Breakfast is praised as the most important meal of the day, but when exactly should you eat it? Some people chow down on cereal seconds after the alarm goes off, while others need to wake up for a few minutes before they can even think about food. For most people, the best time to eat solid food after waking up depends on a few different factors. As with pretty much any other dietary question, the answer is: it depends.
First, it's a good idea to consider whether your body wants food first thing in the morning. "The best time to eat after waking (or anytime) is when you are actually hungry," says Julie Cunningham, registered dietitian & certified diabetes educator. "We're all born with internal cues for hunger and satiety." It's easy to fall into a pattern of skipping breakfast and overeating later in the day when you're starving, though, as Cunningham explains. Listening to the body's innate cues about hunger is the first step in determining an ideal breakfast time. If a person wakes up famished, then it's probably best to go chow down on some oatmeal or toast pronto. It's a wise way to reinforce the connection to those hunger cues, and it prevents you from getting all hangry by mid-morning.
Next, a person's workout routine can also influence this ideal breakfast time. Someone gearing up for a half-marathon or other intense event needs that fuel. "It depends on if you're training in the morning or not. But the most important thing is to get in some amino acids or protein within the first hour or so," says Dr. Jeff Golini, nutrition expert for Winner Circle Athletics. "You have gone seven or eight hours without any food to the muscle and it's now time to fuel the growth." Depending on an individual's exercise demands, breakfast can be an essential time to refuel and prepare for the day's workouts.
On the other hand, people who follow different types of diets may take a pass on breakfast entirely. For instance, people who practice intermittent fasting may not begin eating until around noon, explains Dr. Keith Kantor, leading dietitian and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program. "So this population eats for the first time several hours after waking up," says Dr. Kantor. Although he is a firm believer in the health benefits of intermittent fasting, Dr. Kantor does note that the diet isn't for everyone, including high-level athletes or people with conditions like hypoglycemia.
Lastly, if you're someone who cannot eat breakfast in the morning, just know that you aren't alone. In fact, anything from a person's metabolism to hormonal fluctuations can make breakfast seem unappealing or even downright nauseating, as explained in Elite Daily. Of course, if you have any concerns about your appetite (for breakfast or any other meal), then don't hesitate to discuss them with a doctor. As it turns out, something as simple as the best time of day to eat breakfast depends so much on an individual's general lifestyle, health conditions, and even personal preferences.