. Eating for me is about having energy to do stuff. I have problems with low blood sugar (although less now than they were) so my metabolism always needs a little kick in the morning to get going.

    I've stopped worrying about reaching some specific weight--I want to feel good and do the stuff that I want to do. If my ideal energy/happiness/productivity level means I'm heavy for the rest of my life, so be it.

  6. Thang
    Mmmm... depends really... On LCHF I am now eating a proper breakfast (e.g. 4 scrambled eggs with 50 grams melted butter etc.) and find myself going the whole day without feeling hungry. Mind you, I am in keto currently and losing weight nicely so maybe that is slightly different?

    Today I was up at 04:45, my egg/butter breakfast at 06:30, lugging a heavy camera around a film set all day and running around like crazy to get things done on time, home at 6pm (early finish!) and not particularly hungry. And plenty of energy too, so certainly not starving.

    So maybe it is related to what you eat and/or your current keto state?

  7. Casey
    I often have just coffee with cream and feel fine. Sometimes I'll make it a "bulletproof" coffee, and sometimes I'll eat a low carb breakfast. "Forcing" myself to eat breakfast when not hungry never did anything positive for me!
  8. Sue
    I like to mix things up. Most days I eat 'breakfast,' which is usually bacon and eggs, but rarely before 11 am. If I am busy, I just skip it altogether. It's currently 2 pm, I've been up since 7 and have only had coffee. I'm not hungry at all, and likely won't eat until dinner, although I may have a snack of some nuts or cheese. It most definitely cuts down on daily calorie consumption to not eat breakfast, and also gets in a decent period of fasting to go from dinner to dinner. Aside from convenience(not having to find the time or appropriate food to eat), another advantage is if I find myself up a couple of pounds, it usually only takes one day of fasting to get me back to my acceptable weight.
  9. Maxime Roy
    On LCHF it's quite easy to skip meals, even breakfast.

    On standard diet, I was feeling pretty bad when skipping breakfast.

    Morning I drink a rich coconut milk coffee blended that keep me full until 1pm, light dinner at 6pm. That's it.

    So yes, LCHF + breakfast skipping = eating less

  10. Patricia
    I find skipping breakfast is a good way of cutting down. The IF diet book recommends this as a good way of Intermittant fasting. You fit all your eating into 8 hours a day. So starting at about 12 and not eating after 8 pm suits my routine well. In any case the word Breakfast is simply Breaking your fast, so what difference does it make what time you break your fast?
  11. Marion
    Pre LCHF I never skipped breakfast and I was always hungry. Now I eat when I am hungry. So some days I have breakfast, but most days I don't. Two cups of coffee with thick cream in the morning (07:30), and I am good to go till around 2 o'clock. I normally have a largish meal then and find I am not very hungry in the evening and have a small meal.
    I have lost 20 lbs in 3 weeks! I am just on the start of my weight loss journey and I never expected it to be so easy. When I think of all the diets I have tried over the years, I feel like I have come home.
  12. Tom Launder
    How about eating when you're hungry? Makes it much easier than "breakfast" vs "lunch". So instead of saying "should I eat breakfast?" say "should I eat when I'm hungry?" I think that makes the answer simple.
  13. highlandsniper
    I'm a breakfast person. If I'm working I have Greek yogurt if I'm off I have an an omellete (sp?). I eat less for lunch after a lchf brekky ☺☺☺.
  14. murray
    If you are indeed in fat-burning mode when you get up and you skip a breakfast meal, then your "breakfast" will be your body fat.

    As always, biology is all about rates. Someone with surplus fat should be able to produce energy (release fat from adipose tissue) at a sufficient rate for sedentary life. Otherwise, if fat metabolism is impaired, they may develop an energy deficit and ravenous hunger at or before lunch and eat way too much. (People panic eat when they sense food shortage.) If the activity level during the day is higher, thereby raising the rate of energy demand, I expect a dietary source of food might be required to keep the rate of fuel availability (stored fat release rate + ingestion rate) at or above the rate of energy demand.

    I would also expect that once one's percent body fat is much lower, energy from stored fat would be made available at a slower rate. Therefore the first ten pounds is easier to burn off than the last extra ten pounds. So for someone who is thin, eating some fat at breakfast may be a good idea, as the activity burn rate is more likely to exceed the aggregate release rate from adipose tissue. I would expect hunger to be a good guide, unless appetite signalling has been distorted by high-carb eating.

  15. tz
    I used to only have an energy drink and later coffee (with lots of real cream) for breakfast, but I'm staying at a hotel where they provide some kind of meat and eggs and a few other things I can do LCHF. If they have hard boiled eggs, I get them to-go and make an egg-salad (mash and add mayo) for later. And I have a bit of sausage or whatever meat.

    But I seem to be less hungry during the evening. I'm actually losing weight (maybe because I don't go out and have less beer).

  16. Peggy Holloway
    I agree with most of the other comments. A coffee with heavy cream suffices until I have a brunch after 11 if possible of egg yolks and maybe a strip of bacon. I am keto and regularly engage in IF and prefer not to eat until late morning or early afternoon. Lately, I have had coffee with cream first thing, then make a thermos of bullet-proof coffee to take with to work. I sip on that throughout the day and don't eat a "true meal" until evening. I have tons of energy and feel great all day.
    In the summer, I bike outdoors for several hours every morning and never have breakfast before cycling. I truly love the ketogenic lifestyle.
  17. JM
    I am not hungry at breakfast. I do usually have a boiled egg on days when my lunch may be random. I may make a hot water drink that has heavy cream and a little bit of honey as an indulgence. That is so good to have.
  18. Valerie
    So, they ate less. But did they lose weight?
    (We all know that calories are rather meaningless, right?)
  19. Afiya
    I always wake up with a raging appetite :X I'm 13, and I find that having breakfast with eggs (as opposed to rice or oatmeal) gives me better focus and performance at school, even I don't feel like I need to snack during the break.
  20. paulc
    the study only reveals that the current modern low-fat, carb loaded breakfast is no good... they didn't study the effect of changing that breakfast for one that DOESN'T affect blood sugars at all, a cheese omelette and bacon would be the perfect way to start the day but it's completely against the low-carb heart healthy diet advice the authorities are currently pushing on us.
  21. Frances Lilian Wellington - Kinesiologist
    I eat breakfast every day, as this is my main meal of the day, with some carb (25g). I'm hungry by mid morning if I don't eat around 7-8am. Lunch is less amount...protein, fat, salad (10g carb). Dinner is less amount again... protein, fat, vegetable (10g carb) generally. At times I will substitute a snack (1 fruit & cheese) for lunch or dinner, or skip either if I'm not hungry. I time my meals for when I am becoming hungry. I exercise once or twice a day (45-90 mins moderate to high intensity).
  22. Louise
    I am a human physical body running on scientific findings and researches. Oi !

    But I do find that if I eat my low carb porridge (my own mix) at about 09h30 in the morning, that I just cannot manage lunch except for my protein shake.

  23. Joyce
    Many years ago I read a (borrowed) weight-loss book that taught one to listen to your body. Since then, I don't eat by the clock - no more "breakfast at 7, lunch at 1, supper at 6." I eat when I'm hungry - just like a baby :-). My dog also eats only when she's hungry and I don't "nag" her to eat her food. If she's given - even a meaty bone - when she's not hungry, she'll accept it gratefully and go and bury it for later! We should listen to our bodies more, even as Nature teaches us!
  24. Boba Fett
    I eat an extreme LCHF breakfast (eggs, butter, cheese, coffee with coconut oil and whole cream), skip lunch and then a fairly regular sized LCHF dinner including vegetables. Has worked well for a few weeks now. It's like the "leptin reset" procedure from Jack Kruse. My weight loss is slowly starting again. I have 10-15 pounds left of stubborn fat that won't come off, despite a couple of years on a low carb diet.
  25. Michelle
    Coffee and double cream keeps me going until around 11am. I love this because when I do eat I really enjoy it because I AM HUNGRY! The key is to not eat when you think you should, but when you are hungry because you not only enjoy the food you've eaten much, much more, but you are teaching your body to stop asking for food when the food industry tells us we should be eating.
  26. chilisalsa
    And maybe even get your diabetes-medication go away...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAwgdX5VxGc
  27. Eric Anderson
    What are optimal eating times/patterns?

    From the many articles it seems no clesr eidnc or conclusions as of now!
    Remember when 6 meals and low fat was the gospel according to so called experts?

    Now heevidence seems to support various versins of intermittent fasing and of curse low to no carbs and eating lots of the formerly shunned anima fats and avoiding the man made high omega 6 oils like corn, soy, etcetera

    My opinion is twice a day in the AM and PM may prove optimal. Add to high animal fat and low carbs seems to produce optimal or more optimal biomarkers.

    Cn some fr of intermittent fasting be addd? Who knows! Maybe?

    Maybe alternate days for protein to induce autophagy? Maybe not as HFLC diets that are ketogenic also increse autophagy BUT is it the exact same biologica;l path? isthere a synegistic effect? Place your bets via what you eat and when and how and hope to see you in a thousand years. Eric

    Combining mutants results in 5-fold lifespan extension in C. elegans
    Research highlights possibility of combination therapy for aging
    What are the limits to longevity? New research in simple animals suggests that combining mutants can lead to radical lifespan extension. Scientists at the Buck Institute combined mutations in two pathways well-known for lifespan extension and report a synergistic five-fold extension of longevity in the nematode C. elegans. The research, done at the Buck Institute and published online in Cell Reports on December 12, 2013, introduces the possibility of combination therapy for aging and the maladies associated with it.

    The mutations inhibited key molecules involved in insulin signaling (IIS) and the nutrient signaling pathway Target of Rapamycin (TOR). Lead scientist and Buck faculty Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, said single mutations in TOR (in this case RSKS-1) usually result in a 30 percent lifespan extension, while mutations in IIS (Daf-2) often result in a doubling of lifespan in the worms – added together they would be expected to extend longevity by 130 percent. "Instead, what we have here is a synergistic five-fold increase in lifespan," Kapahi said. "The two mutations set off a positive feedback loop in specific tissues that amplified lifespan. Basically these worms lived to the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years."

    Kapahi said the research points to the possibility of using combination therapies for aging, similar to what is done for cancer and HIV. "In the early years, cancer researchers focused on mutations in single genes, but then it became apparent that different mutations in a class of genes were driving the disease process," he said. "The same thing is likely happening in aging." Kapahi said this research could help explain why scientists are having a difficult time identifying single genes responsible for the long lives experienced by human centenarians. "It's quite probable that interactions between genes are critical in those fortunate enough to live very long, healthy lives."

    Former Buck postdoctoral fellow Di Chen, PhD, now an associate professor at the Model Animal Research Center, Nanjing University, China, lead author of the study, said that the positive feedback loop (DAF-16 via the AMPK complex) originated in the germline tissue of worms. The germline is a sequence of reproductive cells that may be passed onto successive generations. "The germline was the key tissue for the synergistic gain in longevity – we think it may be where the interactions between the two mutations are integrated," Chen said. "The finding has implications for similar synergy between the two pathways in more complex organisms."

    Kapahi said ideally the research would move into mice as a way of determining if the lifespan-extending synergy extends into mammals. "The idea would be to use mice genetically engineered to have suppressed insulin signaling, and then treat them with the drug rapamycin, which is well-known to suppress the TOR pathway."

    ###

    Other Buck Institute researchers involved in the study include Patrick Wai-Lun Li, Emma Lynn Thomas, and Simon Melov. Other contributors include Benjamin A. Goldstein and Alan Hubbard from the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley and Waijiao Cai, from the Institute of Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (P30AG025708)( RO1AG038688), (RL1AAG032113) and (3RL1AG032113-03S1); the American Federation for Aging Research and the Hillblom Foundation.

    Citation: "Germline Signaling Mediates the Synergistically Prolonged Longevity by Double Mutations in daf-2 and rsks-1 in C. elegans"; publishing online December 12, 2013 in Cell Reports.

    Reply: #29
  28. grinch
    Since eating carbohydrates allegedly increases hunger, what we should be seeing is people pigging out at lunch when they do eat the high carb breakfast.
    Reply: #32
  29. Paul the rat
    "...and then treat them with the drug rapamycin, which is well-known to suppress the TOR pathway…."

    You do not need rapamycin, Eric, LCHF does it as well and in continuos, natural way.

    Epilepsia. 2011 Mar;52(3):e7-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.02981.x. Epub 2011 Mar 3.

    The ketogenic diet inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway.

    McDaniel SS, Rensing NR, Thio LL, Yamada KA, Wong M.
    Source
    Department of Neurology and the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.

    Abstract
    The ketogenic diet (KD) is an effective treatment for epilepsy, but its mechanisms of action are poorly understood. We investigated the hypothesis that the KD inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway signaling. The expression of pS6 and pAkt, markers of mTOR pathway activation, was reduced in hippocampus and liver of rats fed KD. In the kainate model of epilepsy, KD blocked the hippocampal pS6 elevation that occurs after status epilepticus. Because mTOR signaling has been implicated in epileptogenesis, these results suggest that the KD may have anticonvulsant or antiepileptogenic actions via mTOR pathway inhibition.

  30. BK
    I would hypothesize that consciously skipping a meal should have no long-term effect in overall energy intake in healthy individuals eating a "balanced" diet. I would imagine in the wild that if animals did not have access to food for a window of time, they would (unconsciously) compensate and eat more in a smaller window compared to animals that otherwise would have access to "breakfast".

    Both studies cited looked at energy intake after one meal (or skipping the meal) which tells you virtually nothing about the long-term effects and potential compensatory reactions by the body. There was some data on the remainder of the day and intake, but again, we don't really care what happens in one day, we want presumably want to know what happens over time, which these studies don't address.

  31. Steve
    I don't find much issue either way. On days in which I eat a good LCHF breakfast I am rarely hungry or do I think about food come lunch time. On days when I don't eat breakfast I am hungry come lunchtime. For me it's typical to eat two meals a day and a small snack or two throughout the day if I get hungry. It makes little or no difference if breakfast or lunch is one of those two meals.
  32. murray
    Not sure about the pigging out. My wife used to have cereal, fruit and milk for breakfast and typically could not make it to noon without a muffin break and could not go past noon without leaving for lunch. Since converting to a non-cereal, higher protein breakfast with lots of full fat sheep's yoghurt (5-6% milk fat) she would make it to noon fine. Since adding a bulletproof coffee (2 tablespoons butter and two tablespoons MCT oil) in addition to her breakfast, she is now good until 1 or later before lunch and finds she is less hungry overall. Is it the 400 or so additional calories or the fact she starts the day in at-burning mode. Hard to know. She has lost some fat around the waist since adding the high-fat coffee.
  33. Adam
    I never *skip* breakfast, I just have it after 7pm :-D

    Even on SAD, even at my heaviest, I never really wanted to eat in the morning. That should have been a major clue to my insulin-resistant brain: never hungry after my longest (sleep-imposed) fast. I was burning fat and had no shortage. As soon as I did eat, whether it was forced morning breakfast or snack/lunchtime carbs, it was off to the races.

    Out in the world, I'm always hearing others complain "Maaan, I just had a bagel/donut/Danish/etc 2 hours ago and I'm already starving again!" I remember what feeling "hangry" is like, but it's a bit amusing now that I'm in my 3rd year of one-meal-per-day IF + moderate LCHF & can go all day without food pretty much effortlessly. I do think overall intake normalizes over time, though--that one meal is definitely a BIG meal!

  34. Tardislover
    As I come into my third week of LCHF I an finding that I am not hungry in the mornings, a huge change from when I woke up famished before.I have a bulletproof coffee, and chuck some nuts and a fat bomb in my bag for at work, and have something about 11am unless I get the 11.30 lunch break in which case I hold out till then. Its interesting how my appetites are changing, I am starting to eat half my dinner and taking the rest for lunch the next day, never would have happened before!
  35. 1 comment removed
  36. Rozzy
    You people obviously not eating the right foods if you're relying on coffee! Starting to sound more like a starvation diet to me. What happened to pounds of steak and eggs and skipping the bread???
    Replies: #37, #42, #49
  37. Adam
    I drink coffee because I enjoy it, not because I "rely" on it.. Eat when I'm hungry until I'm not--the opposite of starvation, in other words. Down 140 lbs. How's that "obviously not the right foods"? You sound a bit confused, maybe it's the wheat.
    Replies: #38, #52
  38. Joseph
    Or the Whiskey ;)
  39. Michelle
    If I start the day with a bowl of cheerio's at around 7am an hour later my stomach wonders if I've eaten. However, if I start the day with a coffee with double cream I feel fine until 11am or 12pm. If I do eat in the morning I have to start with meat protein, such as chicken and not eggs. Eggs do not satisfy my 'first' hunger of the day. If you find that eggs leave you hungry a few hours after eating, try eating meat with veggies if you can; it's a huge change in what you've been used to because we have be conditioned to think that grains are the best way to break your fast.

    @ Rozzy. How can leaving breaking your overnight fast until a few hours later be a starvation diet?

  40. James H
    I've never been a big fan of breakfast but when I do eat the meal I tend to eat all day.
  41. Zepp
    The pounds of steak and eggs comes at lunch and dinner.. whitout bread!
  42. binhang
    I am a human physical body running on scientific findings and researches. I eat my low carb porridge (my own mix) at about 09h30 in the morning, that I just cannot manage lunch except for my protein shake. thanks for your sharing
    http://vkool.com/healthy-meal-plans-with-menu-in-a-box-online-meal-pl...
  43. Eric
    I think the problem is are people's metabolism ready and able to allow them to skip the first meal of the day and eat less.....I believe and see people who skip breakfast not having control or able to lose weight if they skip the first meal of the day.

    Might work for some but not all. Everything should be tailored to the individual you are working with.

  44. Anna
    I started skipping breakfast (just coffee or tea with heavy cream and coconut oil) a week ago - just before this posting came up. I used to have a smallish LCHF breakfast before that. I find that I am a hungry in the mornings, but I'm less hungry during the rest of the day, after I eat an LCHF lunch. I certainly don't eat more at lunch or dinner to make up for the lack of breakfast. I even snack less. I didn't expect this.

    Do you think that I'm less hungry because I'm burning more body fat and that skipping breakfast is causing ketosis? I don't have a scale right now, so I can't monitor my weight that well. I lost 25 pounds on LCHF and will only eat LCHF, but I started plateauing a few months ago and then gained a few pounds back recently. I decided to start skipping breakfast because I needed to try something to start losing weight again.

  45. samc
    I ate breakfast for most of my life, the last 20 years or so have been habit based only. Not really hungry so I switched several months ago to IF and I don't miss the breakfast nor the extra pounds that have melted away.
  46. Chris
    I used to have to eat first thing upon waking up. I was starving. I was eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in sugar and grains. First thing in the morning was a giant bowl of cereal. The companies who make it love to say that I was doing something healthy. "Be Happy, Be Healthy" as the honey bee says on the commercial.

    Since going LCHF one year ago I have settled into no breakfast, eat when I am hungry and lost all the extra pounds I was carrying around. Plus the usual side effects of feeling great, almost super human.

    Poor lady sitting next to me on the plane has Cheerios and a banana everyday and was overweight and complaining of memory loss from her Statins. I was eating bacon and eggs, I don't think I could have convinced her that what I was eating was healthier. She had been brainwashed all those years with advice from the pharmacy, USDA, and grocery manufacturers.

    The day will come, too many people are starting to see the benefits of LCHF. I am shouting from the rooftops! Some people listen, some don't.

  47. Steve
    I like to eat breakfast several times before lunch
  48. MerryKate
    The "pounds" of steak and eggs are more like ounces -- too much protein will also stop ketosis and you may as well be eating carbs. This isn't a starvation diet, simply cutting back intake from food sources. A lot of people like to have something in the morning and coffee suffices; I've switched to having black tea and as a result I've cut back my caffeine intake along the way.

    I eat between noon and 8 p.m. and eat about 1600 cal/day. Before I started this schedule I was eating around 1850/day, which is too much for me to lose weight. I had some difficulty adjusting to the change at first, but now I don't even think about food before noon. The desire to overeat always hits at night, so stopping my eating at 8 p.m. keeps me out of the danger zone. I'm also testing higher ketones as a result of the extended fast.

  49. Avondarcye
    I wake up hungry and eat breakfast of bacon and eggs sometimes cheese, It holds me well till lunch, I would overeat at lunch with poor choices if I skipped breakfast, If I am time pressed I have a protein shake.
  50. kyndra
    I don't eat breakfast. I haven't in a couple of years at least. When I do, I eat so much throughout the day/ I usually won't eat until after 12pm. I am 29 and weigh 124lbs and am 5'4. 3 years ago I was 210lbs , after having 3 kids and also gaining more weight. I had been heavy for almost my whole lofe. All i did was change my eating habit and excersized 4 times a week for about 8 months and lost all that weight! I have kept it off. I don't eat breakfast and I still manage to have the engery for my 3 kids and to stay fit.
  51. hello
    Adam, I saw your comment about how ketogenics worked for you. Was wondering how you are doing right now. Do you have your full story some place that I could read. Example, how much weight you had when you started versus how much you weigh today. I'd like to hear your story.

    Kevin

  52. uisce
    I have to completely agree with this. I am rarely even hungry when I wake up. But if I eat breakfast, it triggers a constant hunger throughout the rest of the day. I can only imagine that that is because we are - from an early age - trained to consume terribly insufficient simple carbs first thing. I am quite sluggish on the mornings I do eat. If I hold out to eat until noonish, I don't feel the need to gorge even if I have physically exerted myself in the morning. I can eat a typical lunch and not suffer bad cravings until dinner and beyond. My father insists that his key to staying in shape was not eating breakfast.

    This whole "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" nonsense is more-or-less a junk-science ploy by Big Cereal to sell us fortified sugar pellets.

  53. merry
    I skip breakfast and eat less during the day mostly i go with vegetables and one meal drinking alot ot water or fresh juice
    Reply: #55
  54. Bjarte Bakke Team Diet Doctor
    Merry, if by "juice" you mean fruit juice I suggest you stop. Fruit juice is unhealthy and fattening.

    Bjarte - Team Diet Doctor

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