You slept through breakfast, worked through lunch, or arrived home so sleepy that you headed straight to bed. Will there be consequences? While your body’s exact reaction to a missed meal will depend on your age, health, and diet, the act of skipping can jump-start a range of physiological processes—both good and bad.
You can lose weight, BUT there is a catch.
Despite everything you’ve heard about “calories in, calories out,” the links between meal skipping and losing weight are tricky. Some studies suggests you’ll drop bad weight in the short term but you’ll eventually gain back dangerous belly fat. More studies suggest the weight you lose may come from muscle, not fat, which is hardly ideal. There are some potentially great reasons to skip meals, but losing weight is probably not one of them.
You may skip your exercise
Though a morning workout sans food could have fat-burning benefits; the equation changes later in the day. Combine the low blood sugar that follows a skipped meal with the mental and physical demands of work, parenting, and your other daily obligations, and you may find it nearly impossible to exercise after skipping a meal.
Most likely catch-up with junk food
A famous research found that meal-skippers grab 31% more junk food at the grocery store when shopping hungry, compared with when they had a snack beforehand. Shoppers who hit the aisles during the high-hunger hours between 4 PM and 7 PM also selected a larger percentage of high-calorie options. All this suggests your body may crave crappier food if you skip meals.
Even if you push through your fatigue and hit the gym or trail, skipping a meal can leave you feeling terrible midway through your session. Athletes call it “bonking,” and it occurs when low blood sugar saps your muscles and mind of the energy they require to make it through that next mile or rep.
Calms down any inflammation
From arthritis to cancer to heart disease, many major health conditions stem from damage caused by chronic inflammation. Periods of fasting appear to trigger damage-repairing adaptations in your cells. While fasting comes in all shapes and sizes, some inflammation-lowering health perks could accrue after forgoing just one meal
While skipping a meal here and there, sometimes referred to as “Intermittent Fasting”, can be beneficial harnessing those benefits requires careful planning. Otherwise, you risk nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, poor mental function, and other health concerns. If you’re considering fasting on a regular basis, consult with a registered dietitian or other nutrition pro to ensure you’re getting enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids in your meals and snacks.
Increase risk of some diseases
If you routinely skip breakfast, you may be headed for trouble. One study found out that woman who skipped breakfast regularly had a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Another study showed that men are linked going without a morning meal to heart disease. Our bodies need to be fed food regularly in order to maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin, and normal blood pressure. As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not ‘breakfast’ in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure problems.
Most probably, you’ll get sick
After exercise, especially long and intense sessions, spikes in cortisol temporarily suppress your immune system. Consuming carbohydrates during and right after training helps you close that window of immunosuppression. The longer you put off refueling, the greater your risk of headaches, fatigue, extreme hunger, and even infection. On the flip side, eating a meal or snack with protein and carbs within 2 hours of exercise replenishes your body’s energy stores and provides the raw material to build new muscle.