Slept in? Worked through your lunch break (again) and can’t remember the last meal you had? Yep, same here.
Skipping meals can be easy given the busy lifestyles we lead, but whatever reason, research and experts can agree that how often you skip meals and what you eat afterwards can influence your body both physically and mentally. So, let’s look at why it’s a good idea to kick that habit.
Here are 4 things that can happen when you skip meals
1. Your Metabolism Can Change
When we regularly skip meals and go into an energy deficit, our body’s metabolism and energy in to energy out ratio adapts. This change is completely normal and known as adaptive thermogenesis or in simple terms: ‘starvation mode’. It’s a response where our bodies use a combination of hormones, neurotransmitters, proteins and chemicals to conserve and regulate how many kilojoules are burned based on what is consumed. i.e. our metabolism slows down (argh!) but allows our body to continue functioning as normally as possible without compromising on our current state.
One thing to note is that starvation mode or skipping meals requires a prolonged energy deficit and doesn’t kick in just after one skipped meal. Skipping breakfast or dinner on single occasions can however still lead us into a state of stress, increasing adrenergic activity and increasing energy expenditure (or in other words, releasing cortisol and other stress hormones, breakdown of fats and energy used). A prolonged fast (e.g. skipping breakfast and then having a super late lunch) can also increase inflammatory responses, which can potentially lead to impaired insulin sensitivity and other metabolic impairments. To put it simply, we may require more insulin to regulate our blood glucose levels. This also means that more insulin leads to more food consumption, thus, skipping meals could drive you to eat more.
2. You are more likely to be hungry, and binge later in the day
It is regularly said that by skipping breakfast you’ll overcompensate with a bigger meal than you would normally have later in the day.
This study published in Metabolism found that meals skipped during the day resulted in risky metabolic changes including elevated fasting glucose and delayed insulin responses that made cravings for discretionary foods more prominent (i.e. we have a stronger desire to eat those sugary ‘sometimes’ treats we love so much). Ghrelin levels (the ‘hunger hormone’) were also higher in subjects when breakfast was skipped in the morning and in the evenings when dinners were skipped. Interestingly these hunger pangs were not found in lean healthy males but were in overweight women people who regularly ate breakfast suggesting that habitual breakfast eaters may see the negative effects of skipping meals more than those who occasionally do not eat skip breakfast.
One thing to point out is that while it may be true that hunger levels increase when you skip a meal, other researchers have suggested that you won’t necessarily overcompensate (over-eat) at your next meal but it could be because you’re more aware of it. In fact, one study found no associated increase in the amount of food consumed and a net deficit of 400kcal a day with those who skipped breaksbreak. More studies are necessary forin this area as no causal link between breakfast skipping and negative health consequences hashave been described yet.
3. You are more likely to get 'Hangry'
Ever skipped a meal and felt your brain go to mush and absolutely everything and anything is irritating? Congratulations, you’ve hit hangry o’clock.
This is because skipping meals has also been associated with lower motivation and energy levels, and impaired cognitive function. W, and when it comes to the kids studies have shown that skipping meals can lead to lower school attendance. Higher stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline may also be wreaking havoc on your current state which means that you’re less cool, calm and collected, and more hot, annoyed & all over the place.
4. Your long term health may be affected
It may not happen during the time that you skip your meal but regularly skipping meals has been linked to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and higher blood pressure. Research into this area again is scarce so more work needs to be done to highlight a direct causative link.
Recommended way to avoid skipping meals
Skipping meals happens to everyone and may not be not as detrimental if within a controlled dietary plan. However, when fasts becomes a habit and causes compensatory binging, harmful changes to your metabolism can occur. Our tip? Try meal planning ahead of time so you have everything you need for your week ahead. It’s a lot harder to skip a meal when you’ve got it ready to go or have a plan in place and the ingredients to make it. If you’re pushed for time, some Dineamic meals in the freezer, or fridge at work can be a real-life saver. That way you’ve got something good to reach for even in a pinch.