If I hear “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” one more time, I’ll scream. I get it.
But here’s the thing: Knowing when to eat that all-important meal is really tricky. Is it bad if I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work, because the idea of eating right when I wake up makes me queasy? If I sleep in on Saturday, have I somehow missed out on the optimal breakfast time? And if I’m a morning workout person, when the hell do I eat? (I don’t really want to have eggs and bacon before I hit the treadmill.)
I have so many questions.
So… does it actually matter what time you eat breakfast?
Yup. “When you eat is just as important as what you are eating,” says Philadelphia-based registered dietitian Theresa Shank. She recommends eating within two hours of when you wake up.
“Eating within this window sets the pace for a healthy appetite and stabilised blood sugars throughout the day,” explains Shank. When your blood sugar gets out of whack, it often triggers hanger, cravings and over-eating – a.k.a avoid at all costs.
And breakfast does actually jump-start your metabolism. “Once we’re awake, our bodies need to speed up and break out of a fasted state,” she adds.
The two-hour breakfast window is mostly true for everyone. However, if you have a health condition like diabetes, having stable blood sugar levels is even more important. In that case, you’ll want to make the window between waking and breakfasting shorter – aim for eating within an hour of waking up to keep glucose levels in balance, says Maya Feller, of Maya Feller Nutrition in Brooklyn, New York.
what if am going to gym?
The question of whether to eat before you go comes down to how your body reacts to exercising after eating. “If you plan to workout in the morning, you need to identify if you perform better fed or fasted,” says Feller.
For instance, if eating a simple pre-workout piece of toast leaves you clenching your stomach midway through Spin, then it’s probable best to wait until you’re done. If finishing your weight workout on an empty stomach makes you dizzy and distracted, then you’re going to need a bite before you go. (Some simple carbs from half a banana can help power you through without feeling super-full.)
This can take some experimentation – but don’t get too stressed about it. In general, it’s a good idea to eat within one to two hours pre- or post-workout, says Shank.
But I hate eating in the morning…
You should still eat something. (Sorry!) Skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. And skipping a meal in general can cause brain fog, lower blood sugar levels and a slower metabolism.
No one’s asking you to sit down to eggs, bacon, pancakes and a pot of coffee every day. Just a little something is important. Drink a glass of water when you wake up to hydrate, says Shank, and then grab something easy to take with you (like a Greek yoghurt cup, hard-boiled egg or a piece of fruit). Eating something small will help your body adjust to the idea of eating in the morning, Shank says – helping make daily breakfast a regular routine.