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What’s Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

Listen to this post on Intermittent Fasting on our Live Lean TV Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast!

IF or Eating Breakfast? What’s Healthier?

On today’s episode, I’m answering a question I get all the time: should you follow intermittent fasting or eat breakfast?

Well to be clear, every one eats breakfast, or else you’d be dead.

The term “breakfast” is simply a compound of “break” and “fast”.

Meaning this meal, regardless of what time of day you eat it, breaks the fasting of food.

Even if you follow intermittent fasting (a.k.a. IF), and you have your first meal at 12pm, it technically still is your breakfast.

However, for the simplicity of this post, when we say “breakfast”, we’re referring to the meal people eat after waking up in the morning.

Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?

What's Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

Breakfast is often labelled by the media as “the most important meal of the day”.

However, I prefer to look at it this way:

The first thing you feed yourself, regardless of when that happens, sets the stage for the quality of how you eat for the rest of the day.

Let me clarify this.

Regardless, if you eat breakfast first thing in the morning, or you skip your morning meal and follow an intermittent fasting (IF) approach, promise me that the first thing you feed yourself, is healthy.

The first meal of the day creates the momentum, and gets the ball rolling, to either a day filled with healthy habits, productivity, and energy or a day filled with unhealthy chaos and laziness.

A big part of healthy eating is habits and creating early momentum.

One positive habit in the morning gets the ball rolling.

So, with that said, you may be asking if you should eat breakfast or skip breakfast in favor of intermittent fasting.

The answer is, it depends, as intermittent fasting impacts people in different ways.

What works for you, may not work well for your husband, wife, or neighbor.

It all comes down to your goals and experimenting to see what works best for you.

There is no perfect diet or a one size fits all approach to nutrition.

We’re all different, so it’s up to you to find what works best with your body and your lifestyle, and is sustainable.

So my goal with this post is to help you figure out the best approach for your goals.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is simply a nutrition protocol that dictates the times when you can eat and the times when you fast.

Fasting simply means not eating.

There are many different variations of fasting, including:

  • 24 hour fasting
  • Alternate day fasting
  • 16/8 intermittent fasting
  • 12 hour intermittent fasting

For this post, lets focus on one of the most popular variations of fasting: 16/8 intermittent fasting.

The 16/8 IF variation simply means breaking up the 24 hours in a day into two different windows.

  • A larger fasting window of 16 hours when you don’t eat.
  • A limited feeding window of 8 hours when you do eat.

The typical 16/8 IF feeding window is between 12pm-8pm, meaning you only eat within that 8 hour time period.

The other 16 hours of the day, between 8pm-12pm, are the times when you fast, meaning you don’t eat.

INtermittent Fasting my 14 day experiment

Check out my 14 day IF experiment.

Should I Follow Intermittent Fasting?

Before I answer that, here are the potential benefits of IF:

Benefit #1: Fat Loss

Without a doubt, intermittent fasting is a great nutrition protocol, when done correctly, if your goal is fat loss.

Fat loss can increase quite a bit during your extended 18 hour fasting window.

Once you get over the initial adaptation period, and the struggles with hunger and food cravings earlier in the day, your body can adapt and it’ll become normal not to eat in the morning.

This may lead to even more sustainable results than eating more frequent lower calorie meals throughout the day.

For some people, eating less frequent but bigger meals, within your limited eating window, is a more sustainable approach than constantly preparing and consuming smaller meals throughout the day.

Of course, being in a slight calorie deficit, eating enough healthy sources of protein to sustain muscle, along with plenty of healthy fats, and fiber and nutrient rich vegetables and fruits, is key for healthy and sustainable fat loss.

Benefit #2: Improving Metabolic Health: Insulin Sensitivity and Cholesterol

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is the potential improvement in insulin sensitivity and cholesterol.

The opposite of insulin sensitivity is insulin resistance.

When you’re insulin resistant, it simply means your cells are resistant to insulin, thus you’re at a higher risk of storing food as body fat, as opposed to burning it for energy.

This also creates inflammation in the body which leads to many other health issues.

Fasting in overweight people has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Bottom Line: Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?

Intermittent fasting is great for overweight men, who struggle with metabolic issues, and are looking to lose fat.

I say men, because they tend to respond better than women as more restrictive fasting periods can potentially cause hormonal issues with some women.

Intermittent fasting can still be beneficial for women, but a more relaxed eating window of 10-12 hours may be a good start.

It’s also great for people who need to lose weight and “don’t have time” for breakfast or just aren’t hungry in the morning.

But I also have to be real.

The initial adaptation period may roughly take 7-14 days and during those first few days, it will really test your will power.

But trust me, it does get easier as you go.

However, in my opinion, if your goal is muscle building, I prefer to eat more frequently, including breakfast, as it’s easier to get in the sufficient calories needed for muscle growth.

Should I Eat Breakfast?

What's Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

I’m sure you’ve read the headlines that say people who skip breakfast are more likely to have less concentration, decreased energy, a lower metabolism, and have weight issues.

Well, that’s a pretty bold statement that has many holes in it.

What's Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

In a perfect world, if more people were eating my PFF breakfast, consisting of protein, fat, and fiber, then yes, I’d say people who eat breakfast would have more focus, increased energy, a faster metabolism, and would be lean AF.

But unfortunately many people’s breakfast consist of the foods from the standard American diet.

I’m referring to refined carbohydrates in the forms of high glycemic cereals like Special K, Corn Flakes, blueberry muffins, and bagels.

I’d actually argue these common breakfast foods would be the cause of people having less concentration, decreased energy, a lower metabolism, and weight issues because these foods create more cravings throughout the day.

So the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day depends on the foods that are on your plate.

Keep that in mind if you are a “breakfast” person.

Ok, so here are the potential reasons why you should eat breakfast:

Issue #1: Stress Hormones:

Typically when the body doesn’t receive food in a timely manner, it has a higher risk of producing excessive amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol.

For people who already live a high stress life and obsess over food, this can further increase the unhealthy effects of stress.

Excessive cortisol production can lead to fat storage and extreme cravings for high carbohydrate and sugary refined foods that spike insulin.

The reason for this is because insulin is an antagonistic hormone to cortisol.

Meaning when stress and cortisol is high, the body naturally craves insulin to help lower it.

Solution: If this is you, before jumping into an intermittent fasting protocol, first work on your relationship and mindset towards food.

Food is fuel. Food is not a solution to all your problems in life.

Focus on adding in more healthy foods into your diet at regular times throughout the day.

Once you fix your obsession with food, then consider trying a reduced intermittent fasting schedule of fasting for only 12-14 hours and increasing the eating window to 10-12 hours.

Then play with the idea of the 16/8 IF approach.

Baby steps.

Issue #2: Hunger Hormones:

The body has several hormones that play a role in telling you when you’re hungry (ghrelin) and when you’re full (leptin).

For some people who fast, these hunger hormones may get thrown out of balance, meaning you’re at higher risk for uncontrollable appetites and binging.

In other words, your brain no longer gets the messages of when you’re feeling full and satisfied after a decent sized meal.

This means even when your eating window is only 8 hours, if your hunger hormones are out of whack, you’ll continue to eat so much during that time, that you’ll overeat for your goals.

Although people who follow extended fasting protocols may be more at risk for creating hunger hormone issues and struggling with insatiable appetites, it’s still something to make note of during your 16/8 intermittent fasting experiment.

Solution: If hunger hormones are an issue, you can still get the fat burning benefits and improvement in insulin sensitivity by simply reducing the fasting to 12-14 hours and increasing the eating window to 10-12 hours.

Issue #3: Female Hormones:

Although the research is still not conclusive on this, there was a study on women who fasted during Ramadan.

A higher percentage of these women had an abnormal menstrual cycle during the fasted 30 days of Ramadan versus the previous non-fasting month.

Solution: Once again, if this is an issue for you, consider reducing the fasting window and increasing the eating window to a 14/10 or 12/12 IF ratio.

Bottom Line: Is Eating Breakfast Right For You?

What's Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

Eating breakfast is great for athletes and people who are already lean and healthy and looking to build muscle.

As described earlier, from a hormonal perspective, certain women may do better eating more frequently.

Also people who live a high stress life and/or have issues with eating may also benefit from eating breakfast.

So let me wrap this up by saying it once again.

There is no such thing as a perfect diet or nutrition protocol for everyone.

It’s completely up to you to test, experiment, and figure out what not only works for your goals, but what is also sustainable for life.

So I’m interested in hearing about your experience.

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In the comments below, let me know if you thrive on eating breakfast or do you do better following an intermittent fasting protocol?

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9 responses to “What’s Better: Intermittent Fasting Or Eating Breakfast?

  1. I use the 16/8 protocol of IF and have found it to be of great benefit overall, but I’ve had to tailor it so that my 8 hour window starts at breakfast time and I end earlier in the day. My body just would not adapt to any other positioning of the eight hour window. I did four months with a window starting at midday and my strength and gains all suffered because of it. Worst of all was my mood and morale. I moved it to 10am and things improved, but I was still not seeing the advances my training partners were making. I was going to just give up on IF altogether, but I thought what the hell let’s try one last week with an 8am start. Bang! Within three days you could see in my notes that my strength was climbing daily. Kept it up for another week and the improvements continued. I feel there are individuals out there who are, for whatever reason, genetically predisposed to needing that healthy breakfast. So please experiment before you give it up.

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