Share on Facebook

This is What Happens to Your Body When You Skip Breakfast

There's a reason it's called the most important meal of the day.

1 / 8
A clock with a plate face and a fork and knife for hands.Photo: Shutterstock

Is skipping breakfast bad?

We’ve all heard the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet a whopping 34 per cent of Canadians reported skipping it at least once during the workweek according to an Ipsos poll, saying they simply weren’t hungry or didn’t have time for breakfast.

Harvey Anderson, a professor in the departments of nutritional sciences and physiology at the University of Toronto, says that everybody has different nutritional needs for their first meal of the day—making it hard to be prescriptive about what to eat. Your needs might depend on your age group, or whether you work in an office or, say, a construction site.

“But the bottom line,” Anderson adds, “is that people should eat something before they go to work, no matter what time of day it is.” That’s because when you wake up—whether that’s in the morning, afternoon, or evening—your body is essentially breaking a fast. That means it’s looking for fuel to tackle what’s next.

One of the most important things we can do for our body, Anderson says, is to maintain a consistent meal frequency throughout the day—and this healthy lifestyle includes breakfast. But what actually happens to your body if you’re part of the 34 per cent that decided to skip the first meal of the day?

2 / 8
An older woman with her hand on her forehead.Photo: Shutterstock

Your memory may suffer

Is skipping breakfast bad for your grey matter? Some studies have shown that eating breakfast can positively impact your memory if you’re already a healthy adult. If you skip breakfast, you might have trouble with delayed recall, or the ability to remember something that you learned earlier in the day.

Here are 20 more everyday habits to boost your brain health.

3 / 8
A photo of a man with his head in his hand, asleep.Photo: Shutterstock

You may feel less alert

Breakfast may not make you smarter, but skipping it can lead to poorer performance in school or at work. One study found that children who didn’t eat breakfast regularly had lower IQs than those who did. The study’s authors also suggest that the social interaction that occurs when children eat breakfast with their families can help with cognitive development. Those brain-boosting benefits aren’t just for the small set, either: Breakfast has been shown to improve alertness and cognition in adults, too.

Follow this MIND Diet meal plan to feed your brain.

4 / 8
A woman asleep on the couch.Photo: Shutterstock

You may have less energy

Our bodies get energy from glucose, which we obtain mostly from carbohydrates. Even when you’re sleeping and not consuming any food, your body needs energy to function and will use the glucose it stored throughout the day. When you wake up, your body needs to replenish these glucose stores (and thereby your energy). That means people who skip breakfast to reduce their calorie intake are often being counterproductive. Not eating the meal could make them sluggish and studies show that breakfast gives us more energy to be physically active in the morning, which helps burn calories.

Find out the best energy-boosting foods to help you wake up in the morning.

5 / 8
A chart indicating rising blood sugar.Photo: Shutterstock

Your blood sugar could spike

Some people worry that breakfast can cause their blood glucose levels to spike, which can be an issue even in otherwise healthy people. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are more likely to do this than those that release glucose slowly. Anderson says that cereals can be high on the glycemic index, and so some nutritionists will caution against eating them. But pairing cereal with milk ensures you don’t get this spike. That’s because the protein in milk, says Anderson, stops the carbohydrates in cereals from leaving your stomach too quickly. Other studies have found that a healthy, balanced breakfast can help you maintain healthy blood glucose levels in the morning, which is important because it can reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Learn to spot the signs you might have diabetes.

6 / 8
 A stethoscope on a picture of a heart.Photo: Shutterstock

Your cholesterol may increase

People who skip breakfast may eat more throughout the rest of the day to make up for that feeling of hunger. What’s worse, some of the late-night snacks they’ll end up craving tend to be more fatty or sweet than they’d normally eat throughout the day, increasing their cholesterol levels. Cholesterol causes fat to build up in arteries and, in the worst cases, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Find out the 10 worst foods for cholesterol.

7 / 8
A man sits down looking stressed out.Photo: Shutterstock

You may feel stressed out

Some studies have shown that eating breakfast can make people feel less stressed. In particular, breakfast can help with positive mood and lower mental distress, which can improve how people feel about their overall quality of life.

Check out the surprising health benefits of oatmeal.

8 / 8
A photograph of a healthy breakfastPhoto: Shuttestock

Choose your breakfast wisely

Overall, eating breakfast can help to set you up for success. But, you should still try to make that breakfast healthy and fit your lifestyle, says Anderson. Experts suggest a breakfast that contains fruits or vegetables, whole grains, healthy fat and protein is healthiest. Anderson agrees. “The worst is probably just waiting and grabbing a donut, which is basically just fat and carbohydrate, along with your coffee on the way to work.”

Next, find out how to read food labels like a nutritionist.