Breakfast Not All Bad

I stopped eating breakfast when I discovered it made me wake up too early. My Tsinghua students are reading the paper in which I describe my breakfast research. One of them, a freshman, wrote:

When we [entered] Tsinghua University, the first task we should finish was the military training. [New students have a few weeks of military training.] We were asked to be gathered at 8 o’clock, and then we would do a lot of trainings. As the training was hard and tiring, we all had to eat breakfast in the morning. And I remembered in those days, we all slept well and were early-awakening. When the trainings were over, we began our classes. The time was also 8 o’clock, but many times we didn’t have breakfast in order to save time. Gradually, our awakening time become later and later. Even we set an alarm clock, we felt really reluctant to get up. For a long time, we wondered about that but no idea appeared. Now I got the answer, it has something to do with the breakfast. When I told my roommates, they were indeed surprise. Everyone was curious about why, and I was also interested in that. Maybe if the last day you had breakfast, the next morning your body will still have the motivation to call you up to eat breakfast.

Yes, if you eat at a certain time of day, you will tend to be awake that time of day. The effect has been heavily studied in animals, where it is called anticipatory activity.

7 Responses to “Breakfast Not All Bad”

  1. Eric Vlemmix Says:

    I really don’t like to eat (breakfast) in the morning. I’m not hungry at all, and usually I take have, or take, the time to make breakfast.

    What will trigger the effect of waking up in the morning? The intake of fat, the intake of protein, the intake of carbs, a combination, or any of the before mentioned?

    I have troubles getting up in the morning and would like to get a kickstart. Let’s see the responses, and if no clear answer: I’ll start another n=1 experiment!

  2. Gunnar Says:

    Eric, imho the best way to get up, is to sleep as long as you need to, not until a clock alarms you to get up.

    I do it that way as of now, and it works great for me ;-)

  3. Stan Says:

    I stopped eating breakfast 5 years ago (some fruit from time to time) and feel lively and full of energy the whole morning. I wake up at the time I am used to wake up for work the last 14 years. So it is matter of getting used for me. And I am never really hungry until noon.

  4. How the Other Person Sleeps: Seth Roberts on Christine Peterson’s Zeo Research Says:

    [...] eat breakfast until at least three hours after you wake [...]

  5. 19Grumpah42 Says:

    According to my Zeo data I am a poor sleeper, and I’m sure that is a correct assessment. I always eat a significant vegetarian breakfast within an hour of arising. For the last two months, Zeo says: ZQ=48, TotalZ=5.2 hours, REM= 108 min, Wake= 92 min, Times woken=8, Deep Sleep=28min.
    I have great difficulty getting off to sleep, it may take 45 to 190 minutes. I sleep very restlessly, motion IR camera recordings indicate 80-200 limb movements per session. [limb movements often occur during periods flagged by Zeo as REM !].
    I am not very good at the Zeo subjective estimates, but I reckon my “sleep stealer” score must be pretty low because I do not do anything obviously wrong.
    I am fascinated by the “no breakfast for 3 hours after waking” recommendation. How is that thought to work?
    –Grahame

  6. Seth Roberts Says:

    Breakfast causes what’s called “anticipatory activity” — which includes waking up. If you eat breakfast at a certain time you will tend to wake up 3 hours earlier. Anticipatory activity is easy to see in pets, which become active about 3 hours before the time of day they are fed.

  7. 19Grumpah42 Says:

    Thanks for the explanation! I wonder if this underlies the German tradition of the “zweiter Fruhstuck” whereby you have an almost nothing breakfast when you arise, then a full-blown ‘breakfast” with lots of animal protein around 10.00 am? –G