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When You Should Be Skipping Breakfast (and When You Shouldn’t)

When You Should Be Skipping Breakfast (and When You Shouldn’t)

If you think skipping breakfast might help you lose weight or improve your health…or that it won’t…you need to read this article.


Breakfast is a controversial meal these days.

Some “experts” say it’s vital for preserving health and preventing weight gain while others claim skipping it entirely is the trick to staying lean and healthy.

Scientific research cuts both ways as well.

For example, one study conducted by scientists from Harvard School of Public Health found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease. Another found that skipping breakfast was associated with a higher risk of weight gain.

On the other hand, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama involved an extensive review of the literature and concluded that missing breakfast has either little or no effect on weight gain. In fact, the data showed that breakfast eaters tend to consume more calories than those who skip it.

What’s the deal, then? Does skipping breakfast made it easier or harder to lose weight or does it have no effect whatsoever?

And then there’s the context of bodybuilding, which gives rise to new concerns related to body composition.

When we enter this realm we hear talk of “starvation mode,” muscle loss, and metabolic damage, but how reasonable are such fears? Does skipping breakfast really impair muscle growth and metabolic health?

Well, let’s find out.

The Truth About Skipping Breakfast and Weight Loss

skipping breakfast weight loss

Let’s start this section of the article with a review of the Harvard studies cited above.

The first thing that jumps out is the major difference between the people that did and didn’t eat breakfast is non-eaters were generally hungrier later in the day and ate more at night.

Eating food at night isn’t a problem per se, but research shows that meal skipping can lead to overeating and an increase in total overall energy intake. 

That is, some people that skip meals tend to eat more calories than non-skippers.

Overeating, in turn, leads to fat gain and overweight people are at an increased risk of heart disease. Thus, there can be an association between skipping breakfast and an increased incidence of cardiac events and heart disease…but that doesn’t mean there’s a casual relationship.

This was summarized by the lead author of the study, Leah Cahill:

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.”

With that in mind, let’s now look at the University of Alabama study.

What researchers found is only a handful of rigorous, well-executed studies have tested the effects of eating and not eating breakfast.

And you have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the only long-term, carefully controlled trial that randomly assigned people to routinely eat or skip breakfast and then measured the effect on their body weight.

The 1992 study was carried out by scientists at Vanderbilt University and showed that eating or skipping breakfast had no significant effect on weight loss.

What mattered weren’t breakfast habits but overall eating habits and diet compliance, which merely confirms what metabolic researchers have been saying for decades.

We can find an abundance of support for these findings in the research available on the intermittent fasting style of dieting.

In case you’re not familiar with it, intermittent fasting is a style of dieting that has you eat and not eat on a regular schedule, with particular emphasis placed on not eating.

You see, with a normal type of diet, you eat food every few hours from, let’s say, 8 AM until 9 PM. That is, every day you eat food intermittently for ~13 hours and eat nothing for ~11 hours.

With intermittent fasting, you flip this around.

You eat food intermittently for, let’s say, ~8 hours, and eat nothing for ~16 hours (the Leangains method, which you can learn more about here).

So, for example, you might start eating at 1 PM and stop at 9 PM and not eat again until 1 PM the next day.

Now, as you can imagine, many intermittent fasting protocols involve skipping breakfast. And research shows they are just as workable and healthy as traditional forms of dieting.

And what about claims about skipping breakfast causing your metabolism to slow down?


In this well-designed trial published in 2014, scientists from the University of Bath found that in healthy adults with normal body fat percentages, eating or skipping breakfast had no effect on resting metabolic rate.

In fact, this study found that metabolic rate didn’t decline until 60 hours without food…and the reduction was a mere 8%. Contrary to this myth, research shows that the metabolism actually speeds up after 36 to 48 hours of not eating.

So, the bottom line is this: if you enjoy breakfast, you should eat it; if you enjoy skipping it, you should skip it.

Many people I’ve worked with like eating breakfast because they just like breakfast food. Others find that a hearty breakfast helps curb hunger throughout the day, which in turn helps prevent overeating, or find it energizing.

On the other hand, many others prefer to skip breakfast though because they just don’t like standard morning fare or eating until lunch. Some like to “save” those calories and eat a larger lunch or dinner or both.

Both groups do equally well in the end.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

Can Bodybuilders Skip Breakfast Too?

skipping breakfast bodybuilding

Man bodybuilders, and people in general looking to build muscle and strength, are afraid that skipping breakfast will slow down their progress.

This fear is rooted in the simple belief that going for too long without food causes muscle loss.

Well, there’s truth here.

If you go too long without food, your body will break down muscle tissue for energy.

That said, what many people don’t know is just how long you have to go without food for that to occur.

Well, this study found that amino acids obtained from the breakdown of muscle tissue were responsible for about 50% of glucose maintenance at the 16-hour mark of fasting, and 100% at the 28-hour mark.

This is why many intermittent fasting protocols designed for athletes and bodybuilders don’t have you going for more than 16 hours without food.

Furthermore, this is why well-designed protocols also recommend that your last meal before the fast be high in a slow-burning form of protein like casein or egg.

The purpose of this is to provide the body with a large infusion of amino acids so it doesn’t have to break down muscle tissue. Instead, it can use the amino acids provided by the protein, which will remain available for several hours after eating it.

Here’s what it boils down to:

Many methods of intermittent fasting involve skipping breakfast and research shows bodybuilders can do just as well on these diets as traditional ones that include breakfast.

Again, it just boils down to personal eating preferences.

The Bottom Line on Skipping Breakfast

skipping breakfast myth

There’s a lot of truth in the old saying that the best diet and training programs are the ones you’re going to stick to.

No matter how perfectly designed a diet or workout routine is, if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you’re better off finding an alternative that does.

For example, planning/tracking calorie intake is the most effective and reliable way to lose fat, but some people really chafe at it for one reason or another. Well, these people shouldn’t completely ignore the realities of energy balance they don’t have to count calories–they can focus instead on establishing good eating habits that are conducive to weight loss.

The same goes for eating or skipping breakfast. If skipping breakfast helps you better stick to your diet, you should do it. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t.

So long as your diet is set up properly as a whole, you can’t go wrong either way.

What’s your take on skipping breakfast? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Bob healy

    Hi mike,I’ve been skipping breakfast as part of my intermittent fasting and have felt it hasn’t effect my workout. I’ve been on reverse diet for 3 weeks now but still workout in a fasted state and still been able to make gains in weights and reps.I tend to finish my workout with some whey protein and a banana then go home and have 100 grams of oats as I love my porridge ???. Next week I’m on holiday it’s a deload week but after will be on a calorie surplus so will go back to some oats before my workout.
    Interesting article Mike.


  • I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve been doing it for about 5 or 6 months now and have felt a lot of positive benefits to it.

    I recommend everyone else try to do intermittent fasting. It’s been known for increasing growth hormone and a myriad of other health benefits.

    One of my favorite things about intermittent fasting is that it helps me get into a laser like focus when i’m in a fasted state. This is when I get most of my work done for the day.

  • Kevin

    Killer article Mike.

  • JJ McClinton

    Good article Mike. You got the nail on the head.

  • stacey

    Thank u! I’m not a breakfast eater. . I just can’t stomach food first thing in the morning so I eat after I go to the gym about 10am ..I’m constantly having people tell me I need breakfast to kick start my metabolism. . This article proves that it doesn’t. Thank u!!

  • Bill

    Alright time to get my blood back by sending this article to all the people who make my life harder by consistently and with overenthusiastic ways to eat breakfast.

  • Scott

    I’ve tried both for al least 3 to 6 months each to see if it had any effect on my body composition or fat loss. No real difference. I do eat breakfast now just because I prefer it. Bulking now so it helps fill in the extra calories.

    • That’s totally fine. What works best for you is what matters.

      Good call for when bulking. It can be tough to squeeze in all the cals you need in just a few meals.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Ian Musgrove

    Hey Mike, great stuff as always! if doing IF with an active morning ahead of me, should I take HMB or Luecine when I wake up? I don’t really like to eat until noon, but my day job is very physical and starts at 9am.. Thanks!

    • In your case, yeah. I’d recommend HMB or leucine just in case. Don’t want to be losing muscle! 🙂

  • Caty Pasternak

    You rock, Mike. It’s hard to trust fitness professionals, but I always trust your content and share with others because you cover all sides of the equation. Keep up the great work! Really admire your worth ethic!

    I’ve done fasting, I’ve done eating every 2-3 hours…now I do whatever I want. Energy balance for the win! Sometimes I need that fuel in the morning before I lift and other times, not so much.

    • Thanks for the support Caty. 🙂

      Yep, it all comes down to energy balance in the end! As long as you stay within your allotted cals for the day, you can eat whenever you like.

  • Steve Goguen

    Mike, I agree with everything you said. I’m curious about the points made by others about IF. Things like it detoxifies the body, cell regeneration, insulin sensitivity and also the extended periods of fad burning since insulin is in the basement during this fasted period. I’m a big anti-aging guy, so health benefits are always a big factor in my decisions about diet. like IIFYM is great, but I still want to make good food choices for health benefits.

  • Sharief

    I find having a good breakfast provides me with the fuel I need to have a great workout.

  • Edward Swartz

    I tried fasting but prefer eating breakfast so it isn’t MASSIVE calorie consumption for lunch and dinner. Plus, three meals spaced out with low carbs helps the sugar levels. When fasting I also suffer from the Dawn Effect more. Thanks for the read!

  • Dean

    Hi Mike, Ive read and watched pretty much all of your work but i’ve never really heard you touch on Protein synthesis in the morning. Is it true your body can metabolise proteins more efficiently after you’ve been in a fasted state ‘sleeping’, thus building muscle?

  • Justin

    Hey Mike,

    On a cut do you think fasted cardio first thing in the morning and then having a first meal at lunch time 5ish hours later would be a bad thing? I love fasted cardio in the AM but I prefer to fast until lunch. Do you think taking something like HMB is absolutely crucial to avoid going metabolic?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend that. I’d recommend at least 20g of protein post-cardio. If the protein isn’t an option, I recommend HMB or leucine post-cardio and every 2-3 hours until you eat.


      My pleasure!

      • Justin

        Ya. That is what I figured and to be honest throwing down some quick protein isn’t tough to do from a lifestyle perspective.
        I just find that when I do break my fast with anything no matter what quantity or macro profile it makes controlling intake harder for the rest of the day. I know it sounds weird but I can fast till 1 easier than I can eat breakfast and wait until 1 to eat lunch. That is why IF is very helpful for me when cutting.

        Thanks so much for your time! Thoroughly enjoy what you put out there.

        • I hear you Justin. I recommend whatever works best for you and keeps you within your cals and macros. 🙂

          My pleasure! Glad you’re enjoying my stuff!

  • TD

    I like that you put to rest the theory that skipping breakfast messes with your metabolism. Nonsense. I skip breakfast occasionally, and it’s never been an issue with my physique goals. However, I love breakfast food in general, so I do eat it most days. Again, I think it’s an individual thing because everyone is different. It’s definitely not “one size fits all”.

    • Happy to do it. 🙂

      And that’s exactly right. Whatever works best for you is what I recommend.

  • AnnaD

    Heya Mike, just watched your video on what your diet is like, and you didn’t mention what you have for breakfast. Would love to know, thanks 🙂

    • It’s boring at the moment–2 scoops of whey, haha. I like to “save” the majority of my calories for dinner and later.

  • Rob G

    I’ve inadvertently been doing the 16/8 IF for years. I’m ex military, so I’m conditioned to train mornings. I stop eating by 8 p.m. and workout empty w/a pre-workout & bcca’s around 9 or 10 a.m. Prtn shake after, then 2-3 meals round out the day.

    • If that fits your lifestyle and you’re getting results, keep it up. 🙂

  • JimK

    Hey Mike. I discovered your site recently and can’t stop reading it. Thanks for all the great info! On this topic, I always find that if I skip breakfast my hunger level is fine by lunch, but if I eat an early breakfast, by lunchtime I’m REALLY hungry! I’ve talked to some others that have observed the same effect. I always chalked it up to the old metabolism theory, which you suggest is not correct. Any thoughts on why this might be? Thanks!

    • Thanks Jim!

      It could just be due to your body’s natural hormonal rhythms or it could be related to what you’re eating for breakfast.

      When you do eat early, what do you generally eat?

  • Jonathan

    Yet, another great article Mike!

    However, I’m still getting mixed reviews about fasted training which I sincerely enjoy as it fits my lifestyle/ schedule , adherence etc.. is it still advisable to do weight lifting fasted when trying to build muscle, I guess a lean bulk/recomp ? I’ve tried both and feel more productivey without breakfast pre-workout. But, what I’ve gathered is that its a lot more difficult to build muscle via fasted training?

    • Thanks! When trying to maximize muscle building, you want the best performance possible. That means getting good preworkout nutrition and not training fasted.

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