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Mine is not breakfast, and I’ll tell you why.
Nutritionists and health experts tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skip breakfast, they warn, and you’ll end up eating more later.
So this promotes a rush of early morning activity in kitchens across America, people trying to get ready for work while mindlessly shoving down low-quality food before they slip half-awake out the door. This is our most important meal of the day?
Looking into the research, we find there’s no supporting evidence that breakfast is the most important meal.
As I’ve written before, the act of bingeing after a fast (or skipping breakfast) is probably independent of fasting and based on a behavior of those who have bingeing tendency to begin with, no matter the meal pattern. On the other hand, a study shows that a 36-hour fast did not induce a powerful, unconditioned tendency to binge at the next meal or later meals.
But even if bingeing does occur after a fast, it does not mean we’ll put on weight. Whether we eat the same amount of calories through 3 meals or 2 meals (or even 1 meal) per day, meal frequency does not effect DAILY metabolic rate or energy level.
But consuming calories in fewer meals to equal the same as those from more frequent meals is a practice in physical discomfort, even in the face of gluttony. Here’s a quote from a 2007 study that demonstrates free-feeding (ad libitum) after a fast still nets an overall lower caloric intake:
…when on 1 meal/day, the subjects would have eaten less than those on 3 meals/day if we had not asked them to consume the same amount of food that they normally eat on a 3 meal/d schedule. When rodents are subjected to an alternate day fasting regimen, their overall calorie intake is decreased by 10–30% and they maintain a lower body weight than animals on an ad libitum control diet, and exhibit increased insulin sensitivity and decreased blood pressure.
As you can see, if you fast (24 to 36 hours) or skip breakfast, you’re not likely to binge; and if you do binge, you’re not likely to eat the same calories as you would have if you hadn’t fasted.
So, what is YOUR most important meal of the day? Is it shoving down breakfast in a rush, or is it some other meal in your day?
My most important meal of the day is almost always dinner. It is the time when I get to sit down with my wife, with family, or with good friends, and enjoy every bite of food, slowly, deliberately, with a glass of burgundy.
Perhaps this is why my feeding starts around 5PM. It works for me in so many ways: schedule, relationship, health, body composition, and real enjoyment of food.