Should Athletes Skip Breakfast?

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
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Should Athletes Skip Breakfast?

Many claim breakfast is the meal of champions. And there’s no denying that, for many, focusing on getting a balanced breakfast is a way to take control of healthy habits early in the day. However, just because something is good for most people doesn’t mean it is good for everyone. Research has shown the connection between eating breakfast and positive health outcomes. However, a meta-analysis — a large-scale review of all the research available on breakfast consumption versus skipping breakfast — shows no significant difference between the two when it comes to health — and a morning meal might even work against weight-loss efforts.

Here are a few situations where the best option might be forgoing this meal:

1

YOU ARE A NIGHT OWL

Listening to your natural circadian rhythm is important for overall well-being. For some, this internal clock has energy levels peaking a bit later in the day. If you struggle to get going in the morning, like to sleep in and stay out late, you need fueling habits that match this. Aim to hydrate in the morning to get your body going and start eating when it feels right. If this is at lunch, then so be it. The first meal you eat is important, regardless of what your watch says. This later shift in eating is likely appropriate for fueling your body late into the evening when your creativity, productivity and energy expenditures are high.

2

YOU FEEL PRESSURED

Nothing drags down a sense of wellness like pressure to conform. If you find yourself cringing as you wake up and instantly go to the kitchen to force down a smoothie bowl, granola bar or breakfast burrito simply because your favorite influencer does, it’s time to take a step back. Listen to your body and consume food based on your personal needs. If you wake up with a rumbling stomach and food sounds great, eat. But if food first thing grosses you out or you wake up feeling full, then skipping breakfast might be your best bet. Force feeding only leads to consuming excess calories and ignoring your body’s natural hunger cues.

3

YOU AVOID ‘JUNK’ FOOD

A big reason health experts push for breakfast is morning foods tend to be healthier than evening foods. Think about it, you wouldn’t consider reaching for a cocktail and platter of nachos at 8 a.m. Instead, you’re more likely to grab an avocado toast, superfood-loaded smoothie or protein-packed omelet. If you’re one of those people who find it easy to start the day off well only to go downhill later, you need that morning meal to get your nutrients in; sacrificing it would be bad for your overall health. However, if you’re not easily tempted or simply do not have a taste for empty calories or junk foods, the nutrient quality of your day doesn’t rely on breakfast. Feel free to skip it and focus on lunch and dinner instead.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you have a good grasp on your fitness and eating habits and just simply do not enjoy breakfast, don’t feel bad about skipping it. There is plenty of time throughout the day to get the calories and nutrients your body and mind need without cramming it in as soon as you jump out of bed. What is more important than the choice to eat or not eat ASAP each morning is the choice to make quality food choices whenever you eat.

About the Author

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.

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