Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day! And it doesn’t boost your metabolism or kick-start your day.
This MYTH was created by cereal companies in the 1900’s (1) as a large campaign to encourage cereal consumption among workers. There is NO evidence that eating breakfast helps you eat better the rest of the day, lose weight, have better concentration or mental function, or improve blood sugar. These are all myths!
Unless you are pregnant, under 16, underweight or have a medical condition which you need to eat regularly for (consult your doctor if you are not sure) then regular fasting periods could help you.
Fasting has been shown to be great for our health and can help with weight loss, weight maintenance and reduce body fat (2), as well as improve insulin sensitivity (2), which has a benefit in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
In our experience the easiest way to make fasting part of your life is to keep all food within an 8 hour period in day. This basically means no snacking after your evening meal and skipping breakfast the next day.
Keep the fast at 16 hours – if, for example, you stop eating at 8pm you could eat the next day at 12pm. Don’t however forget to drink in this period (herbal tea, water or black tea or coffee).
Why Is Fasting Good For You?
Logically, we weren’t designed to have convenience food on hand and regular meals 3 times a day. In the past we would have to find our food by foraging or hunting, or would have had times when food wasn’t abundant, and so would have periods without much to eat.
Our bodies are designed to go through short periods without food and it is actually good for us.
Fasting allows our body to break down any excess fat (2), get rid of toxins and stabilises our blood sugar (3) and blood pressure (4). Evidence now shows us fasting may improve the risk of diabetes (3), cancer (5) and even Alzheimer’s (6). It may even help you live longer! (7)
This daily mini-fasting, which many call scheduled eating, has many of the same health benefits reported on diets like the 5:2 diet (fasting for 2 days a week) and more radically alternate day fasting. (8)
Practicing What We Preach
The Natural Doctors: We have now fasted like this for 4 years (except Jess when she was pregnant) as have many of our patients. Once it becomes normal to fast you feel the benefit to your mood and concentration, your digestion gets a longer ‘rest’ period and improves, energy levels stay strong and for both of us with working hours and lunch times, we often extend it to 18 hours with no issues.
We have found it a great way – along with the right diet – to maintain our weight. It is however important to eat a meal high in healthy fats and protein once you break your fast. Or if it is not convenient to have a meal at that time, carry nuts, meat, cheese, eggs or other foods that will help you feel full until you are able to eat.
What About Exercise With Fasting?
It is OK to fast when exercising. Even better it actually improves fat burning (9) to help you lose weight.
The only word of caution is to make sure you keep drinking and if you start to feel dizzy or unwell, do make sure you eat something. It is also important to eat a meal high in healthy fat and protein after exercising, and if intensive exercise you can break the fast a bit earlier when you have finished.
Dr Jess says: When I first started fasting I used to have a tennis lesson on Thursday mornings and at that point I had a pretty tough coach. I used to burn around 700-800 calories in an hours lesson. Surprisingly, when I started fasting we both noticed a huge change in my performance, I played much better and didn’t seem to tire as easily.
I have noticed this phenomenon many times. Now I do 2 hours of karate a week and I definitely find it easier when fasting on my morning session than in my after lunch session later in the week. On the very rare occasions over the past few years that I have had breakfast I have felt sluggish and tired all day.
If you are bodybuilding it still may be useful to skip breakfast in order to help reduce body fat to build muscle. Once you are in the bulking phase, it may be better to add a high quality protein shake before working out.
If You Feel Faint Or Dizzy Skipping Meals
Firstly it is important to get checked out by your physician to exclude a more serious problem like diabetes, but once you have ruled this out, feeling dizzy without meals is likely a sign of unstable blood sugar which shows you already have a problem with your insulin levels (the hormone that helps cells use sugar) and this can be a sign of insulin resistance which can later increase your risk of cancer and diabetes (3).
If you are underweight, fasting may not be the right choice for you but if like 2 in 3 of the UK population you are overweight or even obese, then fasting is a great way to stabilise your blood sugar and therefore reduce the risk of disease. It can also help weight loss. The dizziness and faintest should pass quickly, but do drink plenty of water.
However, if you are really struggling with skipping breakfast, than build the fast time up gradually by starting at 12 hours and increasing it by an hour each week until you reach 16 hours.
Fasting has been shown to aid blood sugar control, help weight loss and maintenance and lower the risk of disease. For more information watch the video below:
Check it is OK for you – You should not fast if you are under 16, underweight, pregnant or have a medical condition which means you need to eat regularly. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure it is suitable for you.
Don’t forget to drink water whilst fasting – Herbal teas, water and black tea or coffee are fine whilst fasting. Don’t forget to drink during the sixteen hours to help detox and avoid dehydration.
It usually gets easier with time – When you first start fasting you can feel weak, hungry and grumpy without food, and training your blood sugar (and your brain!) to fast can take time. If you are finding it too difficult to fast for 16 hours, start at 12 hours and add an hour on every few days. Soon you skipping breakfast and fasting for 16 hours will be your new ‘normal’ and you will feel better not worse for fasting. If you have any underlying medical condition you should consult your healthcare provider. Do not fast if you are pregnant or if you are on insulin without consulting your medical provider.
Plan a good brunch / lunch – Plan a healthy fat and protein rich meal when breaking the fast so that you are not tempted by sugary / refined carbs snacks when hungry.
Still exercise – Don’t stop exercising while fasting. I found my exercise performance actually improved – rather than getting more tired I found I could exercise longer and harder when fasting (blood flow is not diverted to your digestion!). Exercising while fasting is fine (don’t forget to drink) though you may want to have a post workout snack which can be a bit early after heavy exercise.
Don’t continue if it makes you feel unwell – If you feel fatigued, anxious or dizzy regularly while attempting to fast – and it is not improving – stop and consult a healthcare provider to check there are no reasons you shouldn’t be fasting and to measure your blood sugar and possibly hormone balance.