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The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert?

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” How many times have we heard that?

And has anyone else noticed that what passes for “breakfast food” is the nutritional equivalent of Halloween candy? How did we get bamboozled into starting our day with snacks and dessert?

You can’t live like a predator if you start your day eating like prey.

“Predators gorge and fast: prey grazes.

Rephrased for modern humans: predators eat meals, prey grazes on snacks.

(From "Eat Like A Predator", my popular guide to paleo diet and life.)

“Breakfast” Is Most Likely A Neolithic Invention

Technically “breakfast” is your first meal of the day, whenever that is…but here I’ll use it in the popular sense of “a morning meal, eaten soon after waking”.

Our Paleolithic evolutionary context didn’t include artificial lighting—let alone late-night restaurants like Denny’s and Taco Bell. Humans can’t see well enough to hunt or forage in the dark, and even preparing food is relatively difficult (try cooking entirely by firelight sometime).

Furthermore, our Paleolithic evolutionary context doesn’t include chicken coops, granaries, dairy herds, or root cellars.

Therefore, it’s a reasonable assumption that our ancestors ate most of their food in the afternoon or evening. Game had to be found, hunted, killed, butchered, and usually cooked. Tubers and vegetables had to be found, dug, gathered, and prepared. So any “breakfast” eaten by hunter-gatherers would most likely have been leftovers from the night before—if they were lucky enough to have any.

For example, here’s a delicious Hadza “breakfast” of burnt monkey parts (skip to 1:35, or 0:45 for a demonstration of fire making):

It seems very likely that “breakfast” is a Neolithic invention—the creation of sedentary agriculturalists. No one knows the exact timing and size of meals in different agricultural societies throughout history, and I don’t put much stock in what passes for historical accounts…but it’s clear that we’re not going to reliably have food to eat soon after awakening unless we’ve got domesticated animals, or a storehouse of previously harvested and prepared grains or tubers. (Consider also the effort and cost of starting a cooking fire every morning, in addition to every evening.)

In support of this theory, I note that all of the traditional “breakfast” foods are from domesticated animals and traditional food crops. Eggs from chickens; bacon, sausage, and ham from pigs; milk from cows; oatmeal and toast and grits and porridge and hash browns. Red meat is infrequently eaten, and it’s considered unorthodox (or decadent) to eat hunted game like duck or venison for breakfast.

The Modern “Breakfast”: An Invention Of The Rich

As opposed to the leisurely life of hunter-gatherers, which usually involves dramatically less work than ours (the complete essay, the book, further discussion), farming is labor-intensive, and it usually starts at dawn with the rooster—so it’s not surprising that people would want to fuel up before beginning a long day of hard work. Historically, farmers seem to have eaten whatever food they had available: usually some sort of gruel, porridge, bread, grits, or previously cooked tuber…perhaps with meat if they were rich enough to keep animals, which most weren’t.

Keep in mind that most farmers throughout history were essentially slaves to their landowner, usually the king (cf. “serf”), if they weren’t explicitly enslaved. See the nomenclature in the Domesday Book: only the king could own property, and everyone else simply held it “of the King”.

(Much like all modern systems of government, in which “ownership” is merely the privilege of paying the government below-market rent in the form of property tax. But I digress.)

It gets worse. Early agricultural civilizations, all the way through Mycenean Greece, were, without exception, palace economies—systems in which everything anyone produced belonged to the god-king, and was taken from them and redistributed by the god-king’s representatives through the palace. Palace economies make North Korea look like a block party. (Further reading.)

In summary, the modern Western conception of the gentleman farmer and his family—owning their own land, keeping chickens, pigs, and a few cattle in addition to growing crops, living comfortably—has little precedent in history.

The modern American breakfast of bacon or sausage, eggs, toast, and hash browns is basically a variant of the full English breakfast—a creation of the British upper classes in the 1800s, which spread as lower strata of society became prosperous enough to afford it.

“To eat well in England, you should have a breakfast three times a day.” -William Maugham

Recap: “Breakfast” Isn’t What You Think It Is

Hunter-gatherers most likely ate breakfast infrequently, if at all. When they did, it was leftovers.

Farmers ate whatever they had, because they were performing hard physical labor all day.

The upper classes ate meat and eggs because they could, and modern Westerners eat it because we’re all rich by historical standards.

Science > Re-Enactment…But We Must Start Somewhere

It’s important to note that our eating habits shouldn’t be dictated by an attempt to re-enact the Paleolithic (an impossible task): they should be dictated by our biochemistry and controlled, randomized trials. However, since we all have to eat something while waiting for the trials to finish, and we must choose some point of departure for constructing our theories, I choose our multi-million year evolutionary history as hunters and foragers—not a few thousand years of agriculture, or less than one hundred years of industrial products like ‘vegetable oil’.

My conclusion: since the Paleolithic is our evolutionary context, humans are most likely well adapted to not eating breakfast at all. Are you really all that hungry when you wake up—or are you eating because you think you’re supposed to?

Is Breakfast Really The Most Important Meal?

Like many homilies and pieces of pseudo-medical advice, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” isn’t based on any evidence: it’s spoken by Gregor Samsa’s father in Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”.

“Drink eight glasses of water every day” is another piece of scientific-sounding advice with no basis in fact…but that’s another article for another time.

The Full English, or its American variants, are indeed a creation of the rich—but they at least have the benefit of being nutritionally complete and mostly made of real food. Skip the toast, cook your eggs and hash browns in butter or coconut oil, and you won’t be hungry again for a long time, maybe even dinner. Same with a 3-egg omelet and other American diner fare, like steak and eggs.

But that’s not what people eat anymore. Few of us have time to fix such elaborate fare in the morning—and if we did, we simply aren’t hungry enough to eat it so soon after awakening.

What do we eat now, for breakfast?

Dessert and snacks.

Let’s look at today’s typical breakfast foods:

  • Pancakes with syrup, donuts, cinnamon rolls, “breakfast danishes”: Those aren’t foods, they’re desserts.
  • Bagel, toast, muffin, English muffin: giant balls of “carbs”, i.e. chewy, crunchy sugar. Did you know that bread—even “heart-healthy” whole-wheat bread—has the same glycemic index as Skittles?
  • Cold cereal: like bread, it hits your bloodstream even faster than white sugar. Yes, even Grape-Nuts and all those “healthy”, “high-fiber” cereals that taste like ground-up twigs…adding white sugar to your cereal actually drops the GI!
  • Orange juice, all fruit juices: liquid fructose. Basically a soda with some vitamin C. Have you ever seen how many oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice?
  • Oatmeal: a bit of incomplete protein and lots of ‘carbs’ (sugar). Do you eat plain oatmeal? Really?
  • And we make them with skim milk and fat-free cream cheese, just to make sure they spike our blood sugar even more quickly and leave us hungrier than ever.

Notice something missing from all of these?

How about complete protein? And essential animal fats? The nutrients we absolutely require to grow, repair, and maintain our body and brain?
What do you call nutritionally incomplete food? A snack.

Is there any science behind the push for breakfast? Are we just “doing it wrong”? How did we get bamboozled into starting our day like prey? And what can we do about it?

For answers to these questions and more, continue to Part II of “The Breakfast Myth”.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


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104 comments

Permalink: The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert?
  • Sean

    Don’t forgot about protein powder waffles and syrup as a healthy, filling breakfast. If that’s not real food, what is?

  • balabushka

    I have either
    – curd with fresh fruit or
    – three hard boiled eggs
    for breakfast… but yes… it would not be necessary. I try skipping it tomorrow.

  • Asclepius

    I haven’t ‘done breakfast’ for some years. It is quite liberating and an entirely comfortable experience once you break both the habit of breakfast and once you progress past a sugar-laden/carb-heavy diet.

    I seldom eat before midday whereupon I ‘break my fast’ (often) with a traditional English fry up (I try to get grain free sausages and black pudding with minimal grain content).

    Instead of complex carbs I prefer my bodyfat to provide a ‘slow release of energy’.

    As a general rule we should be suspicious of any food that goes well with chocolate and/or sugar. Every school kid in the UK knows how to make Rice Krispie buns and ‘oaty’ chocolate flapjacks are a feature of our cafes. Even simple bread marrys well with chocolate spread!

    The cereal manufacturers are exploiting this with their cereal bars and heavily sweetened cereals (Chocolate Weetabix and Honey Nut Cornflakes are prime examples).

  • Emily

    Hah – I ate protein powder waffles in my BFL days! Good times. Actually this morning I was a bit peckish and had a banana and tea on my way out the door (usually skip breakfast on Wednesdays). We’ll see how I feel at 10am…

  • Nax

    As a former sugar/carb-aholic breakfast was the hardest to change, but I beat those sugars into submission with bacon and eggs and now have been analyzing whether or not I am actually hungry or just am used to having food in the morning. It seems to be that my body is used to it, not needs it. Time for skipping of “breakfast”.

  • Theresa

    Love the article. I just recently went to a professional conference where breakfast was provided for us on the second day… nothing but bagels (with fat free cream cheese!), danishes, muffins, fruit, and fruit juice. I understand that since it was a free breakfast that it’s not gonna be the most extravagant offering in the world, but jeez… it was mostly dessert!

  • Jan

    I can’t eat anything until I’ve been up for awhile; I’ve been that way almost all my life. Today I was up at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t eat until 9 a.m. – I simply was not hungry.

    And when I did eat it was a single Scotch egg. ‘Cause nothin’ says “breakfast” like a hard-boiled egg encased in spicy pork sausage and rolled in almond flour. Good stuff, Maynard.

  • Bill DeWitt

    I had homemade granola for breakfast for 30+ years, one of the hardest addictions I had to overcome. Now I do beef, bacon and eggs and I can take it or leave it most days. Even when I get hungry, it’s not usually that driving, gnawing hunger I used to wake up to every morning. It’s just an increased appetite, and almost feels pleasurable in itself.

  • Peggy The Primal Par

    I wake up around five most days, my family not until 8. I wait for them before making breakfast. My hungry mornings are peaceful and productive – my favorite time of day. Of course, it didn’t used to be this way. Before I discovered the Paleo diet I was an impatient witch in the mornings!

    Your post comes at a perfect time. I’m just about to post about IF and CR in children. Breakfast is, of course, every parent’s greatest concern.

  • Lee

    oh dear – Friday I’ll celebrate my first 100 days on Paleo, however most of those days have had the “feast” at breakfast! – today’s was ground bison with bone broth, spinach, carrots, onion and garlic – I’ll be eating again tonight – have I got it backwards? According to this – oh well – my program is a “program of progress, not perfection”! Learn something new every day!

  • Katie @ Wellness Mam

    I’ve noticed more and more than as my diet has transitioned, I’m not as hungry in the mornings anymore. On the other hand, I love eggs, so I’ll often eat breakfast, but hardly ever eat again until dinner, if then. Since breaking from the dessert like breakfast foods (great way of putting it, by the way!) I’ve found that even veggie smoothies without protein, or fruit by itself for breakfast makes me tired soon after.

    That being said, my kids (ages 4, 2.5 and 1) do get hungry in the morning, and as active as they all are, a few eggs and some veggies each morning is the usual. The few times they’ve had cereal or some other “food” at a relative’s house though… bad attitudes all day and tired and whiny a couple hours later!

  • gallier2

    That might be also a reason for the French paradox. All people here I knew enough to know what breakfast they had, usually had only coffee and a cigarette for breakfast. If ever they were hungry, they indulged at best with 1 croissant, never more.
    I mostly always had breakfast and I never smoke, the result I’m the overweight one ;-(

  • gallier2

    As for the African breakfast, I can also attest that on Comoros it is only leftovers from the evening. People only prepare food for the evening (on occasions it can happen that people eat at noon, but it happens only on festive days like wedding). They always prepare more than necessary so that there’s always enough if someone unexpected visits, the leftovers are then eaten up in the morning.

  • Bill Strahan

    Reminds me of that pivotal moment several years ago when I was working to convince my wife that the kids were better off without breakfast if it wasn’t something we cooked, like bacon and eggs. If we were short on time the usual breakfast was pop-tarts.

    One morning my wife came in to find them all eating Snickers bars. She was appalled. I said it was breakfast, and then pointed out the nutrition information compared to a pop-tart. Identical calories, but the Snickers was higher in protein.

    Now it’s a protein/fat breakfast or none at all.

  • Fmgd

    I think I’ve never really had the habit of having breakfast.

    Well, actually, up to the point I got a bit more self-suficient I’d have a cup of chocolate milk in the morning just about every day, but as soon as people stopped serving me it it became less and less common.

    Now for several years I’ve had breakfast only very sparingly in special ocasions, even though my diet was pretty normal, only with a lot of eggs. I also know quite some people who will only occasionally eat when they wake up, most on completely usual diets.

    Today I’ve been up for about five hours, my last meal was over seventeen hours ago and only now, reading about food, I’m even starting to think about eating. Even then it’s still not quite hunger, and won’t be for several more hours if I don’t eat either. I did gorge yesterday :D

    Anyway, I think breakfast is much more of an habit and most people (depending on how they ate before and what kind of activity they had and will have, of course) wouldn’t have a problem skipping it if they never got used to have breakfast in the first place.

    Oh, and congratualations on your site. I found it a few weeks ago, after rendering some tallow (it’s actually not hard to get grass fed cow fat for free around here) for the first time and getting in a discussion with some relatives. Had no idea about the whole Paleo thing, even though I had a similar, yet less complete, reasoning. I’ve read all of the articles since then and you do have some great material here, so thank you :)

  • Andrea Reina

    Lee,

    You’re not doing anything wrong by a long shot — you’re eating real, nourishing food that’ll last you 8-10 hours. There are physiological benefits to short-term fasts (16hrs daily is quite popular), however you’re not hurting yourself so don’t sweat it.

  • Kat Eden

    I found this absolutely fascinating … being of the primal-minded approach myself I always eat meat and maybe a few nuts for breaky (sometimes I eat eggs; usually red meat), and the truth is that everything I’ve learned teaches me not to wait to break the fast if I want to build lean muscle and burn fat. I teach my clients this way as well. That being said, I’ve experimented with intermittent fasting before and I do ‘get’ the science behind that.

    I developed a personal theory on IF, which I just find logical, and I’d be interested to know what you think. My theory is that if someone is under a LOT of modern-day stress (lack of sleep, working too much, not enough down-time, stressful life/relationships in general, not to mention issues of toxicity due to previous lifestyle/environment etc) then something like IF just becomes an added stress that can be the final straw and stimulate a major SNS response.

    What do you think? Should we play around with ‘truly’ paleo-style eating only when we have everything else relatively on track, or would you say we actually support our body by eating more truly according to nature? My concern is the concept of lack of food stimulating a stress response in an already stressed body …?

    Thanks for the article; I’m looking forward to part 2!

  • Josh

    Bill DeWitt: Check out JS’s article on the effect of Ghrelin: http://www.gnolls.org/79/i-am-a-ghrelin-addict/

    This could explain your “enjoyable hunger” as you put it :)

    As for the intermittant fasting over breakfast (how ironic) I’m giving it a go and to be honest, it seems to be working. I think I asked myself honestly if I was hungry for the first time ever when I woke up this morning. The answer being a resounding no.

  • Walter

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – the most important to skip. If I’m hungry I eat and most days that doesn’t happen until around noon and eggs at noon is fine with me.

  • Lee

    I typically exercise early, and eat after that. I find that breakfast is my most calorie rich meal and my later meals are small. That being said I my breakfast is extremely low in carbohydrates, its just basically eggs and natural chicken based sausage. Maybe a little bit of fruit.

    I agree though, it might be worth skipping breakfast or moving it later in the day on an off day. I’ve done this on weekends, been awake for hours before the first meal. I’ll try that at some point and see how it goes. I just find it important to get some food in me post workout.

  • Melly Sue

    I am always very hungry in the mornings, so I’m a big fan of eating breakfast. Of course, what I eat provides real nutrition–a far cry from the refined carbohydrate examples that you’ve given.

  • Mike

    I usually eat a breakfast of mostly scrambled eggs and chicken – around 500 calories with tons of protein. I cook a few days in advance so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning. I avoid any desire for dessert-like breakfasts, and it leaves me full a good portion of the day, sometimes straight through lunch.

    I wouldn’t knock breakfast completely. Eating a good breakfast in the morning (i.e., made with real food. and meat.) reduces food cravings overall throughout the day and gives you more energy in the morning. Most important meal of the day? Maybe not. But it has it’s uses.

    Anyway, great post. Really enjoyed it.

  • Timothy

    Outstanding post as always.

    I blame the breakfast phenomenon on inadequate dinner.

    A good whole food protein like animal meat and eggs will keep on releasing amino acids for 10 hours, often more. Combined with a reasonable amount of fat, there’s plenty of fuel for the body to do whatever it needs to do all day long (or certainly at least until early afternoon), as long as its ability to burn fat has not been compromised with a high-carb diet.

    And there lies the rub. A body accustomed to carbs will be out of fuel upon waking and craving candy most severely. And if dinner’s protein was incomplete or insufficient, proteolysis will be in full swing as well, producing a craving for protein (which is often mistaken as a need for yet more candy).

    The evolutionary argument is most compelling. Getting a proper meal takes some doing and simply wasn’t available to our ancestors when they rolled out of their beds (nests?). So it makes sense for our bodies to be in catabolic mode on waking. That happy jolt of morning cortisol puts us on our way to planning, hunting, and preparing the day’s food, a process which would typically take at least a few hours.

    I notice that even when I fast for an entire day, I am never hungry when I wake up, however hungry I might have been the previous evening. Midday, of course, is another matter entirely.

  • Sean:

    I understand why they did it: if you read the original study, they wanted to test regular breakfast foods vs. a higher-protein version of the same thing.  But “protein waffles”…what's next, protein candy?  

    Oh, wait…that's called an “energy bar”.

    balabushka:

    Make sure you have that same meal available for later in the day, once you do get hungry.  You don't want to be stuck eating out of a vending machine. Let us know what happens!

    Asclepius:

    That sounds right.  Pretty much anything carb-heavy goes well with sugar, as “carbs” are just sugars stuck together.  The only exception I can think of is potatoes…everything else (including rice) is fair game for dessert.

    It's funny how people think of oatmeal-raisin cookies as “dessert” — but will happily eat six cookies' worth of sugared oatmeal with raisins for breakfast.

    Emily:

    Caffeine is an appetite suppressant, as are most stimulants…but it tends to wear off around the same time as sugar/”carbs”.  I'm convinced this is the modern “double whammy” that leads to mid-morning snacking.  Let me know what you think!

    Nax: 

    Habits are powerful and difficult to break.  Fortunately bacon is about the tastiest thing ever.  It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for you to genuinely get hungry: make sure you have some real food available for when hunger finally strikes.

    Theresa:

    Hotels and motels are just as bad as office breakfasts.  When you see the words “continental breakfast”, you know you're not going to find anything to eat.  Danishes, bagels, cold cereal, orange and apple “juice”, and the big thing for motels now is a waffle maker.  

    Jan:

    I agree: I can't face real food for at least a few hours after I roll out of bed.  Sometimes I know I'm going to have a very, very strenuous day ahead, and I have to force myself to eat.

    Bill:

    “Granola” is such a fake health food: oats stuck together by sugar and seed oils?  No wonder so many people can't stop eating it: like I mention here, the “health food” label short-circuits our rational mind that would otherwise be looking at the ingredients.

    Congratulations on beating your addiction!  Isn't it great to not have to shovel carbs into your mouth every three hours?

    JS

    (More later…splitting the reply because I've got so many!) 

  • Peggy:

    It's so liberating to break our carbohydrate addiction, isn't it?  I used to be on the same “must eat every 3 hours or I get snippy” plan.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on the issue for children, as I don't know enough about the subject to make any recommendations.

    Lee:

    You're not doing it wrong, and I'm not making any blanket recommendations just yet: this post is intended to get people thinking about and discussing alternatives to the traditional “breakfast snack”.  

    My followup post will go into these issues (and more) in greater detail.

    Katie:

    Your plan is another popular one: big, slightly late complete meal for breakfast, and nothing else until dinner.  And isn't it strange how eating cereal or other sugary desserts for breakfast just makes us hungry?

    gallier2:

    Caffeine and nicotine are both appetite suppressants.  And as we (re)discover healthy eating, we're finding that the French “paradox” isn't a paradox at all.

    Thanks for the information on the Comoros Islanders!

    Bill:

    That's a great anecdote! Sadly, it's very true: Snickers is more nutritionally complete than most breakfast “foods”.  Like I said to Asclepius, people will happily eat the equivalent of six oatmeal cookies for breakfast in the form of oatmeal slurry.

    Fmgd:

    I agree with you that eating in the morning is often a habit, not a response to hunger.  We're bombarded continually with advertisements for breakfast foods and admonished that it's the most important meal of the day.  If it's so important, shouldn't we be eating food, not snacks? 

    Thank you for the kind words!  I'm glad you find my articles useful.  Like you, I backed into paleo eating over a long period of dietary research — and though I've been cooking with tallow for years, I only recently went fully paleo.

    Andrea:

    You're quite correct: I'll get into that subject in the next article.

    JS

    (to be continued)

  • Kat:

    If “intermittent fasting” is stressful for your clients, or for anyone, then they shouldn't do it.

    I do it because it's not stressful for me at all — I have no desire to eat early in the morning, and I enjoy the mental clarity.  And I doubt that anyone who isn't already fat-adapted by eating high-fat paleo will find it quite so easy…

    …but it's simple to try.  Many people find that they're not really hungry when they wake up: they're just in the habit of eating.

    I see no reason for any of us to eat when we're not hungry.  It's like the advice to “drink 8 glasses of water a day”: just drink water when you're thirsty and you'll be fine.  Same with breakfast: if you're not hungry, bring some real food to work and eat it later.  Whether “later” is 10 AM or lunchtime doesn't matter: either way it's several more hours that you're burning fat for energy.

    To me, “fasting” is something you do on purpose.  Not eating because you're not hungry isn't a fast.  I'm not “intermittent fasting”, I'm eating when I'm hungry.  If I eat a big dinner, that's often not until noon or later.

    Josh:

    Fasting absolutely sharpens us mentally, and ease of fasting is a major benefit of paleo eating.  

    I'm glad your experiment worked: keep us posted on your progress!

    Walter:

    Eggs and bacon are great any time of day!  I'll occasionally cook bacon for dinner.  Why?  Because I can.

    Lee:

    I agree with eating post-workout…fasted cardio is good, but if you're doing strength work you should be giving your body something to repair and grow itself with.

    Melly Sue:

    As I said above, there seem to be two popular eating patterns: skip breakfast, or eat a big, late breakfast meal of real food and little or nothing until dinner.  I'll talk about this in the next post.

    Mike:

    What I said to Melly, above.  And the good thing about cooking in advance is you can bring it to work if you're not hungry in the morning.

    Thanks for the encouragement!  Do stick around: there's plenty more to cover.

    Timothy:

    That's a solid point about digestion time: a fat and protein-rich meal won't even make it out of your stomach for several hours, let alone be completely digested and bioavailable.  And I agree with you that junk food cravings are often nutritional cravings short-circuited by the availability of hyperpalatable snack foods.

    Great post!  Please stick around.  And I appreciate the positive feedback.

    JS

     

    Finally I'm caught up!  The next article will be much better for your questions and ideas, and I thank all of you for your thoughtful replies.

  • Emma

    A few years ago, my mother starting dating and then living with a man who had been single for a while and had never felt hungry in the morning so always skipped breakfast and eaten whatever and whenever he felt like. He was lean when they met, then she started nagging him into ‘healthy’ behaviours such as eating “the most important meal of the day” and “low-fat” foods such as margerine and skim milk.
    When I saw them recently, I noticed that he is getting a significant spare tyre around the middle. I dread to think what she’s doing to his health, he was doing fine when he was a completely instinctive eater!

  • Emma:

    That's terrible.  Like I said to Kat, why should we force ourselves to eat when we're not hungry?  It makes no sense…and I've found over and over again that eating cereal, danishes, or fruit juice in the morning just makes me hungry when it wears off. 

    It sounds like that's what's happening to your mother's SO.

    The worst thing is she'll probably push him to go on some sort of “diet” now that'll make it even harder to get the weight off.  Sigh.

    JS

  • Tomasz

    Ori Holfmakler, the writer of “Warriors diet” book claims that in ancient times it was slaves who were fed breakfasts, while warriors ate most of their calories at night.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBrwRiSjd3I

  • Peggy The Primal Par

    J.S.

    Indeed, it is difficult for anyone to make recommendations on fasting children as there isn’t a whole lot of reference material on the subject. I had to pull from many angles to get a grasp on the subject. The article is published now if you’d like to check it out.
    http://theprimalparent.com/2011/05/27/intermittent-fasting-safe-children/

  • Franco

    Nice!

    @Kat,
    fasting is much less stressful then snacking through the whole day while beeing nailed to the office chair for sure. I always wonder what garbage my staff (especially the female ones) eat at ~every hour for 8 hours: cookies, chocolate, candy, etc. (and of course the delusive “healthy” apple here and there), and all this in addition to a cheap business lunch at noon and god knows what they had already for breakfast at home! Don’t you think that is the very definition of stress to your digestive tract?
    Btw, grazing “prey” is also ill more often.

    @Peggy,
    I think “formal” IF for children is not neccessary and may be even counter-productive. As long as they eat real food, they can and should eat 3 or even 4/5 times per day, basically how often they(!) want.

    As a child(in the 70ies/beginning 80ies in Germany) I was eating 4-5 times per day food(!) and was lean.
    As a teenager/young adult I was working as a carpenter, eating 3 times per day and was lean.
    Now, many years later and with a more management related job (surely no physical labour) I eat 1, at most 2 times per day and are lean. :)

    @Tomasz,
    that actually makes sense. I think it’s even reflected in my short personal nutrition history above. When I was a slave…ahem! I mean carpenter, I needed(!) 3 meals per day and sometimes it was still difficult to pack in enough calories not to starve.

  • Guy

    Hey,
    I really enjoyed reading through your site, but I must ask something.
    Whether I try to tell my friends breakfast isn’t all that important, they keep saying it’s the most important meal of the day.. it’s the thing that fuels you up for the rest of the day.. etc.

    Now, I can give only 2 answers for this:
    1. The paleolithic answer, “We weren’t made to eat breakfast”
    2. The other answer, which explains why eating sugar in the morning is problematic because it will conclude in a sharp decline regarding energy levels about 2 hours after eating the “most important meal of the day”.

    Is there anything else I can explain to people? except showing them this site?
    And what about bodybuilders etc.., they always claim their muscle tissue will dissolve if they won’t eat breakfast. But that isn’t true, as far as i know muscle tissue isn’t used for energy unless you are fasting for over 24-48 hours. Unless I’m mistaking.

    I would like to have this things clarified.

    Thanks!

  • Peggy The Primal Par

    Franco,

    Intermittent fasting isn’t just about staying lean, especially not for kids. Kids aren’t ever going to gain weight if they’re active and don’t severely overeat grains and sugar. Even unhealthy kids don’t have to gain weight.

    I address the issue because as parents we can relax about meal times and frequency. We don’t have to worry about stuffing foods down their throats at each hour. This is a real concern for a lot of parents. They worry that if their kids don’t eat dinner that something is wrong with them. Yes, kids will often eat a whole lot and at other times they won’t want food at all. That’s ok and perfectly normal and even beneficial in some ways!

  • Fmgd

    Guy,

    I would think that as far as breakfast fueling you for the rest of the day, that’s rather arbitrary. I use to doubt any advice that seems too arbitrary when it comes to complex things.

    But think about it, what does hunger mean? That you should start looking for fuel (or maybe are lacking nutrients I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter here). Now, if you’re not hungry, it means you’re still stocked up. If you then get hungry a few hours later and eat, there you’ll have your fuel.

    It simply makes no sense to believe that a healthy human should be eating when he’s not hungry. We’d be the dumbest animals alive.

  • Franco

    Peggy,

    looks like we agree! That’s why I wrote “formal IF” and “eat how often they want”. That’s basically what my childhood was about. There still was an emphasis on emptying your plate not to waste food on the family meals. After WWII-generation mindset of my parents I guess.
    I didn’t push it with my son. (not that it was needed – he got my genes for eating large portions).

  • Franco

    Guy,

    with regards to BB check leangains.com
    It should answer all of your questions.

  • Guy

    Thanks for your answers!
    I must ask though.
    Let’s say I’m training, and I’m not hungry all that often.
    And even when I am hungry, I can’t eat all that much, and I get full pretty fast.
    So.. how can I make gains in muscle if I won’t eat when I’m not hungry, it’s a little problematic.

  • Wati

    I usually eat breakfast, but taking it easy and wait till I feel hungry, not when I get straight out of bed and think I SHOUD eat breakfast right away.

    But the breaskfast we eat here in Asia is different, at least traditionally. Here in Tokyo where I live, it’s usually rice, grilled fish, veggies and miso soup. I love it and it keeps me going that I usually don’t need lunch because I am not hungry. In Singapore where my family is, eating fried rice with meat and veggies is normal. Granted it’s more carb, but rice is a staple for us. I am relieve that Paul Jaminet endorses rice as a safe starch.

    Sadly, people are buying into the commercialisation/marketing of eating “healthy” Western breakfast, so breakfast now is bread with margarine or cereal with skimmed milk. Supermarket shelves are increasingly loaded with sweetened cereal and breakfast bars. If you eat out for breakfast, it’s Starbucks coffee with scone or donut, or McDonalds brekkie with the whole family.

  • Franco

    Guy,

    in your situation I would cut out all bulky carbs (potatoes, wheat/grain-products anyway). Rice (not paleo but a safe starch) isn’t as filling and easy to digest.
    For proteins and fat: beef, liver and eggs, go light on the veggies (a green salad isn’t very filling). Use pastured butter freely.
    If this doesn’t help, add a big quality whey protein shake.
    And if you train with the right (read: high) intensity and pay attention to recovery as well (read: NOT everyday) your appetite should increase automatically.

  • kem

    I generally put down a three egg (our hens) feta and vegetable omlette, bacon or sausage, a fried tomato (in dripping from one of my cattle) and a concurrently fried leftover potato after an early gym workout or before a bicyle ride… or a day of work on the farm.

    Funny, if it turns out to be a surprise, once a fortnight intermitent fast instead, I don’t notice. Lunch and tea are generally big meals anyway. Gotta keep my 65 kgs intact.

    And that expensive breakfast cereal… I used to eat it for pudding before I wised up to cream, nuts and strawberries… and Scotch.

  • Guy

    Thanks, I appreciate the advice.
    Yet there’s another issue. I get stomach aches from certain foods, or big dishes, (Maybe it’s IBS, if you know the term).. so It’s a little problematic to eat a lot in general.. you’ve got any advice regarding the issue? on how to eat a lot of food, yet without getting stomach aches?
    Should I just listen to my body and as I keep working out on a regular basis (I was at the time, but I stopped for a few months) my appetite will gradually increase?

    Sorry if I ask too many questions.. that’s just quite crucial for me.. since food has always been an issue.

  • Tomasz:

    Fascinating!  He seems to advocate no breakfast, some grazing on light, raw foods throughout the day, and a huge meal for a late dinner.  This seems compatible with an evolutionary history of hunting and gathering: eating as you forage during the day, raw, and socking down a big cooked meal in the evening.  I'll have to spend more time with Hofmekler's stuff.

    Peggy:

    Thanks!  I think the takeaway is “don't force them to fast…but don't force them to eat when they're not hungry, either”.  I suspect both school and the rigid working schedules of parents contribute to this: your child might not be hungry, but you've got to go to work and he's got to go to school…and lunch is at exactly 12:20…this isn't good for anyone, but especially not for children, who don't have coffee breaks or the ability to get up and eat a snack at school.

    Fmgd:

    “It simply makes no sense to believe that a healthy human should be eating when he's not hungry. We'd be the dumbest animals alive.”

    Yes.  Our problem is generally that our urge to eat is short-circuited by junk food that doesn't satisfy the nutritional needs that led us to become hungry in the first place.

    Wati:

    In other words, the traditional Asian “breakfast” is a nutritionally complete meal.  Right?

    I definitely got that feeling traveling in Japan: it was rare to see a restaurant that was even open for breakfast, and I didn't see much in the way of “breakfast foods” except in convenience stores.  Even the place that sold those sweet bean paste-filled buns didn't open until at least 10 AM.

    Kem:

    Sounds delicious!  I also tend to fuel up somewhat if I know I've got a hard day ahead…though I've been doing well lately just by eating a lot the night before.  And I agree that a splash of Scotch (or whisky of any kind) generally goes well with fruit and cream.

    Guy:

    Franco beat me to it: leangains.com will tell you everything you want to know on that subject.

    And he gave pretty good advice in #40.  I'd add refined coconut oil to the list.  Other dense calorie sources are full-fat Greek yogurt (should be ~80% calories from fat) and half-and-half.

    Basically for maximum weight gain you want to ignore the advice “don't drink your food” and start making smoothies with half and half/heavy cream.  It isn't paleo…but if you can't gain weight by eating shakes of strawberry whey protein mixed into half and half, I don't know what to tell you.

    Although if you're getting stomach aches your problem may be food intolerance…stay attentive to whether it gets worse with certain foods.

    Franco:

    That's good advice.

    JS

     

    Wow!  I've got a lot of great ideas for Part 2 now.  Thanks, everyone.

  • Franco

    JS,

    How could I forget coconut oil! But why “refined”? I would say go virgin! (just for the oil – not in general)

    I think the problem with greek yoghurt (which I love!) in Guy’s situation is that it’s very filling!
    On most days my “breakfast”(~7pm) is a shake made of 1 banana, 4 egg yolks, ~75g of Mascarpone (if you like fatty milk products You must try it! It goes especilaly well with berries too), 30g hydro-whey and some full fat fresh milk.
    I personnaly can eat a full paleo meal 30-40 minutes later but it might satiate somebody else for hours I guess.

  • Guy

    Thanks for the advice.
    I tend to have problems with milk products.. but honestly I’m really not sure I truly have problems with them.. since sometimes even eggs could give me stomach aches. and occasionally milk doesn’t do anything to my stomach lol.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the helpful advice, I’ll make sure to try and use it XD.

  • Paul Halliday

    Not to be crude, but through the week I have a dingo’s breakfast … a scratch, a piss and a look around. Then I get dressed for work and don’t eat until lunchtime.

    At the weekends I often have a good “breakfast” but at lunchtime. I’m northern English and like my breakfasts like this: https://picasaweb.google.com/pjgh93/Cuisine#5588412137596235202 … the dish does include a few “cheats” from Paleo diet, but that’s because they’re part of the traditional English breakfast.

    An inspiring article. I also follow the mantra, “why eat if you’re not hungry” and typically, that’s why I skip breakfast.

  • Franco:

    I use refined because it's completely neutral in taste: unlike virgin, it doesn't make everything you cook with it taste like coconuts.

    If you like the coconut taste, I think the virgin stuff has some compounds in it that might be beneficial…but then I usually just use coconut milk.

    Paul:

    Ha!  I usually have the dingo's breakfast, too.  What's the black round stuff in that full English?

    When camping, it frustrates me that everyone else apparently has to fire up the campstoves and make oatmeal and coffee before they're willing to do anything.  Between all the water-fetching and farting around, it usually takes an hour.

    Today I was actually hungry within a couple hours of waking up, which surprised me…but then again, I ate only one meal a day for most of a week, so perhaps I'm on a rebound.  And I ate prime rib for “breakfast”.

    JS

     

  • Sofie

    Guy, it’s possible to be intolerant of eggwhites. You could try avoiding them.

  • Paul Halliday

    JS: The black rounds are Black Pudding. It is pig blood and fat moulded into thick sausages which are then boiled as part of the process. When you buy them, they’re black and firm – cut into slices and crispen up the outsides by frying in a little butter.

    Like meat, it can be served more on the rare side with little more than a minute or so on each side in a frying pan, or left for more like 5 minutes for well done.

    There are variants of “blood sausage” the world over, but ours in northern England is a known delicacy. I suppose the only pitfall is that oatmeal is used to thicken up and firm up the consistency. I’m happy with these little cheats – they’re infrequent and in proportion with my diet, generally. That said, I’m not a confirmed Paleo eater.

    You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pudding

  • Guy

    I would have assumed so Sofie, yet it’s inconsistent and can happen occasionally with almost any type of food possible, so I guess it’s not the case. I’m pretty sure I know what’s it all about.. but it still requires another visit to the doctor.

    Anyway, Thanks, everything should be considered, I’m just pretty sure it’s not the case.

  • Emma

    @ Paul… Oh God, I love black pudding! I recently found one here in Aus that is just pork blood, jowls and spices, no grains! It’s so delicious!

    @ Peggy… I think that it’s a good lesson not to freak out about your children’s eating times/frequency. My daughter is very lean and I used to worry about her not eating anough. Over the years I’ve realised that she’d a very instinctive eater. She may go a week eating like a bird and then, it’s like she can’t get enough food and she’s always in the fridge munching on HB eggs, pork rinds with liver pate, fruit, greek yoghurt, chicken thighs… and this is as well as normal meals.
    I grew up with very unhealthy eating habits and ended up overweight as a result, so I decided to just let her be. Based on her amazing body composition and muscle tone, she obviously knows better than I do!

  • @Emma: Do it like this: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-0VJlWx19kdc/TXu1_dgIwQI/AAAAAAAAJnU/ShoMdqoPlBA/s800/DSCF4925.JPG

    Fry your black pudding to the way you like it (completely opposite to the way I like meat, I like black pudding cooked well), squirt a little sauce on top (Heinz, HP or Worcestershire Sauce) drop some lard/tallow fried mushrooms on top.

    OMG! Heaven :)

  • Asclepius

    Glad to see black pudding getting due appreciation here. You have to watch for some added grains in some recipies, but it’s health benefits far outweigh.

    Here is a picture of my weekly fry-up (featuring a lot of black pudding) which I call ‘The Doctor’. Reckon you’ll appreciate it (http://naturalmessiah.blogspot.com/2010/04/doctor.html).

    Ii need to source some laverbread…

  • How Did Breakfast Be

    […] The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert? […]

  • The Breakfast Myth,

    […] In Part 1 of “The Breakfast Myth”, we discussed why the modern “breakfast” is really just snacks and dessert—and why eating it at all might be evolutionarily discordant. Here in Part 2, we explore the scientific evidence for and against breakfast—and what we should do in response. […]

  • Kas hommikusööki pea

    […] 1. Artikkel The Breakfast Myth Part I […]

  • Cornelius

    I am not generally one for breakfast. I love a good leisurely brunch, though, after a cup or two of black coffee. Eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese…

    I learned long before I knew anything about nutrition that cereal or any of that other stuff made from grains and sugar only assured that I would be very hungry shortly after I ate it, and until lunchtime rolled around. I am much better off not eating anything at all.

    It makes me wonder why the stereotype for this is Chinese food, when the typical American breakfast of rapidly digested carbs is so much more common. I want to scream every time I hear that Frosted Mini Wheats BS about feeding your kids that junk for breakfast in order to “keep them full and focused.” If you care about your kids and think they need breakfast, get up five minutes earlier and make them bacon and eggs.It is absurd to claim you don’t have time to do so. They don’t really need breakfast, however. Except for the fact that this is another one of those things that “everyone knows,” and you may be thought a bad parent for not feeding them dessert first thing in the morning.

    It baffles me how some stereotypical phrases get started, like a breakfast of pancakes and syrup being a “stick to your ribs” type of breakfast. Or biscuits and gravy. I remember a few years back when my girlfriend and I went to a local restaurant for breakfast. We both gorged ourselves on biscuits and gravy. Less than an hour later, we were both starving. You want a “stick to your ribs” meal, eat copious quantities of protein and fat. This should be obvious, but I suppose the myth persists for the same reason that others like “cold water boils faster” do; that being that most people believe what they have been told rather than paying attention to what they actually experience.

    Anyway, I apologize if I seem to be preaching to the choir, here. Rant over. :)

  • Cornelius:

    Social proof is powerful: that's a big reason why advertising works.  As I demonstrate in Part 2, “breakfast cereal” is entirely a marketing creation, though it's older than we think.

    I think the stereotype is Chinese food because we're so used to breakfast being carb-heavy (cereal, pancakes, or English muffin?) that we don't have a good comparison.  With Chinese we're comparing it to lunch or dinner.

    Emma:

    I think that if we restrict ourselves to real foods, our instincts for what and how much to eat are usually pretty good.  The problem is when that instinct is overridden by deliberately engineered snack foods or well-intentioned bad advice.

    JS

  • Kam

    I just discovered your site today (via the Latest in Paleo podcast). Tons of great info here! I really like the very user-friendly tone of the articles. I feel like I could send my non-paleo, non-Crossfitting, etc. friends and/or family members here and they would understand what is going on.

    I have been eating “paleo” for a while but never stopped to consider the origins of breakfast. I do love having my eggs & bacon, or leftover meat in the morning, but if for some reason I don’t get to eat until later, I no longer feel like I’m going to starve, pass out & die (a big change from my bagel-eating vegetarian past!)

  • Kam:

    Welcome!  Were you listening to Angelo's long interview with me (episode 12), or one of the other episodes where he mentions gnolls.org?

    And by all means, please send your non-paleo friends and family here.  That's why I write my articles…so people who aren't already convinced can learn something new.

    JS

  • Kam

    hi JS, oops I forgot to check back here after I posted! It was an earlier episode where Angelo mentioned gnolls.com as the Blog of the Week. I haven’t gotten to episode 12 yet but I am looking forward to hearing your interview. Thanks again for all the great info!
    Kam :)

  • Kam:

    If you can't get enough of me, you'll enjoy Episode 12, because after the interview I basically co-host the rest of the episode!  

    JS

  • Another Halocene Hum

    JS… *sigh*… I don’t disagree with your conclusions, but you’re right for the wrong reasons. You seem to have little first-hand knowledge of farm life. Also, your economic perspective on agricultural economies is badly skewed. Finally, your understanding of land ownership and apportionment is, well, incomplete.

    However, you are absolutely correct that farmers in the United States in the recent past did NOT start the day with breakfast. They started the day with chores. They ate breakfast a couple of hours later.

    Ranchers DID start their day with breakfast. A typical rancher breakfast was beefsteak and coffee. When times were tough the beef was replaced with increasing proportions of beans. Cattle herding is a very different life from running a farm, but both belong to the neolithic era.

    I have no doubt if I look over the many comments left on this post so far I will find many notes about your extremely narrow lens overlooking breakfast foods across geography and time.

    PS: I suggest you seriously look into how Native North Americans (the Inuit, for example) ate and preserved foods, because your notions of how HGs navigated their food environment (heh) is completely spurious.

  • AHH:

    You can't just leave me hanging like that!  Please share the information sources and alternative explanations that allow you to make bold statements like “You seem to have little first-hand knowledge of farm life”, “Your economic perspective on agricultural economies is badly skewed”, and “your notions of how HGs navigated their food environment (heh) is completely spurious.”

    Also, I'm familiar with the making and transport of pemmican, as well as the basics of smoking and drying.  Do you have evidence or references for pre-Neolithic pemmican processing?  

    JS

  • Breakfast Skipping 1

    […] The Breakfast Myth Part 1 – Gnolls.org […]

  • Breakfast Part 3: Bl

    […] The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert? […]

  • Mich

    Fantastic article. Looking forward to part 2.

  • Mich:

    I see you've already found it — but in case anyone missed the link, Part 2 of “The Breakfast Myth” is here.

    JS

  • Robbo

    Quibble: “Few of us have time to fix such elaborate fare in the morning”
    Current breakfast alternates between black pudding and bacon with two eggs scrambled and chili pepper and cheese omlette. Cooking time 5 to 10 minutes. C’mon there’s 24 hours in aday, surely there are ten minutes to cok breakfast ?

  • Robbo:

    You must be one of those strange creatures called a “morning person”.  I've heard of them.

    JS

  • You're a man after my own heart Robbo! Black pudding is a must even if it does have rusk (you can find gluten-free varieties). Good lad!

  • […] the body down. Is Your Food Aging You? Is Your Food Aging You? Breakfast, invention of the rich: The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert? - GNOLLS.ORG How Snacking Makes You Weak and Fat: Why Snacking Makes You Weak, Not Just Fat - […]

  • […] interested in this subject and started reading about it. Here is one link relative to this topic: The Breakfast Myth, Part 1: How Did Breakfast Become Snacks And Dessert? - GNOLLS.ORG Regardless of what anyone believes on this subject, most will agree, being sober and skipping […]

  • AndreaLynnette

    I’m wondering if the difference between wanting breakfast and not (if you’re Primal/Paleo/grain-free/whatever), is what kind of shape you’re in. I’m in terrible shape, very overweight, and just starting to get better. I am moving a lot more, and I think my body is rebuilding atrophied muscles, because I wake up feeling like I’m starving. All I want is fat and meat. Bacon, cream, eggs, sausage, steak.

    The first morning after I walked two miles (for the first time in my LIFE), I ate a half-dozen eggs fried in butter, two cups of milk, and two cups of heavy cream. I’m losing weight, so I must be doing things fairly right. But if I didn’t eat breakfast, I think I would be useless.

  • Andrea:

    I'm sure nutrient demand has something to do with it!  Now that I've started weight training, I find myself eating breakfast much more often than before.

    And that's why I say in Part II: “…don’t eat until hunger starts to distract you from your tasks.”  If you wake up ravenous, then go right ahead and eat a meal!  What I'm trying to break is the habit of eating sugary junk for breakfast, especially if we're not really hungry, because it's “traditional” or “the most important meal of the day.”

    JS

  • jennifer

    i’m fully aware of the time lapse between kat’s comment and this question that her comment prompted in my reading today…sorry.

    but, my understanding of how the body works when stressed is that digestion becomes it’s lowest priority, so wouldn’t fasting actually be helpful when stressed?

  • jennifer:

    Among the problems is that fasting will cause some cortisol release in order to keep the liver full of glycogen — which can be a problem if your levels are already high from chronic stress.

    JS

  • […] J. Stanton just published a great article this week about hunter gatherers skipping breakfast and says that skipping lunch is probably even quite normal. The guide standing next to the Masai man is six feet tall. […]

  • Sara

    This article inspired me to question my breakfast. I was always someone who made myself eat something in the morning, no matter how full I was, because i was mislead by health magazines and Western doctors telling me that it was necessary to eat breakfast to kick-start my metabolism. However, after letting my metabolism begin running without forcing it, I feel so much more energetic and find it easier to eat real foods such as vegetables and fish when it's not in a rush in the morning.

    You have inspired me to share this knowledge on my blog post:

    http://www.eatfeelfresh.com/2012/09/

    Also- I heard that eating fruits when waking up helps your body wake up because it is easily digestible and best consumed on an empty stomach. Is this true?

    Thank you so much for your insight!

  • Like you, Sara, I need a little time to wake up. Work days, the most I can stomach at silly o'clock in the morning is a few spoons of yoghurt. Some days, I can mix in some blueberries or blackberries and a few hazelnuts.

    This does it for me – good probiotic yoghurt, full fat, of course. That ties me over to lunch, which I like early, around noon: a good bowl of salad, fat (avocado) and protein (chicken, fish, smoked fish and/or shellfish), making a simple formula that ties me over to the main overture in the evening.

    The key is not snacking. Eat until you are replete when you do – this means eat less if you're not hungry or so inclined. You can happily ride through eating in the morning and have a big lunch. Some folks are just built that way.

    Breaking your overnight fast can be a delicate thing. Some folks like nothing less than a “full English” … I'm English and can do that at the weekend, but through the week, I don't. Yes, when not in a rush, put together a whole bunch of really good foods, eat and get about your day.

    Don't force yourself otherwise. A handful of berries is a good kickstart, but do get some fat down with it. Yoghurt is actually pretty sound. Don't let those die-hard paleos tell you otherwise. I know J has a healthy respect for good dairy, and there is a growing number of paleos who think likewise.

  • Sara:

    I don't recommend fruit by itself first thing in the morning, because you're just consuming sugar that'll put you on the blood sugar rollercoaster.  If you must eat fruit, eat it as part of a complete meal with lots of protein and fat.

    I'm glad you're finding success…when we wait until we're hungry to eat, we're far more likely to consume a complete meal instead of a snack.

    Paul:

    When starting on a new way of eating, it's easiest to either classify foods as “in” or “out”…it's hard enough to make major changes without adding the stress of sorting out the gray areas.  Then, once you're comfortable in your new habits, you can take on issues like dairy.

    Again, my take is “butterfat and milkfat = OK, lactose = OK only IF you digest it, whey = OK, casein = causes problems for many, proceed with caution”.  For instance, too much casein gives me acne…but I'm OK with the small amount in Greek yogurt, and so are many people.

    JS

  • Katherine

    I gave up eating breakfast some years back after I stopped sports. I just wasn’t as hungry, and I noticed it was easier to skip breakfast and eat a real lunch than try to eat tiny meals.

    I am (probably) one of few people who ate oatmeal without sugar. I used to make it with butter and cheese and sometimes sausage meat. I can’t do it anymore as I had to give up gluten, and oats had the same effect on me. But at least a few of us exist.

  • Katherine:

    Avenins (oat proteins) are very similar to gluten proteins, and some people get the same reactions to them that they do to gluten.

    And yes, that's one of my reasons: it's easier to skip meals and simply eat to satiation than it is to try to parcel out calories in miserly little portions throughout the day.

    JS

  • Lisa L.

    I take issue with the typical breakfast served at the local schools. My daughter can always have cereal and then the choices include cinnamon rolls, pancakes and syrup, french toast and syrup, waffles and syrup, toast, and rarely sausages and eggs. This is what our children are fueled with every day on the government sponsored food program. Great! And then teachers are expected to teach the children and survive the blood sugar spikes and falls throughout the day. No wonder our children are falling behind.

    My son (age 11) actually decided the school breakfast and lunch were awful and he couldn’t stay awake after eating there. My experiment went well. He now takes his own lunch (grain free) and eats breakfast at home. The key is that he had to respond to his own body and realize how the dessert breakfast and carb laden lunch affected him. Our family lives grain free. My daughter also takes her lunch and eats grain free at school.

    I will do some more research. You make a good point about the historical fact that we don’t really need “breakfast” when we get up. Too bad that society tempts us too often with carbs and sugar. Maybe someday they will learn.

  • Debit

    Based on my experience, popular types of breakfast are unnecessary, and can even be counterproductive. First of all, they are way too loaded. Trying to digest something heavy before you are fully awake and alert? Come on! Anything beyond a cup of water, coffee, or plain yogurt is going to make you feel weighed down. In particular, if you have busy morning schedule, you may have trouble concentrating on work or study while your not yet fully awaken body is busy digesting a big meal.

    I think the key to minimizing early morning food craving is to minimize insulin spikes on a daily basis. In particular, avoid late meals and snacks.

    There is one situation you will most likely to crave for breakfast: The morning after heavy drinking. I think what happens is that massive ethanol metabolism results in glucose depletion. Furthermore, not only you badly want to replenish your supply of glucose, but also electrolytes.

  • Lisa L:

    It's amazing children learn anything at all when we do our best to make sure they're on a massive blood sugar rollercoaster all day by feeding them sugary junk — including “hearthealthywholegrains” that digest to sugar just as quickly and have the same effects.

    I'm glad you're able to give your children the advantage of real food!

    Debit:

    Too many people force themselves to eat in the morning because they've been repeatedly told “breakfast is the most important meal”.  As for myself, I've found that eating breakfast usually makes me hungrier!  Once my blood sugar drops from breakfast I'm hungry again, whereas when I fast, hunger takes much longer to catch up with me.

    JS

  • […] do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not ‘jumpstart‘ your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast.  SERIOUSLY IF YOU AREN’T HUNGRY DON’T […]

  • […] Moral: “You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not ‘jumpstart‘ your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast.” […]

  • Aquaria

    Potatoes are disgusting, and are behind a lot more digestive problems in this country than people realize.

    I don’t know how anyone can eat that trash.

    As for me, I never have been much of a breakfast eater. I usually eat a couple of hours after I wake up, and have leftovers from dinner, or some kind of meat and eggs. I was also a graveyard shift worker for several years, and learned that it doesn’t matter what you eat when. If you want to have filet mignon with truffle butter and brussel sprouts at 7 a.m., go for it. Who’s to tell you that you can’t?

  • Aquaria:

    I agree: one of the biggest handicaps for breakfast eaters is the idea that there's such a thing as “breakfast food”.  Most people would be better served eating their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner!

    However, while I'm not a member of the potato cult that briefly became fashionable in Paleoland, they're reasonably nutritious as starchy foods go, and I enjoy them as an accompaniment to meat.

    JS

  • […] “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” How many times have we heard that? And has anyone else noticed that what passes for “breakfast food” is the nutritional equivalent of Halloween candy? How did we get bamboozled into starting our day with snacks and dessert? You can’t live like a predator if you start your day eating like prey. The nutrients we absolutely require to grow, repair, and maintain our body and brain are essentially missing from the modern day breakfast. Click To Keep Reading […]

  • Walter Stuart

    But the plains Indians had pemmican which kept for long periods, which could have been eaten in the morning. And there were hunter gatherer settlements that depended on salmon in a where the salmon spawned in huge numbers, must have dried them. I presume at least some other hunter gatherers would have had some kind of preservative method, particularly out of the tropics.

    Maybe pemmican was a pre neolithic food?

  • Walter:

    The contention isn't that Paleolithic humans never ate breakfast and always did a 16/8 IF, nor that we should do the same.

    However, it seems likely, given the science and evidence we have (see Part II), that they didn't always have a plethora of food — particularly carb-heavy food — available immediately upon waking.  Pemmican is carbless, and nutritionally more like “dinner” than “breakfast”.  Same with smoked salmon. 

    (Also note that no Native American cultures for which we have any evidence are ancestral unless you're American Indian or South American, and none of them are Paleolithic.  This isn't an argument against, but I've seen too many people bringing up evidence that “Indians did X” as if that proves whether something was “paleo” or not.)

    JS

  • […] El mito del desayuno [EN] […]

  • Randy Wang

    Great article. This line just about sums it up for me: “Are you really all that hungry when you wake up—or are you eating because you think you’re supposed to?”

  • Randy:

    I’m glad you find that insight valuable! It’s been key for me, too: some days I’m hungry and eat hugely, others I barely eat anything, I may or not be hungry at a traditional “mealtime” — and that’s fine.

    JS

  • J. Stanton said

    Randy:

    I’m glad you find that insight valuable! It’s been key for me, too: some days I’m hungry and eat hugely, others I barely eat anything, I may or not be hungry at a traditional “mealtime” — and that’s fine.

    JS

    Yes. That’s what I do. Some mornings I wake up hungry and have a mostly protein meal. Other times I go until noon with perhaps some nuts.

  • bill morten

    Sunday through Friday my breakfast consists of either raw bok-choy, collard greens, or kale along with an orange , a slice of pinepple, grapes, water, and maybe a few berries whipped in a blender.
    That is consumed along with a small sandwich made from hummus, lettuce, tomato, and 1/3 of an avocado.
    This completely satiates me until dinner time.

    I found some bacon in the freezer today that had been there almost a year from last Christmas, which is the only time that we eat it. I went out and bought a half dozen eggs, and ate one fried in the grease of fried bacon (a little), the bacon and some hash brown patties. Although it is was palatable and tasted good, it is highly over-rated. I can do with consuming this once or twice a year. It has been an hour since it was ingested. I am looking forward to beans, rice, and lots of greens for dinner>

    Plant based foods as close to whole and unprocessed as possible is what my body craves most of the time.

  • Bill:

    You’re eating Real Food, and I support that in any combination that works for you…even though I, myself, wouldn’t survive for more than a couple hours on your breakfast!

    Interestingly, I’ve found most people go through a period of “OMG I can eat ALL THE BACON” when they first go Paleo. This lasts a few weeks to a month — after which things generally settle down. I eat bacon perhaps once a week — and often as a condiment, e.g. atop meat or potatoes, not as the central meat dish in a meal.

    JS

  • Guest

    It is laughable how supposedly people don’t have time to make nutritious breakfast. In 15 minutes I can have 4 organic eggs over hard, 1 boneless chicken thigh, 1 organic tomato halved and blackened until soft, and 2 nitrate-free angus hot dogs without artificial preservatives. This holds me from 630 am until 11 am, to include a morning workout. Genetically I have the lean gene, cannot gain weight regardless of diet, and maintain 8.5 percent body fat by hydrostatic test. However I cannot eat refined sugars, artificial substitutes, or whole grains or dairy as my detox sustem gets overworked leading to acne, believe it or not.

  • Guest:

    That’s a huge breakfast, and I take your point: eggs plus some meat and a chopped veggie or two takes only a few minutes to “cook”.

    Too much cheese or bread gives me acne, too.

    JS

  • Aaron

    So, what you’re saying here;

    is that the scientific method can never be used to improve existing systems and components, even nutritional ones, or just outright replace them;

    and that technology can only ever cause us to have harder, more work-centered lives.

    Out of curiosity, why even be part of this world, then? There are plenty of places to go where there are plenty of sources of food and resources to provide yourself with shelter and the like. Why even be a part of all this? Seems a little hypocritical to me.

    Also, anyone with even a moderate understanding of engineering, biology, or evolutionary theory can pretty much put this whole article in the dirt.

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