Breakfast and Brain: Is Skipping Breakfast Bad For Brain?

Is Skipping Breakfast bad for your brain?

Breakfast and Brain: Is Skipping Breakfast Bad for Brain?

[Contributors- Heather Hanks - M.S. Nutritionist, Ashlee Van Buskirk, BS]

"One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast" quoted Robert A Heinlein, an American sci-fi author. We all live busy lives that require our focus and attention every single minute. Productivity matters to us a lot. Have you known that your brain uses nearly 20% of your energy resources? Skipping breakfast may impact your productivity and focus negatively.

In this article, "Breakfast and Brain: Is Skipping Breakfast Bad For Brain?", we shall look into all the facts concerning the prominence of breakfast. We shall, also, examine why breakfast matters, why shouldn't you skip it, also adding foods that make for the best breakfast options.

Why is breakfast important?

Breakfast is often considered, the most important meal of the day because it breaks the fasting that you did overnight while sleeping. Eating a healthy breakfast quite literally fuels your brain by providing glucose, which is the sole fuel for the human brain, according to a study. Your brain can also use ketones as energy in the absence of glucose, but this requires you to be in ketosis. Your brain does not store glucose and needs a continuous supply from your diet.

Is Skipping breakfast bad for the brain?

Research shows that your brain does not store glucose and needs a continuous supply from your diet. So by skipping breakfast, you are denying your brain energy, which can lead to productivity problems, impaired concentration, and the inability to focus. You might notice that both your brain and body act sluggish when you don't eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast may come easily for some people, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the healthiest decision for you. In fact, research has suggested that skipping breakfast may impede your cognitive abilities in numerous ways. First off, skipping breakfast can actually increase your cortisol levels! This is due to the fact that your brain needs glucose to survive and thrive, which means you need adequate blood glucose levels. Breakfast gives you the chance to refill the glycogen stored in your liver for your blood glucose levels. But, when you don't have the glycogen stores to raise your blood sugar, your cortisol levels will increase to maintain your blood glucose levels instead. And when your cortisol rises, you'll feel more stressed and may have difficulty focusing. According to Dr. Barry Bears, author of the Zone Diet book series,If cortisol levels remain elevated, then you begin to destroy memory cells in the hippocampus, depress the immune system, and cause insulin resistance that leads to fat accumulation”.

It has also been found that skipping breakfast can have a negative effect on your cognitive function. This, in turn, results in a decline in your brain's excitability; more specifically, you'll experience slower responses to stimuli and a reduction in your attention levels. This may be due to the reduced blood sugar levels in your system and the resulting lower energy, which can make you feel fatigued and hungry. Further research has indicated that skipping breakfast also reduces your work efficiency. In fact, one study on the relationship between breakfast and cognitive performance in children, found that they had better spatial memory after breakfast. 

You also shouldn't skip your breakfast because it may damage your physical health too. Skipping breakfast has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and so on. Skipping breakfast can negatively influence your metabolism and it may even be linked to weight gain, as your body will crave fatty and sugary foods following your daily fast. To top everything off, skipping breakfast can also negatively influence your mood and energy too, as you feel more fatigued and irritable by your decision.

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Breakfast options

Try enjoying a smoothie with spinach or an omelet with sauteed vegetables. Avoid processed goods that contain refined sugars and grains as this can damage your brain by inducing inflammation and contributing to cognitive impairment. An ideal breakfast for optimizing cognitive function should contain complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. According to Nicole Short, MS, RDN, adding protein to your morning or daily smoothie will not only make the smoothie more satisfying but will curb hunger. Adding at least 15 g of protein to a smoothie is recommended to keep hunger at bay. Protein smoothies are great, especially post-workout for muscle recovery. Some great protein additions are nut butter, hemp or flaxseeds, milk or greek yogurt.

Eggs - Being an undeniably healthy and delicious food option, eggs can help you feel full, reduce your calorie intake at the next meal, and maintain steady blood sugar levels too. Plus they offer good amounts of protein and antioxidants. Eggs are a high protein food, and when paired with vegetables and cheese, provide the brain with antioxidants and more protein to optimize brain function and get nutrients to the brain cells.

Oatmeal - As the name implies, oatmeal is made from ground oats. And those oats can offer plenty of benefits for your health. Not only is oatmeal rich in beta-glucan fiber, but it can also help lower your cholesterol and increase your feelings of fullness. It's a healthy meal that's rich in antioxidants too, as it helps fuel your mornings and keeps you focused.

Yogurt - This nutritious dairy product offers plenty of benefits as well. From the friendly probiotic content of yogurt products to the high protein content, a bowl of yogurt could be a great start to your day. It will help reduce your appetite and may even aid your weight loss too. Top it off with some berries or chopped fruit to increase the nutritional value of your breakfast.

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A contrary view: Skipping breakfast is not all bad

There’s a lot of debate about this issue, with evidence on both sides. And the answer is different depending on what health benefits you’re looking for as well. According to Dr. Benjamin Bikman Ph.D. a metabolic scientist that has conducted extensive research in eating habits/diet, if people want to lose weight, skipping breakfast can be a simple and effective strategy to increase fat burning and metabolic rate. A person should never feel compelled to eat breakfast if they’re not hungry in the morning. When someone fasts through breakfast, several favorable hormone changes occur. Firstly, insulin stays low, which enables greater fat burning. Secondly, epinephrine increases, which can increase metabolic rate. Skipping breakfast is most certainly not unhealthy. The data are somewhat conflicting, but there is no evidence to suggest skipping breakfast is harmful in the long-term.

Breakfast eaters vs Breakfast skippers

While sleeping, glycogen (stored glucose) is broken down and utilized for energy to help fuel your brain and other organs in your body. “Regularly eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast helps to replenish glycogen stores and also provides enough (glucose) energy for your organs and brain to perform” stated Mary Wiltz, Nutritional Consultant at Mom Loves Best

Regularly skipping breakfast may run you the risk of not getting your brain enough nutrition to do its job. Research shows that individuals who regularly eat breakfast have better cognitive function and memory than those who skip. Skipping breakfast therefore may affect your ability to concentrate, focus, and also remember important tasks during the day. I guess breakfast eaters, win!

(RELATED: Fasting and Brain: Is Fasting good for your brain?)

Concluding 'Is Skipping Breakfast Bad for Brain?'

Depending on your lifestyle it is up to you to choose either having breakfast or skipping it. Nonetheless, one should consider the former option. 

I hope my article, 'Breakfast and Brain: Is Skipping Breakfast Bad for your brain?' is of assistance. Subscribe to my newsletter and get all the latest updates delivered straight into your inbox.

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