Mom always told us, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," and any number of doctors, nutritionists, and health books have been telling us the same thing for decades. But is that always the case? Are there times when it's better not to eat breakfast? As the old saying goes, there's an exception to every rule, and surprisingly, there are a number of exceptions to that eat-in-the-morning mandate.
If you're not much of a morning bagel person, you don't have to feel guilty about skipping breakfast. Registered dietician Leslie Bonci told Popular Science that although a morning meal is beneficial for kids — it boosts their school performance and concentration — the evidence isn't as clear-cut for us grownups. Scientifically, the jury is still out on whether eating breakfast really boosts our brainpower or helps with weight loss. Bonci added that the important thing is to eat when you're really hungry, not when the clock tells you to. As for the long-held belief that breakfast revs metabolism, Healthline cited studies showing that people who skip a morning meal don't burn fewer calories than those who always reach for the cereal and fruit.
While there are certain situations when having breakfast is an absolute must (such as having diabetes, or being on a medication that must be taken with food in the morning), there are times when skipping breakfast not only won't hurt you, it might actually do some good. Here are seven surprising times when you can go ahead and say no to eating first thing in the morning:
When You're Heading To The Gym
Are you one of those enviable people who fits in a workout before the commute to work, or right after dropping the kids off at school? Then it won't hurt to postpone your yogurt or avocado toast till after you're done. Brooklyn-based dietician Maya Feller told Health 24 that while she generally recommends eating breakfast, it's okay to skip it pre-workout if you tend to feel oogy exercising on a full stomach. On the other hand, if doing your Zumba or treadmill without food leaves you lightheaded, then by all means eat a little something before you leave the house.
When You're Not Hungry (At Least, Not Right Away)
Not everyone gets out of bed with their stomach rumbling. And some folks (believe it or not) just aren't into oatmeal and eggs in the first place. If you're just not feeling breakfast-y when you first get up in the early a.m., then it's fine to wait a little while before eating, nutritionist Raphael Gruman told the Huffington Post. A morning meal is still important, he said, but "if you get up at 7 or 8 a.m., it's okay to eat breakfast at 10 a.m.." He added that having a cheese sandwich in the morning provides a nice blend of carbs, fat, and calcium to see you through till lunch.
When You Want To Switch Up Your Eating Plan
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who changed their breakfast habits for three months lost weight, no matter what their habits were in the first place. In other words, women who regularly had cereal and toast dropped the pounds when they skipped the morning meal, and vice versa. So if you're looking to drop a size and you're used to having a smoothie or fruit first thing in the day, you might try waiting a little longer to eat.
When Your Only Options Will Make You Crash And Burn
You slept past your alarm, bypassed the fridge, and made it to the office with minutes to spare. Now you're feeling peckish, and the only thing available is a box of doughnuts in the break room. Should you indulge? Think again: Waiting till lunch to eat might actually be better in the long run than having a sugar- and fat-loaded pastry like a doughnut or muffin. "Eating a doughnut is terrible — there's no better example of junk food," California nutritionist Adrienne Youdim told Mic. Not only do these treats have no nutritional value whatsoever, they also send your blood sugar levels soaring, only to plummet later in the day. That morning doughnut could leave you nodding off at your desk or struggling to keep your mind on your paperwork. So if there's really no other choice but to skip breakfast, give those pastries a pass. But next time, plan ahead and give yourself enough time to have a healthy meal in the morning.
If You're On Certain Meds
If your doctor prescribes a new medicine for you, be sure to ask what time (or times) of day to take it, and whether it's meant to be taken with meals. Some drugs are absorbed into the body more efficiently with food, while others aren't. Some examples of empty-stomach meds: the antibiotic tetracycline, the anti-ulcer drug sucralfate, and the synthetic thyroid hormone Synthroid. The basic rule to follow is to eat either two hours before or two hours after taking a medicine meant for an empty stomach.
Before Taking Certain Blood Tests (Even When You're Pregnant)
At a medical checkup, doctors often prescribe a blood test to check for any red flags such as high cholesterol or low levels of white or red blood cells. Some of these tests require you to fast for eight to 12 hours before the blood draw, explained Healthline, because the nutrients in food can interfere with the test results. Fasting can also include not drinking coffee or alcohol for a certain period beforehand, so check with your doctor.
Pregnant women often undergo a glucose screening test in the second trimester to check for gestational diabetes. Typically, you'll be asked to drink a glucose liquid, then have your blood drawn an hour later to check your sugar levels. If they're too high, then you'll undergo a longer glucose tolerance test, which requires you to fast overnight.
When You're Curious About The Hottest Health Craze
Disclaimer: Of course, it's essential to talk to your doctor about any drastic change in your eating plan. But evidence suggests that intermittent fasting (IF), a dietary plan that involves eating all your daily calories between lunch and dinnertime, might actually improve your health. Harvard Medical School points to studies that show that IF may help rev metabolism, decrease blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity.
The idea behind the plan is that, rather than munching three or more meals from dawn till late night, you restrict your eating time to one eight-hour window. Proponents claim that this is a more natural way of working with the body's circadian rhythm. Many people on an IF plan don't start eating till around noon (which is where the skipping-breakfast part comes in), but they eat as much nutrient-rich food as they like during the next eight hours.
The takeaway: If you're a devoted breakfast eater, there's no reason to stop, particularly if your morning meal involves lots of healthy choices. And nutritionists still recommend having at least a little something within an hour or two of waking up. But if you prefer to skip breakfast sometimes, or if you need to do it for medical reasons, it's not the catastrophe we grew up believing it to be. (Sorry, Mom.)
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