We’ve all heard the phrase, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But did you know that that slogan was created by – wait for it – the Kellogg cereal brand? Yup. And yet, there are plenty of people out there who still think breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. Are they right? Let’s find out!
Why do we believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
We talked briefly about how a cereal company set the narrative that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And while it was a brilliant marketing move, intuitively, it also makes sense, right? One would think it’s wise to have something to eat before you leave the house to give you the energy to take on the day and keep you satisfied until the next meal: Lunch.
And this is how most of us grew up. So now it just seems normal. Like, “this is what we do.” But just because something is what’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the most effective (or healthy!) way to do things. Honestly, it’s worth looking at our habits occasionally and asking, “Is this still serving me?” So let’s do that with the concept that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
When is the best time to Break your Fast?
Even the name “Breakfast” references the idea of fasting. At a minimum, we should go for at least 12 hours between eating. What does that look like? If you finish your dinner at 7:30 pm, the earliest you would eat would be 7:30 am the next day. Notice: there is no late-night snacking here, which is unnecessary and unhealthy anyway.
But 12 hours is the minimum amount of time we should go between meals, and there are many benefits of going longer between meals. Let’s explore what happens in our bodies when we fast for more extended periods of time.
Intermittent Fasting: 12-16 hours
I believe most people (myself included) used to think ALL fasting was considered intermittent fasting. True intermittent fasting is when you avoid consuming calories for 12-16 hours. Some benefits of intermittent fasting include improved metabolic panels, reduced blood pressure, and reduced glycogen and insulin levels. Other benefits include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced brain fog
- Increased energy
Autophagy Fasting: 17-72 hours
I know what you’re thinking: 72 hours of fasting! That isn’t healthy! I challenge you to consider the historical and religious precedence of fasting, which has existed for millennia. At these fasting lengths, our old, damaged cells get destroyed (which is a good thing!). Other benefits include:
- Natural detox
- Improved brain function and cognition
- Increased immune function
- Balancing of sex hormones
Gut-Reset Fast: 24+ hours
A fast of around 24 hours is also called OMAD, or, One Meal A Day. This is a great fast to promote healing because at 24 hours (and beyond) your natural stem cells come to repair damage within your body. Other benefits include:
- Counteracting of antibiotic use
- Offsetting side effects of birth control
- Helping fight SIBO (bacterial growth in your small intestine)
Fat-Burner Fast: 36+ hours
If you have been intermittent fasting and have struggled with stubborn weight, this is a great fast to do to release excess fat. Disclaimer: the weight may not come off immediately after the 36+ hours of fasting, but usually, within a week or so, your body will respond. You may also experience:
- Reduced weight loss resistance
- Releasing of stored sugar
- Reduced cholesterol levels
Dopamine-Reset Fast: 48+ hours
Fasting is NOT just about weight loss. As you’ve seen above, there are also improved immunological and metabolic functions. In addition to all of that, fasting is a great reset for your mental health, especially a 48-hour fast. A fast of this length will:
- Reboot dopamine levels
- Lower anxiety levels
Immune-Reset Fast: 72+ hours
A fast of this length is also called a 3- or 5-day water fast, where you regenerate stem cells to do intense healing within your body. This a great fast to:
- Ease a chronic condition
- Prevent chronic diseases (like cancer)
- Alleviate pain and stiffness of relentless musculoskeletal injuries
- Slow the effects of aging
As you can see: there are multiple ways to fast and so many benefits to each of them! All of this shows that eating breakfast as soon as you awake each morning is absolutely unnecessary.
However, it is super important to consider WHAT you eat whenever you decide to break your fast.
Special Considerations for Fasting
A 12 hour fast is safe for everyone. In fact, this is the minimum amount of time that most people should go between meals. However, there are a few groups of people who shouldn’t go much longer than this before breaking their fast.
As kids are growing, they need to maintain their energy levels and make sure their bodies are getting the nutrients needed to for healthy and proper growth.
Pregnant and Breastfeeding women
Not only do pregnant and breastfeeding women need extra calories to support growing and feeding a child, they also do not want to be promoting autophagy or detox, as that damaged cellular debris may go into the placenta or breastmilk.
Those with a history of disordered eating
While fasting can be an incredible healing modality, if it is triggering in any way to control your eating or you look at it as skipping meals to reduce calories, I urge to focus on other methods for staying healthy. Because the beauty of the human body is that there are plenty of ways to nurture your body!
What to eat to break your fast
So here is where the “most important meal of the day” narrative gets complicated because it DOES matter what you eat when you break your fast. Look at all of the benefits listed above regarding fasting. Your body has been healing for anywhere between 12 to 72+ hours. What you put into your system after that healing is super critical.
So, what should you eat? It depends on your goals.
- If you’re looking to lose weight: consider breaking your fast with fat
- If you’re looking to build muscle: be sure to eat a good amount of protein to break your fast
- If you want to repair your gut: high fiber foods, including prebiotics and probiotics, are a great option
To cover all your bases, be sure to include all three. This can look like eggs with avocado and raw sauerkraut.
And while it’s great to get these nutrients from food, the truth is that it can be hard to consistent. That’s why I swear by the following supplements:
Like so much in the health and wellness space, there is conflicting (and often confusing) information. The conversation around breakfast is no different. But I hope you can now see that breakfast (in terms of what you eat to break your fast) IS a very important meal to consider. It’s just that it doesn’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – be consumed first thing in the morning.
If you’re looking for more health tips, check out my free guide: