December 27

Intermittent Fasting for Health and Energy or Skipping Breakfast

Filed under Fasting & Cleansing by Frederic Patenaude

Breakfast is universally recognized by the mainstream to be the most important meal of the day. But is it really?

Type the question “is breakfast important” in a search engine, and you’ll be overwhelmed with results such as:

– Why breakfast is the most important meal of the day
– Why skipping breakfast is harmful
– Common sayings such as “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”

Yet, many healthy people commonly skip breakfast. I recently have been experimenting with intermittent fasting (IM), which involves not eating during a long period of the day, typically 16 to 19 hours, and only eating during the remaining hours.

I find that when I skip breakfast, I have more energy and better concentration, which goes against all commonly held views.

Many raw foodists I know, especially older experienced ones like Dr. John Fielder in Australia, or Dr. Graham, generally only eat two large meals a day and fast in the morning.

Eating a large breakfast is also not a common tradition in many cultures. The French, for example, typically only have coffee and maybe a croissant for breakfast.

About a hundred years ago, a doctor by the name of Edward Dewey wrote an entire book called the “No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting Cure.” This book is now public domain and you can find it easily on the Internet.

Dewey was a big influence to the Natural Hygiene movement of this century. In his book, he describes a simple method that he discovers, and gives dozens of testimonies of people who managed to recover from all sorts of ailment following it.

The method was simple: don’t eat breakfast! Instead, fast in the morning, and eat two meals a day.

Using this method alone, and not changing anything else in the diet, Dewey obtained spectacular results.

How did Dr. Dewey get those results with his patients if we are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?

The reason we are told this is that some studies have shown that people who have breakfast tend to be thinner than people who skip it entirely or only have coffee.

It’s true that many people, especially guys, skip breakfast, barely eat for lunch, and then overeat all night on junk food at home. They feel so bad the next they that they are forced to skip breakfast again, and so on in a never ending vicious circle.

The idea is not so much that skipping breakfast is good or bad for you. The idea is that many people find relief by letting their body enough time to process foods.

You’ve probably heard of the “daylight diet,” where people, instead of skipping breakfast, skip dinner or avoid eating outside of daylight time. Many even set themselves a cut off time to stop eating, like after 3 p.m.

There’s also the Fast-5 Diet, where you only eat in a five hour window during the day, for example, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.. This schedule can be changed around, such as 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

There’s the Warrior Diet, where people don’t eat anything during the day except maybe some fruits and vegetables, and then eat a large meal at night. This diet is supposed to reproduce the pattern of eating our ancestors followed.

Then of course there’s the no-breakfast plan, where you skip breakfast entirely and only eat lunch and dinner, typically a 1 p.m. lunch and a 6 or 7 p.m. dinner.

All of these diets are forms of intermittent fasting, where the body has enough time to fast and bring its blood sugar low enough before you start eating again.

This pattern, because of lower dips in insulin levels, promotes fat burning. If done correctly, the overall caloric intake will be adequate – not too much, not enough. The difference is that the body will start using its own fat sources for calories, instead of always burning the foods you eat.

People who follow any form of intermittent fasting often report a greater sense of energy and well being, and better digestion.

Even modern science supports intermittent fasting. For example, a recent article in the New York Times talked about some research done on fasting and exercise (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-exercising-before-breakfast/)

The researchers found that those who exercised on an empty stomach had the best results, as opposed to those who ate a big breakfast and THEN exercised.

I’ve personally found that whenever I skip a meal or two, I have lots of energy. I can easily spend the entire day running errands, even exercising and not thinking about food until about 3 or 4 p.m., when hunger sets in.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be a lifestyle. For some people, the best pattern is to occasionally skip breakfast (or dinner), or even follow a quick 24-hour fast once in a while. You don’t have to do it everyday, although many people do with great success.

Some tips:

– Typically, athletes and people needing to gain some weight should not skip breakfast or dinner. Instead, they should eat at least three meals a day to get the calories they need.

– Some health conditions are not compatible with intermittent fasting. Talk to your doctor.

– Whether you skip breakfast or dinner is up to you.

– You can incorporate intermittent fasting with any diet. However, some diets are low in calories, such as the raw food diet. Therefore, you should master those diets first and learn to get enough calories before you attempt to try intermittent fasting. Please don’t try this if you are inexperienced with a 100% raw food diet.

– Typically, the older you are and the more body fat you have, the more you can benefit from intermittent fasting. Younger, active people should still eat enough for their needs.

– Intermittent fasting is not an excuse for overeating. The pattern should not be “overeat and purge.” Instead, you give your body more time to digest and fast, and then eat normal meals.

What is your experience with intermittent fasting? Let me know below!

26 Responses to “Intermittent Fasting for Health and Energy or Skipping Breakfast”

  1. While I have been doing occasional sort fasting (<24H) I will definitely not recommend skipping breakfast for active males on a low fat vegan diet… To get enough calories you need more then two meals a day. Else you need to get in +1500 calories per meal and good luck with that. My 2 litre banana smoothie barely reaches that limit. I also have to be careful when I do skip breakfast, since it generates graving later in the evening and eating before sleeping results in restless sleep patterns. Even when following the natural hygiene guideline of only eating when true hunger kicks in. I find that eating fruits in the morning even when not really hunger saves me troubles later that day and results in a more healthy eating habit. (no cravings, results in less fatty foods). As a side node, I think it is more healthier to start the day with some exercises to get your complete body activated. (try making time for it, it's hard)

  2. Elizabeth DeJager says:

    When I worked I always went to work with plenty of water and no food on Mondays. Did this for years. Then I retired and was too close to the kitchen. I like fasting. It gives you plenty of energy.

  3. Howard Veit says:

    For the past few months, I have been experimenting (an experiment of one) with intermittent fasting. The book Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon motivated me to give fasting a try.

    Thus far I have been pleased with the results. Pilon recommends doing 24 hour fasts once or twice per week in order to reduce the number of calories eaten per week. I do not do this every week, but the few weeks I have tried one 24 hour fast, I have felt good and have had high energy levels. I have fallen into a pattern of ‘fasting’ for about 14 hours every day. I stop eating by 8 pm each night and don’t eat again until 10 am to noon the next day. I then eat a moderate sized meal, maybe lightly snack in the afternoon, eat a normal, rather large dinner, and then start the cycle again. It is a routine that I can rather easily follow, my energy levels are high.

    I believe intermittent fasting is a good way to give your digestive system a much needed rest, control weight and reduce body fat. I haven’t done this for a long enough period to determine the longer term results. I am a whole foods plant-based vegan.

  4. Lin says:

    Hi Fred
    Interesting article!
    I’m just wondering if you meant to say ‘just enough’, instead of ‘not enough’ in the sentence below?
    If done correctly, the overall caloric intake will be adequate – not too much, not enough.
    Also, you mentioned some diets being low in calories, such as the raw diet, but you didn’t mention that the 80/10/10 diet is usually high calorie, low fat, although it may take some time to learn how to eat enough calories.
    Thanks for all your inspiration and info.
    Best wishes
    Lin
    Lin

  5. Swayze says:

    I think intermittent fasting is fabulous and a great way to lose weight quickly without sacrificing health. Plus, it’s much easier than just cutting calories. Most people can skip breakfast without any problem. Of course, there are other ways to do IF, like eating normally for 6 days a week and then fasting one day a week (explained in Eat Stop Eat),

    Swayze

  6. Chris Beauchamp says:

    I do eat a rather large breakfast, a smaller lunch and if needed a very small dinner – – but will not eat after 7 pm.
    I work in the city so have the commuting issue to deal with. I’m all raw vegan and prepare all my food for the day in the morning before I leave – – so Breakfast will be granola with almond milk and fresh fruit or a green smoothie or something like that. Lunch is a green salad or veggie burger or some such. . dinner may be a cup of tea (especially in the winter when its cold out) and perhaps my leftovers from lunch if I didn’t finish it, or a veggie wrap – – or maybe just a spoonful of tahini – – only if I need it. I try to rest my digestion after 7 pm. I don’t get home until 7 pm from work so this can present a problem if friends on rare occasions want to meet for dinner after. None of my friends are raw or vegan. On those occasions I will meet them. . but I will choose the restaurant – – a place I know I can get something raw. Still, I can tell the difference when I do that. . and don’t feel quite as crisp and clear the next day.
    I do not every allow cheater days. . so this is my pattern 7 days a week, 365 days a year – – no eating after 7 pm. It works for me.

  7. Chris Beauchamp says:

    Should be “I do not ever allow cheater days” – – ever instead of every. .

  8. Courtney says:

    I love that you have now entered into the arena of intermittent fasting (IF).

    I do a combination of Fast-5 and the daylight diet. That is, I try to eat all my calories in a 6-hour window, starting in the morning and finishing by 3 pm. I’ve had absolutely terrific results with it.

    My personal experience is that the stronger versions of intermittent fasting (like Fast 5) are as powerful for health, detox, and weight loss as raw foods.

  9. yamina says:

    “… some studies have shown that people who have breakfast tend to be thinner than people who skip it entirely or only have coffee…”
    “… Typically, athletes and people needing to gain some weight should not skip breakfast or dinner…”
    Maybe, I have not understood rightly, but isn’t there what is called a contradiction ?
    Being thin and worried about not losing weight, je suis comme l’âne de Buridan partagé entre la faim et la soif et qui, placé devant un seau d’avoine et un seau d’eau, et ne pouvant se décider – l’une et l’autre étant aussi fortes – est mort sur place !

  10. Elisheva says:

    Occasional intermitted fasting can be great for some people. On a regular basis we have to be careful, when our bloodsugar drops, glycogen gets released from the liver to keep our bloodsugar levels even. On an on going basis we’ll loose weight, but by breaking down muscle & not fat – it’s much easier for the body to break down muscle. Better to eat small frequent meals to prevent bloodsugar fluctuations.

  11. John Fielder says:

    As one of the people mentioned in Frederic’s article, I would like to draw attention to what I consider a common error, or misconception with regards to food intake and health.
    Many seem to collate, calories or kilajoules with our daily requirements. To my way of thinking this is an oxymoron, as these terms relate to heat out-put, and not to nutritional value. We can access calories and kilajoules from even the worst of foods.
    If our intake of food is highly nutritious, that is it has been grown under optimal conditions, in highly fertile well mineralised soil,which provides all the necessary nutrients for the maintenance of health and well-being, the calorific or kilajoule factor may be low,much lower in fact than is considered possible to maintain health and well-being, yet at the same time provide more nutition, than a food grown conventionally and at the same time provide health and well-being.
    So what I am saying is, to maintain health and well-being we need to concentrate on accessing foods that have a high nutrional value and less on calories and kilajoules. In fact grow as much of our own food as is possible.
    The fact is that there are many factors in health and well-being and food is only one of them. A very important one – yes. But still only one. And to concentrate exclusivley on food, to the exclusion of all else, is to be one-sided with its deletorious effects.

  12. PamV says:

    This article is great. Recently I have been eating my first meal of the day later and later, especially on weekends. At times I would force myself to eat around 1 or 2 pm because I was worried that skipping meals was damaging my health. What a relief it is to know that I am probably doing my body good.
    Thanks

  13. Nadya Act says:

    Thanks for the article. You have a good point. I love fasting and am very aware of it’s miraculous benefits. I also did a 15day water fast couple years ago. and I do support the idea of regular 24 hour fasting once a week or as yogi’s recommend for health and spiritual reasons twice a month on Ekadashi days.
    The only question to you (anybody?) – what is your input on following the biorhythms and considering having meals in the morning when your stomach meridian is most active (which is from 7-9 am)?

  14. Swayze says:

    @Elisheva It definitely isn’t easier for the body to break down muscle. When you stop eating, your body uses up your fat stores (along with a very small percentage of your muscles). This allows you to survive during times of famine without catabolizing your own vital organs.

    Swayze

  15. Sharon says:

    Hi,
    Great article. This is not the first time people are coming around to realizing that a 2 meal a day program is best. If you’re religious, you will realize that in the wilderness, God provided the children of Israel with 2 meals a day, not 3. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, and Ellen G. White who is noted for many of her health writings (supporting vegetarianism and raw foods) supported a 2 meal a day program. I personally thrive by exercising in the morning (walking fast uphill) and eating “breakfast” around 10 a.m. Then I have a second meal around 3 p.m. and that’s it. I’m 52 years old, and I have come to realize that the older I get, the less I need to eat. A 2 meal a day program is more than adequate. (I also like to fast on new moons and often on full moons. I read several places that it is beneficial. I also do a 10 day water fast about 3 times a year and always feel great during that.) It is such a blessing to conquer our appetites rather than have them conquer us!

  16. Mike L says:

    I don’t think this is a good idea for adult diabetics.

    Mike

  17. Instead of fasting,we may form habit of eaing satwik vegetarian food slightly less than stomach full in calm surroundings.

  18. fruityfruitfritz says:

    Thank you Fred . another wonderful post. Kevin Gianni just giv you the best blogger of the year in his health awards for deep and thoughful articles. thats fully loveful.

  19. One of the longest-lived Australian gentlemen died recently, at the ripe old age of one hundred and ten; his advice for a long & healthy life had been:
    to eat only two meals, and not have late evening dinners!
    This coincides with recent findings about the importance of melatonin, namely, a good dark night’s sleep, and a not- too-stressed-out digestive system for an overnight recharge of our immune system, which, after all, is mostly in our gut, anyway. Makes sense, does’nt it.

    The ancient Romans had their main meal in mid-afternoon- if they could afford it.
    We love weekends with fruit breakfast in bed, raw muesli by noon,
    and the main multicolor salad meal in mid afternoon, preferably in the open air.
    A green banana smoothie is the best sundowner!
    It’s also part of women’s liberation: One third less meals to be served!
    this leaves the evening free for more creative things….
    Must be deeply rooted in our evolutionary past I think!

  20. Thanks very much for the information.

  21. Chris Beauchamp says:

    To John Fielder: I would agree with you. . as would any ‘truly Conscious’ person. One look at the majority of people where I live would tell you that about 98% of those people are ‘Unconscious’ and beyond obese. Yes, food is only one aspect, but an important aspect that has been neglected far too long. Most of the people I see are sleepwalking thru their lives – – slogging down the most disgusting slop. . . . doesn’t even qualify as food to me. Many of these are very nice people indeed.. but unconscious. . not realizing that food fuels our precious body. Scary, but many are Teachers and Nurses.. . yikes. Thank you, I’ll take care of myself. . and make sure I have proper food to nourish my body. After arising each day, proper food prep is my first thought . . because no one else will provide my needs for me.. after which I can deal with all other things. . Life is more magical thru the eyes of a raw foodist. Unless someone is one, they have no idea the magnitude of that statement.

  22. Although I appreciate the article I completely disagree with the meal that should be skipped. I am a practitioner that creates change in the body with Cosmetic Acupuncture. From a traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint the meridians that are most active in the morning from the hours of 5a to 11a happen to be the Large Intestine, Stomach and Spleen in that order. 5a to 7a the Large Intestine reabsorbs any water and at the same time continues motility which includes waste evacuation. The stomach and spleen work to increase the digestion of the body. If any meal should be skipped it should be dinner or in some parts of the US it’s known as supper. According to TCM the meridians and therefore organs that are most active are the Bladder, Kidney and Pericardium during the time when dinner/supper is usually consumed. None of which are digestive organs or meridians. I encourage you to delve into Tradition Chinese Medicine. It’s been around for 5 to 7 thousands years. The diets that you write about have not come close to being around this long. Further, if an individual has a feeling of more energy due to skipping breakfast they most likely have a lethargic Large Intestine, Stomach or Spleen all of which can be remedied by food modifications and acupuncture. Hope this information is helpful.

  23. Chris Beauchamp says:

    Dr. Richard: I agree with you. . if any meal should be skipped – – it should be dinner. That said, there appears to be a belief among some raw fooders that we don’t have to eat a lot of food, at all. Then I see people giving up because they cannot stick with it. I believe you need to eat the volume of food you need to eat. . and each person can determine that for his or her own self. .

    Personally, I’m vegan 27 years. . and raw for about 6 years.. . .and I eat what I need. I do not starve myself. I’ve never felt better in my life.

    Years ago when I was very sick I tried accupuncture.. Can’t say if it did or did not help. . it was a looooooooong time ago, don’t remember – – but I clearly remember that changing my diet from sad to vegan and vegan to raw – – especially the vegan to raw changed my life tremendously. I personally would never go back, even to largely cooked, which many purport today. They just haven’t discovered the magnificence yet.

    It helps to have years of experience behind myself. . whille others need to find their own way. Still, open forums such as this are a blessing. There was little information when I began. . very difficult to find. . not readily available.

    Not so hard today to make these much needed changes. Information is everwhere. Much of it I don’t necessarily agree with. . still it may work for some – – as what I do works for me. .All we can do is try.

  24. Marina says:

    This article and all the posts are so inspirational! Thanks guys!!!

  25. Elisheva says:

    @Swayze, Once your glycogen storage is depleted, your liver and kidneys begin to break down fat tissue for a supply of fatty acids. Your brain and central nervous system, however, cannot use long-chain fatty acids as a source of energy because these types of fat cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Though your brain can use medium-chain fatty acids, this type of energy does not suffice for proper brain functioning in the long run. So, during the initial phases of fasting, your body breaks down muscle tissue to produce glucose as an energy source for your brain.

  26. Swayze says:

    @ Elisheva. Perhaps, but the amount of muscle used is very small. In fact, several studies have shown that 72 hours of fasting did not result in muscle breakdown, nor did it slow down muscle protein sysnthesis

    Even severe calorie restriction—we’re talking 800 calories a day for several weeks!—can result in muscle maintenance as long as some sort of strength training is done:

    Skipping breakfast or even fasting 24 hours once per week will not result in muscle loss as long as some form of resistance training is followed consistently. It is even possible to gain muscle mass and strength on such a plan.

    Swayze

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