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Is Everything You Learned About Breakfast Wrong?

Recent studies suggest that the benefits of breakfast are not so simple.

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"For me and many others out there, skipping breakfast keeps hunger away far better than eating in the morning-paradoxically enough...Why is it that some people are better off not eating anything at all in the morning? How can you be better off with zero calories than hundreds of calories under these specific conditions?"

His heavily-cited hypothesis is based on a phenomena called the cortisol awakening response, in which levels of the hormone cortisol are elevated in the morning, to help you wake up. Cortisol increases blood sugar. How your body deals with that increased blood sugar, according to Berkhan, determines how well you do on breakfast.

I've tried skipping breakfast, and I've tried fasted training, and I might not ever go back. When exercising, I'm much better running on empty. My gastrointestinal system is not the well-oiled machine it once was, and when my belly is full of food it can get in the way of physical activity. For movement, an empty belly can be liberating.

Eating habits change over a lifetime. There's a big difference between when you're young, growing, and basically hungry all the time, and when you hit the fattening 40s, like I recently have. It would be easy to keep eating like I used to, out of habit and momentum, but if I listen to my gut, I'm less hungry than I used to be, especially in the morning.

It took me a while to break through the headwind of breakfast cheerleaders, and the idea that by skipping breakfast I might as well be playing Russian roulette for a living. But I feel great, don't miss breakfast, and the paunch has waned. Hopefully more pieces of the breakfast puzzle will soon be unpacked, and we can move beyond simple dogma. What you eat and how much, and when you sleep, eat, and exercise all play roles how your food is digested.

Wading through all of the emerging data can be confusing, but your gut is the final arbiter, so listen to it. I'm going to continue skipping breakfast because morning is the one time of day that my belly is completely at peace. No bloating, gurgling, burping, heart-burned and aching addiction to breakfast. I'm not eating until I'm hungry.


Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column, Flash in the Pan.
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