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Which Meal is Best to Skip for Weight Loss? Intermittent Fasting Perspective

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Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Do you have to skip meals to lose weight with intermittent fasting? If so, which meal is the best to skip for weight loss? Let’s find out.

Table of Contents

Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity as a weight loss strategy, and it involves alternating periods of fasting with periods of eating. 

The basis of weight loss by intermittent fasting lies in achieving a caloric deficit, an essential component of weight loss. Fasting also initiates ketosis—in which your body burns fat instead of sugars—thus speeding up weight loss. 

Various IF programs exist based on the frequency and duration of the fasting periods, and these include time-restricted eating (such as 12:12 and 16:8), alternate-day fasting, and periodic fasting (such as the 5:2 method) [1]

You might have to skip a meal or two to comply with your fasting schedule. In such a case, which meal is best to skip for weight loss? Is there a scientific basis for this? In today’s post, we will answer all these questions for you.

Do You Have To Skip Meals On Intermittent Fasting?

Before diving deep into the topic, let’s answer an important question: is it necessary to skip meals on intermittent fasting? The answer depends on the type of fasting you are following and your lifestyle. 

Intermittent fasting requires you to fast for a set period of hours, and these hours can vary between 12-40, depending on your IF program [1]

When following a more relaxed fast, such as 12:12 or 14:10, you will have time to fit three meals within the eating window. On the other hand, if you are practicing an extended form of fasting, such as 16:8 or 18:6, you may only have room for two meals and maybe one snack in between. 

Research confirms that to reap the fat loss benefits of intermittent fasting, you must extend your fast beyond 16 hours [2]. Given the limited eating window, you may have to skip at least one meal to achieve weight loss through intermittent fasting effectively. 

On the other hand, studies suggest that skipping meals reduces your overall daily energy intake between 252 – 350 calories [3]. This helps with your total daily energy expenditure, helping weight loss [4]

Furthermore, the timing of your meals can impact your metabolism, thus determining your weight loss efficacy [4]

Which Meal Is Best To Skip For Weight Loss: Breakfast, Lunch, Or Dinner?

Intermittent fasting guidelines do not specify which meal you should skip to lose weight. The only requirement is that you eat within a particular window, which you can arrange in a way that best suits your lifestyle. 

But what does science say? Which meal is best to skip for weight loss? 

There’s a stack of scientific studies that explore the potential benefits of skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and in this section, we’ll bring you the verdict. 

Skipping Breakfast

Skipping breakfast is a common practice for those who follow the 16:8 or 18:6 IF methods. 

Some people find it easy to fast until noon and break their fast with lunch. While research indicates that not eating breakfast can bring about fat oxidation, there can also be potential downsides [5]

However, there is mixed evidence regarding skipping breakfast and weight loss. Some research studies report that it effectively reduces energy intake, leading to weight loss [6]

On the other hand, some studies point out that skipping breakfast increases the risk of being overweight and obese [7]. The underlying argument is that skipping breakfast leads to increased appetite and decreased satiety during the day, thus triggering overeating later in the day. 

Skipping Lunch

Although it’s more common to skip breakfast or dinner, some people prefer to fast during the mid-day and skip lunch. There are not a lot of scientific studies on skipping lunch, but one research study revealed that skipping lunch and breakfast lowered total diet quality more than skipping dinner did [3]

Skipping Dinner

Some individuals skip dinner, having breakfast and lunch as their main meals. 

Most studies support this idea, suggesting that it effectively reduces calorie intake without adversely affecting weight, but a couple of studies disagree [8]

Is It Healthier To Skip Dinner Rather Than Breakfast?

So, what is the best meal to skip: breakfast or dinner?

When comparing fasting in the night vs morning, evidence gravitates toward skipping dinner rather than breakfast.

While some research studies agree that you can lose weight when skipping breakfast, there can be health risks such as elevated cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease [9][10]

Research also implies that eating most of your calories early in the day increases your chances of weight loss than eating them at night [4].  One study found that those who ate breakfast burned more energy during the day than those who fasted during the morning  [11]

Eating breakfast has also been proven necessary for mental clarity and cognitive performance [10], as well as for controlled appetite and increased satiety throughout the day [7]

Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, one study showed that your overall diet quality is lower when you miss breakfast or lunch than when you miss dinner [3]. This study stressed that this subpar diet quality might damage your health if this keeps happening regularly. 

Bottom line

Although it’s not mandatory to skip meals while you’re doing IF, you may have to skip at least one meal if you want to achieve effective weight loss through intermittent fasting. This is especially true if you’re following a fasting method with a smaller eating window.

So, is it better to skip breakfast or dinner? Science supports skipping dinner over skipping breakfast, but in a practical sense, it all depends on your preference and what works best for you.

Maintaining a caloric deficit is most important for weight loss, but it’s equally important to eat meals with high nutritional quality to preserve your health. 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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