What time should I eat breakfast?
February 13, 2008 1:08 PM   Subscribe

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." "Breakfast improves your metabolism." "Breakfast makes you work, think and feel better." Okay, fine, you've convinced me to eat breakfast. But what time, smart guy? If I wake up at 6:00 AM and eat my first meal at 2:00 PM, that's still technically breakfast, but I'm pretty sure that's not what people are talking about. So, for optimal health benefits, how long after waking up should I eat?
posted by Faint of Butt to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's so much a question of how long after waking, as how long before you start to work, or to do other meaningful activity. The point is to get the food into you and digesting before you engage in high level physical or mental activity.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2008

If your first meal is at 2pm then your body has been suffering since dinner. You'll find that eating regularly spaced and moderately sized meals makes a pretty big difference in how you feel. I used to do the whole 'eat one big meal' thing and I think it messed me up in the long run.

Its also worth noting that if youre not hungry in the morning then you ate too much last night.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:14 PM on February 13, 2008

Within one hour of waking up.
posted by The World Famous at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2008

Well seeing as you can boost your metabolism by eating six meals a day, or once every three hours, then I would imagine that you should eat breakfast not much later than an hour or so after waking. If you get up at 6am and lets say that your last meal was at 8pm the night before and you don't eat until 2pm that day then that's breaking an 18 hour fast rather than breakfast.
posted by ob at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2008

The earlier do it, the earlier you get the benefits. So, basically, ASAP.

My breakfast on workdays is usually a banana and an apple that I eat in the car. I usually chomp into it about 30 minutes after I've gotten up.

On a related note, drinking a glass of water as soon as I get out of bed, even if I don't feel thirsty helps me feel less crappy and more awake. I have no idea what effect water has on your metabolism, though.
posted by ignignokt at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2008

Its also worth noting that if youre not hungry in the morning then you ate too much last night.

YMMV. When I eat too much at night, I am *ravenous* in the morning. If I skip dinner, I'm not hungry when I wake up.

As to your question - I agree with "within one hour of awakening."
posted by tristeza at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2008

Part of morning functioning requires a cup of coffee. Drinking coffee on an empty stomach isn't good so as soon as you are up and after using the bathroom have your bowl of cheerios.
posted by JJ86 at 1:20 PM on February 13, 2008

I'm with tristeza - if I eat too much at night I wake up starving. I think I read something about that in The Hacker's Diet, but can't for the life of me remember the explanation.

I've read that the definition of breakfast is "a meal you eat within one hour of waking." So eating at two when you've been up since six is not eating breakfast, not even technically.

I don't usually like eating right away when I wake up - so I have a banana or a yogurt, and then an instant oatmeal or something at work about an hour or so later (so, two or so hours after I woke).
posted by arcticwoman at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2008

Is there any evidence that having breakfast is actually more healthy then not? I never eat breakfast on an ordinary shedule (I might cook a late breakfast on holiday but then probably not be hungry until dinner) and I've not noticed any ill effects, physically or mentally. My metabolism is fine and in general, I tend to be more alert when I've not eaten. I remember I always used to go into exams hungry, rather then sated for that very reason.

So is it just conventional wisdom or has someone actually proved it? I've heard the advertisers selling cereals to kids, but is that the higher metabolism of children?

I find it amazing that the human body can't do without a fresh intake of food for a mere 16hrs or so, and can't use it's energy stores effectively, when it can live off itself for a month, with no food at all.

Fully agree with you tristeza, I'm more hungry the next day if I've had a large dinner, I suspect the body thinks it's harvest time.
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2008

Static Vagabond: Google it, there is a large body of data showing that eating breakfast -is- important. Try a e-journal database, too, for peer reviewed stuff.
posted by Loto at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2008

I'm going to buck the trend and say breakfast may or may not be important, depending on who you talk to. Some people do better with a number of small, evenly-spaced meals throughout the day. However, there's a method called "Intermittent Fasting" that's favored by a number of health-foodists/athletic-type people where the practitioner doesn't eat for 16-20 hours and consumes their total caloric intake in the remaining 4-8. So you could potentially only eat from 2:00-10:00pm and not eat the rest of the time.

I've tried this myself, and it takes some getting used to (especially fighting the early morning hunger pangs), but provided the food you're eating when you break your fast is healthy and low-glycemic I felt pretty good after a few days. When I was trying it, it was a helluva lot more convenient than trying to lug around a bunch of healthy mini-meals all day.
posted by schroedinger at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Er, that should say "but provided the food you're eating when you break your fast is healthy and low-glycemic you shouldn't have any crazy insulin spikes. I tried this and"
posted by schroedinger at 1:51 PM on February 13, 2008

IMO, less than an hour. Personally, I don't know how one could make it any longer than that. If I got up at 6 AM I'd be ready to eat my arm by 9 AM.
posted by GuyZero at 1:56 PM on February 13, 2008

Eat when you're hungry.
posted by Solomon at 1:59 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Loto-- From reading around, the studies that focus on adult breakfast/health consumption seem to just make the correlation that if you don't eat breakfast, you're more likely to eat bad foods at lunch/snack badly leading to obesity.

But that doesn't actually mean, skipping breakfast is bad, it only means that skipping breakfast is bad if you eat high fat, high cholestrol foods when you do eat. If you skip breakfast, but eat healthily, there doesn't seem to be a downside.

If you're aware of anything that says otherwise, I'd be grateful if you shared. I checked Google and their Scholar search.

Schroedinger -- Interesting, that agrees with how I feel, although I wasn't aware someone had actually given it a name.
posted by Static Vagabond at 2:09 PM on February 13, 2008

I'm a former non-breakfast-eater. Like Static Vagabond, I never noticed any ill effects from not eating breakfast, back when I didn't eat it. Not eating didn't make me feel downright terrible or anything.

Since I started eating breakfast, though (about a year or so ago), I've noticed that I feel better when I eat breakfast. I really can't eat within an hour of waking up, but two or three hours after I wake up I have an apple and some peanut butter or cheese, or I have a couple of slices of whole-grain toast with pb on it.

So, YMMV, as always, but even if you don't feel bad now when you don't eat within a couple hours of waking up, try eating breakfast for a while - you might notice that it makes you feel better. Complex carbs, some protein - it'll give you energy without making you crash the way a doughnut would.
posted by rtha at 3:06 PM on February 13, 2008

The key, for me, to performing consistently over a long day of skiing or hiking is to have a regular, continuous supply of food. Small snacks every hour or so, which includes food of some kind within 30 minutes or an hour of waking up. I find myself the most functional at work when I follow the same schedule, or as close to it as possible (which I've only started doing recently). I get up at 6 and have a glass of juice when I'm making lunch for the day. I'm at my desk with my coffee and an english muffin (PB & honey) around 7:30-7:45.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:11 PM on February 13, 2008

The theory is that the longer you wait to eat, the deeper your your energy stores need to be. IE, your body will need more fat.
posted by gjc at 3:11 PM on February 13, 2008

Part of morning functioning requires a cup of coffee.

Well, not really. If you need coffee to get going in the morning, it means you're not sleeping enough, or well enough, or you simply aren't a morning person. It is better to address the cause of the problem than to band-aid it with coffee.

Seth Roberts (the Shangri-La Diet guy) says that he noticed he slept much better when he didn't eat until noon. Your body habituates itself to your normal eating times, he hypothesizes, so if you eat too soon after awakening, you may start to get hungry while you are still asleep and ruin your last hour or two of Zs. If this sounds like you, it seems like skipping breakfast could actually give you more energy in the morning.
posted by kindall at 3:27 PM on February 13, 2008

For me, eating breakfast isn't so much an issue of getting energy, but keeping my blood sugar constant during the day. When I start early and don't skip meals, I am much less prone to overeat when I do eat. Starting at breakfast sets the tone for the entire day. If I wait too long and eat because I'm really hungry, it's all downhill from there (usually).

Now regarding the original question, I find that I should eat such that I'm not waiting too long between breakfast and lunch. So I usually eat a bit after 7:00, have a snack around 10:00, and lunch at noon. This is spaced out well so that my hunger doesn't get out of hand.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:40 PM on February 13, 2008

10am. Any later than that and you are eating lunch I don't care what time you wake up.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:52 PM on February 13, 2008

if I eat too much at night I wake up starving. I think I read something about that in The Hacker's Diet, but can't for the life of me remember the explanation.

I have no scientific evidence to back this up but I heard that your stomach expands and contracts with the amount of food it's being fed; this works in conjunction with the caveman brain thinking it's in a time of plenty when the stomach expands so it sends a message to crave more food to store up for times when food is scarce.
posted by any major dude at 4:18 PM on February 13, 2008

If you'd stayed in bed, when would you wake up?

This is a somewhat important question. There's something called dawn phenomenon, familiar to diabetics like me. Your body kicks out a load of sugar when it's ready to get breakfast, and I'd guess that if you got breakfast too early or too late relative to that, you'd not be on top form. It's there to give you the energy to get breakfast, and that kind of thing is therefore probably (I'd guess) the best pointer to when you should eat breakfast.

I'd expect, naively and not checking any details, that when you would get up normally, minus your alarm clock is about when you should get breakfast. But if you're up way before then you're going to be running on an empty battery too, and you should get something into you sooner rather than later.

Which, basically, either way, ends up being 'get breakfast sooner rather than later', but with the reminder that your body isn't too bad at telling you when you are hungry, so if you function ok for a couple of hours... well... sounds like it's probably alright. Really, I'd try a few different strategies, and see which makes me feel best, but don't leave yourself hours on end without food.
posted by edd at 4:36 PM on February 13, 2008

n'thing "one hour after wakening" as that's what I've always heard.

"The sooner the better" would be logical as low blood sugar is never good.
posted by oblio_one at 5:53 PM on February 13, 2008

Try to get something small into you by 8am. This can make you feel a lot better during the 9am - 12pm window. When I don't eat breakfast I basically do nothing but stare out my window until lunch time. I'm a big fan of eating a big, dense breakfast. I think it ought to be your biggest meal of the day on most days. Breakfast can get you through a whole day without ever feeling hungry or tired if done right. And since you eat less at lunch and this clears the way for a late dinner with friends.
posted by nixerman at 5:54 PM on February 13, 2008

Small snack of some sort, within 30 minutes of getting out of bed. Then I work out, then I eat a big breakfast- oatmeal, eggs, fruit, yogurt and a shake. I read too many opinions to believe any of them so I did what felt right for me.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:57 PM on February 13, 2008

« Older Is it very difficult to take a vacation somewhere...   |   Which is the best speaker for my bass amp? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.