Getting Stronger: Discussion Forum

Discussion Topics => Diet => Topic started by: Anima on October 31, 2011, 01:08:37 PM

Title: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Anima on October 31, 2011, 01:08:37 PM
Hello all.  I am new to the forums, and I'm sure this has been covered, but I could not target my search enough.

I am trying to lose weight.  I read in Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Body that eating a very high protein breakfast significantly increases metabolism.  He gives examples of people who lost weight just by starting to eat an egg or two for breakfast, and we've all heard similar stories.  This blog seems to indicate that the more time one can spend in a fasted state, the better for appetite and weight loss.  So I am confused.  Should a person looking to lose weight skip breakfast or eat a high protein breakfast?

Thanks in advance for responses.
Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Todd Becker on October 31, 2011, 05:05:30 PM

I like Tim Ferriss and I think that 4HB has many good ideas.  But I think he is off base about breakfast.  Here is what he says on page 95:

Skipping breakfast is also closely associated with overeating in the evening. Don't skip.  Have no appetite in the morning?  No problem. Keep it small and protein-rich, then: two to three hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with white truffle sea salt.

Tim is entitled to his opinion.  But where is the data that supports his contention that skipping breakfast leads to overeating later in the day? That is certainly not my experience.  I would not be surprised if some people, just starting IF, initially tended to compensate by eating more later in the day.  But if you visit sites like the forum for Fast-5, one of the best IF sites, you'll find that this is a transient effect and that most people adapt to a lower net intake of food after a while.

Another advocate of not skipping breakfast is Byron Richards, author of The Leptin Diet.  I agree with many points in Richards' analysis, particularly his advice to eat only 2-3 meals a day and avoid snacking:

The advice to eat five to six small meals a day or to snack between meals to maintain a steady blood sugar level and keep metabolism "stoked with food" is among the worst advice possible.  It boggles the mind that a majority of doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, and fitness instructors promote this absurd approach to energy management. It is as if someone started a rumor and everyone accepted it as a truth...Glucagon's job is to maintain the blood sugar level in the absence of food coming in from the diet. This is normal...This is fat-buring time. The longer a person is in this fat-buring mode, the great the amount of fat he or she will burn...Snacking flips on the insulin switch at the wrong time, which causes the consumed calories to head for fat storage....Snacking or eating too often confuses leptin, and sooner or later this catches up with an individual. (TLD, pp. 36-38)

On the other hand, Richards goes out of his way to stress the importance of eating breakfast:

A high-protein meal can increase metabolism by thirty percent for as long as twelve hours--the calorie-burning equivalent of a two- to three-mile jog. A high-carbohydrate breakfast such as juice, cereal, waffles, pancakes, or bagels does not enhance metabolic rate by more than four percent, especially when eaten with little protein. This rule is especially important for individuals who struggle with energy, food cravings, and/or body general...anyone over the age of forty.

In his appendix, on page pp. 126-7, Richards cites some studies to support his advice.  However, most of the research compared high protein breakfasts to high carbohydrate or high fat breakfasts.  There was no comparison to intermittent fasting.  I have no beef with the idea of eating a moderate to high protein diet. But there is no convincing evidence supplied by Richards that it must occur early in the day, or that meal skipping has any detrimental effects.

For the benefits of intermittent fasting on metabolism and health, check out Martin Berkhan's Leangains ( blog.  Martin references numerous studies that support the metabolic advantages of intermittent fasting.

Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Anima on October 31, 2011, 09:33:58 PM
Thanks for the reply, Todd.  I will probably continue to eat breakfast in the near-term, as I am still learning to fast (I just eliminated snacking), but I plan to do longer fasts in the future, and breakfast is definitely the first meal on the chopping block when I start skipping meals.

I liked 4HB, and I have lost weight with the diet it recommends, but there is no way that I am going to eat beans, meat and a vegetable for every meal for the rest of my life.  I am going to continue to incorporate the lazier suggestions (ice pack on the neck for 30 minutes, taking cinnamon with meals, etc).  I noticed that Ferriss also recommends the old eat-every-3-hours routine for losing the dreaded last 10 pounds, but after looking at the studies cited here and on the leangains blog, I find that advice dubious.

I really appreciate this site.  I found it while perusing the Shangri-la forums.  I read that book and have started noseclipping my breakfast (it can't hurt), but I find the theory a little off.  The book makes the "diet" sound like The Answer, but a cursory tour of the forums indicates that it doesn't work as advertised.  Lots of folks seem to be having no luck with it.
Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Todd Becker on November 01, 2011, 08:50:39 AM
Good comments, Anima.  You are smart to question what you read, try out what makes sense to you, and proceed gradually.   That allows the body and mind to adapt and minimizes rebound effects.

Like you, I was intrigued by Seth Robert's discovery of the appetite suppressing effects of flavorless (or noseclipped) foods.  But as you point out, it works better for some people than others, and it typically works very well in the beginning and then gradually loses its effectiveness. So I'm not convinced of his theory (of flavor-calorie associative learning) because it doesn't account for this variability.  Yet the effect is so intriguing that it should inspire better explanations of why Shangri-la does in fact often work, because it will probably lead to other ways to lose weight.  I've made a partial attempt to offer an alternate explanation in my post on Flavor Control Diets (, but I think this is just a start at a fuller mechanistic understanding.

Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Anima on November 03, 2011, 04:03:28 PM

Skipping breakfast is really easy (I always hated it).  I skipped it for a day as part of fasting for longer periods of time (I waited until I had no urge to snack between meals before trying to skip a meal), and I didn't find myself ravenous later.   It was so easy that I've continued to skip breakfast for the last couple days and my appetite has gotten smaller.  I could have easily skipped lunch today.

I theorize that if one goes from the typical eating behavior of three meals a day plus snacks to skipping breakfast that it could cause overeating at night along with its concomitant weight gain, but if one gets very comfortable doing without snacks and then starts skipping breakfast that it is actually beneficial for weight loss.  I've always hated breakfast and loved eating crapola right before bed.  I think that initially breakfast was helpful to get off the snacks, but my desire for them did not return when I skipped it.  It's pretty remarkable, because I've always had a huge appetite late at night.  It went from irresistible to uncomfortable to annoying to a non-issue in almost no time.

Benton - I had enough trouble choking down a vanilla-flavored protein shake for breakfast, so there's no way that I would even consider boiled vegetables and bread.  The thought is making me nauseous.
Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: costello on November 08, 2011, 09:44:42 AM
Hi Anime:

My personal experience with breakfast is that it seems to make me hungrier, earlier in the day. Like you, I don't like breakfast. Every once in a while I have to relearn that it just isn't what I need. <Sigh!> I'll read something that persuades me that it's important and give it another try. It's always the same. I don't know what the science behind it is. I just know it doesn't work for me.

Having said that, I do have coffee with cream and coconut oil in it every morning. That doesn't seem to effect me one way or the other.

I'm all about bringing my insulin levels down. The first time I heard about IF was late 2007 I think. I've tried it on and off over the years. I remember the first time I tried it I thought I was going to die! This was before I'd started low-carbing, so it must have been a shock to my system. Anyway it's gotten easier with time. Every time I come back to it, it's easier. Right now I'm doing a 19/5 or 20/4 type of thing. I find the less obsessed I am about forcing myself to a specific time schedule, the better I do. Probably that whole conditioning thing. If I know I'm going to eat at a 6:00 when I get home, I get really hungry as soon as I arrive home. On the other hand if I just tell myself I'm not going to eat until after 2 or after 4, often the appointed time comes and goes and I'm still not hungry - I'm not thinking about food at all. Last night I got home at nearly 7, having not eaten all day and I still wasn't hungry.
Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: Anima on November 08, 2011, 01:49:11 PM
I'm surprised at how quickly my appetite is adjusting to going longer between meals.  I don't know if I'm going to do the Fast-5 (19/5) thing yet.  I did just get the book, but have not finished it.  Eating late might be good for weight loss, but I am very concerned about it screwing with my circadian rhythm, as I am a Non-24 (rare circadian rhythm disorder).  I have read that hormone levels are better when calories are consumed during the day rather than after sundown, and that eating at night and fasting during the day will make your body treat day as night and night as day.  Not cool.

Another quote from 4HB:

Some research suggests IF confers the same life-extension benefits as caloric restriction only when calories are consumed during daylight hours.  This would, if accurate, make the Fast-5 better for fat loss than longevity.

Perhaps the life-extension benefits of IF are blunted by the detrimental effects of night eating on hormones?  I think that the healthiest way to do Fast-5 or similar diets may be to make the 5-hour window from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.  Skipping breakfast is easy, but I'm a long way from being able to go to bed 8 hours from my last meal.
Title: Re: Breakfast: yay or nay?
Post by: costello on November 15, 2011, 01:46:05 PM
Skipping breakfast is easy, but I'm a long way from being able to go to bed 8 hours from my last meal.

You'll be able to do that eventually too. I do this sometimes. If I have to eat earlier in the day for some reason, I find that I just don't have much interest in food in the evening.