Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
Breakfast is the easiest meal to skip—mornings are rushed and many people don’t have an appetite when they wake up. Some people even feel nauseous in the morning (which indicates a blood sugar disorder). But if you skip breakfast you may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts, increasing your risk of obesity and blood sugar disorders, and robbing your brain of energy.
Skipping breakfast associated with obesity
Numerous studies show skipping breakfast is associated with higher rates of obesity in both children and adults. Some people erroneously think that by skipping breakfast they consume fewer calories and thus aid weight loss. However, skipping breakfast can set into motion an unhealthy metabolic cascade that eventually leads to excess fat.
Breakfast is the first meal after a long night of fasting. In the absence of food, the body must release stored glucose to fuel the brain or create glucose by breaking down muscle tissue. This process is made possible by stress hormones.
Skipping breakfast when your brain and body are starved for energy exaggerates this stress response, forcing the body to continually pump out stress hormones to fuel the brain. These stress hormones also explain why some people wake up feeling nauseous. Although it seems counter-intuitive, eating can actually relieve that morning nausea by inhibiting the stress response.
The habitual stress response caused by skipping breakfast and other meals promotes weight gain, upsets hormonal balance, causes inflammation, hinders brain function, and can lead to symptoms such as migraines, depression, mood swings, shakiness, lightheadedness, brain fog, sleep disorders, and more. Eating meals high in sugar and carbohydrates also contributes to this problem by causing energy to continually spike and crash throughout the day.
Eating breakfast is an important strategy when it comes to preventing weight gain and fatigue.
Skipping breakfast makes you more prone to overeating or poor food choices
Skipping breakfast can increase your chances of overindulging or making poor food choices later in the day. When your energy is crashing and your brain is starving for fuel, downing a caramel latte or package of mini donuts suddenly seems unavoidable. A well-fueled brain is better equipped to make healthier choices and not succumb to a mad grab for the nearest source of quick energy (for which the American food industry seems to be designed).
A recent study validated this tendency, showing participants who skipped breakfast were more likely to seek out high-calorie junk foods and that dieters who skip meals are more prone to gain weight over the long run. Their brain scans showed skipping meals stimulated the brain in a way that made high-calorie foods seem more appealing. Those who skipped breakfast also ate about 20 percent more at lunch.
Breakfast keeps body and brain on an even keel
Breakfast should emphasize healthy proteins and fat (avoid sugary, starchy breakfasts) to start the day on an even keel and maximize brain function. Eat frequently enough to avoid blood sugar crashes, and include protein, healthy fat, and fiber (vegetables) with every meal to sustain energy and prevent fatigue throughout the day.
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