Effect of Breakfast Omission on Energy Intake and Evening Exercise Performance

David J. Clayton; Asya Barutcu; Claire Machin; David J. Stensel; Lewis J. James


Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015;47(12):2645-2652. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction: Breakfast omission may reduce daily energy intake. Exercising fasted impairs performance compared with exercising after breakfast, but the effect breakfast omission has on evening exercise performance is unknown. This study assessed the effect of omitting breakfast on evening exercise performance and within-day energy intake.

Methods: Ten male, habitual breakfast eaters completed two trials in a randomized, counterbalanced order. Subjects arrived at the laboratory in an overnight-fasted state and either consumed or omitted a 733 ± 46 kcal (3095 ± 195 kJ) breakfast. Ad libitum energy intake was assessed at 4.5 h (lunch) and 11 h (dinner). At 9 h, subjects completed a 30-min cycling exercise at approximately 60% V̇O2peak, followed by a 30-min maximal cycling performance test. Food was not permitted for subjects once they left the laboratory after dinner until 0800 h the following morning. Acylated ghrelin, GLP-1(7–36), glucose, and insulin were assessed at 0, 4.5, and 9 h. Subjective appetite sensations were recorded throughout.

Results: Energy intake was 199 ± 151 kcal greater at lunch (P < 0.01) after breakfast omission compared with that after breakfast consumption and tended to be greater at dinner after consuming breakfast (P = 0.052). Consequently, total ad libitum energy intake was similar between trials (P = 0.196), with 24-h energy intake 19% ± 5% greater after consuming breakfast (P < 0.001). Total work completed during the exercise performance test was 4.5% greater after breakfast (314 ± 53 vs 300 ± 56 kJ; P < 0.05). Insulin was greater during breakfast consumption at 4.5 h (P < 0.05), with no other interaction effect for hormone concentrations.

Conclusions: Breakfast omission might be an effective means of reducing daily energy intake but may impair performance later that day, even after consuming lunch.


Maintenance of a stable body weight is achieved through careful management of energy balance, with weight gain occurring because of chronic surplus of energy intake above energy expenditure. Refraining from eating at a prescribed meal time will inevitably create an energy deficit, and breakfast omission (BO) is a frequently cited method of reducing energy intake.[40] Regular breakfast consumption (BC) has been recommended as part of a "healthy balanced diet",[24] and individuals who regularly consume breakfast tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI)[3] and reduced prevalence of several chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes.[26]

Traditionally, recommendations for regular BC have been based on correlation studies that associate lower BMI with regular BC.[3] However, these findings do not infer causality, as individuals who regularly consume breakfast have often been shown to exhibit healthy lifestyle factors, such as increased physical activity[6] and improved dietary profiles.[14] Therefore, it is difficult to elucidate whether improved weight control is mediated by BC per se.

Acute intervention studies have generally found that the omission of breakfast induces increased feelings of hunger over the morning, leading to greater energy intake in the first meal after BO.[19,22] However, energy intake over the course of the day rarely results in complete compensation for the energy omitted at breakfast, consequently reducing daily energy intake.[2,19,22,25,30] However, this is not a universal finding, as Astbury et al.[1] has found that energy omitted at breakfast was fully compensated for at an ad libitum lunch meal and Farshchi et al.[11] found energy intake to be greater after BO compared with that after BC. Although these studies investigated a similar topic, one of them used a liquid preload between breakfast and lunch to determine the hormonal response to BO[1] and the other balanced energy intake by providing cereal and milk at either 0700 or 1200 h, representing BC and omission, respectively.[11] These differences in design may explain the contradictory findings in these studies.

Lifestyle interventions that combine both dietary restriction and exercise have been shown to be more effective for long-term sustainable weight loss and maintenance.[12] Therefore, it is important to consider the effect that a given dietary intervention has on physical activity and the ability to perform exercise because this will influence the magnitude of energy deficit that can be achieved. Recently, it was reported that daily energy intake was reduced by approximately 2250 kJ during a 6-wk period of BO; however, this deficit was offset by concomitant decreases in habitual energy expenditure of approximately 1850 kJ.[2] The inclusion of structured exercise during periods of energy restriction may have the potential to somewhat offset this decline in habitual energy expenditure if exercise performance and/or adherence is not affected as a result of BO.

A working lifestyle may restrict time for exercise to early mornings or evenings. Evening exercise classes have been associated with increased alertness, enthusiasm, and reduced effort than morning classes,[23] suggesting that evening exercise may be the more acceptable option and may improve long-term adherence to an exercise program. Furthermore, some athletes have been reported to compete or train without consumption of breakfast[34] and it is important to consider what the effects of BO are for individuals aiming to achieve peak exercise performance. Although it is well established that exercise performance is compromised in the fasted compared with that in the postprandial state,[32,33] no studies have attempted to determine whether exercise performed later in the day is affected by previous omission of breakfast.

Therefore, the aim of this investigation was to examine the effect of BO/BC on subsequent energy intake and evening exercise performance 4 h after provision of an ad libitum lunch. We hypothesized that total 24-h energy intake (including breakfast) would be reduced by BO and that exercise performance would not be different between trials.