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Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

We’ve all heard it said: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While many of us agree that breakfast is the most delicious meal of the day (pancakes and bacon for dinner, anyone?) we might not know the health and wellness benefits from eating a hearty morning meal.

Breakfast in the States is unique and varied, from rich hollandaise-dripping eggs, Super Food smoothies, bacon-wrapped everything, and classics like biscuits and gravy (fresh or freeze dried!). 

breakfast skillet with eggs and pancakes

Americans tend to have strong opinions on breakfast, either “Nah, I’m more of a lunch person,” or “Heck yeah! Feed me, Seymour!” In cities across the country, lines reach around the block for a seat at the popular weekend brunch table. But when it comes to making the food ourselves on a day-to-day basis, we’re a little behind the curve.

And it’s not just America. Studies have found that many Western countries forgo their morning bowl of Cheerios for a quick cup of coffee and nothing more, which could have significant effects on long-term health.

Metabolism (briefly) explained

What is this word we hear thrown about by health gurus, Instagram influencers, and medical doctors? Metabolism is the process by which the food and drink you consume combines with oxygen to create energy, which your body then uses for … everything. At a base level, our bodies are constantly undergoing this biochemical process without any active help on our part. This non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) can burn 100-800 calories on a daily basis, and despite popular belief, is relatively standard from one person to the next (with exceptions for metabolism-disrupting conditions like Cushings or Hyperthyroid).

However, other factors affect metabolism like age, body composition, biological sex, and each body’s unique ability to digest and process food. Since it’s a biochemical process, bodies know how to self-regulate, and turn calories into energy.

asparagus pancetta

Metabolism and How it Relates to Breakfast

Since our bodies need energy for every activity we participate in (even involuntary ones, like breathing), it’s important to fuel our bodies for said activities. This is clear with high-volume activities like hiking and backpacking. 

According to Rush, an academic health system, “When you eat breakfast you’re telling your body that there are plenty of calories to be had for the day. When you skip breakfast the message your body gets is that it needs to conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.” So instead of turning those calories into fuel, your body acts like a bear in hibernation and aims to save as many calories as possible, in turn making you feel lethargic and, chances are, hangry.

Long-term health results are a mixed bag of opinions. Some researchers will say there is little to no impact from foregoing first meal, while others will argue there is an increase in BMI, type II diabetes, and heart disease. The wide variety of variables (a person’s medical history, fitness level, age, etc.) makes consensus difficult to achieve.

Breakfast Skillet and Jetboil with Motorcycle in background

What We Do Know

Bodies have basic needs of food and water. And giving our bodies those two things will help maintain biological processes so we remain healthy and happy.

When embarking on a thru-hike, or spending a weekend bushcrafting in the backcountry, starting the day with breakfast (not just black coffee!) gives our bodies what they need to function at their best.

Mountain House breakfast dishes like Biscuits and GravyBreakfast Skillet and Scrambled Eggs and Bacon are a quick and easy way to fuel up before hitting the trail. We know what it’s like to be hangry. Which is why we’re staunchly on Team Breakfast (but also, yes, coffee please).