What Happens to Your Body When You Skip Meals?
Are you trying out intermittent fasting? Or, you were barely awake through breakfast, had meetings during lunch; after work, you went to the gym and arrived home after spending much time in the traffic. You opened the door and crashed out in the sofa. Do these scenarios sound familiar to you? While your body’s reaction to a skipped meal depends a lot on your health, diet, age,and activity level, skipping a meal can have consequences—both good and bad. Here, experts explain exactly what happens to your body when you miss a meal.
1. You’ll lose weight, but there’s a catch…
Of course, one of the obvious effects of consistently skipping meals is fat loss “Skipping meals, the proper way, also called intermittent fasting can have incredible health benefits, like weight loss,” explains Brooke Alpert, RD, and author of The Diet Detox. “But there is a right and wrong way to do it. If you are skipping meals to restrict or punish yourself, that is an unhealthy choice to be making.” Alpert says that people who skip meals only to indulge later on in the day, or who get so hungry they end up overeating, aren’t going to see significant weight loss results—if any. The Journal of Nutrition confirms that the optimal way to break your meals up during the day is to have a large breakfast, an average lunch about five to six hours later, and a long overnight fast.
2. You may overeat
A 2018 study from the International Journal of Obesity found that stress adds to hunger levels and activates the secretion of the hunger hormone – Ghrelin, which in turn can cause overeating and binge eating. So if skipping meals causes you to then head over to pantry and grab all the sugary snacks you can find, you won’t reap any benefits from the intermittent fasting. “Intermittent fasting is not for everyone,” Alpert explains.
3. You’ll feel less bloated
One positive effect of skipping meals can have is feeling less bloated . “Intermittent fasting gives your digestive system time to process the food that’s already in your body,” she says. Studies have shown that during periods of fasting, individuals exhibited less inflammation, which can help fight disease in the long run. Skipping meals leads to lower body weight and loss of visceral abdominal fat that causes inflammation. In general, skipping meals supports a healthy level of inflammatory markers in the body.
4. You may get tired.
“This is due to the drop in blood glucose,” Largeman-Roth explains“When we don’t feed our brains, this can signal to the body that it’s time to shut things down.” This is why if you’re going to skip meals or practice intermittent fasting, you have to make sure you’re doing it properly on a set schedule and when you do eat, you’re filling up on foods that will sustain you throughout the fasting periods.
5. You may not be in the best mood
When you skip meals consistently your blood sugar drops, which can greatly affect your disposition. If you’ve ever been “hangry” then you definitely know the feeling. “Glucose is the number one fuel for our brains so when we don’t have it, it can put us in a very bad mood,” Largeman-Roth says. That’s why if you are planning to skip meals and end up feeling hangry, don’t grab the first snack you find, unless it’s something healthy. This is when people tend to overeat and binge on sugar because your body starts to crave it.
6. Your brain may get a boost
Researchers found that a diet that includes intermittent fasting may actually improve your memoy capabilities. The was due the increase in neurogenesis levels in the brain that occur from fasting. Neurogenesis is the development of new brain cells and nerve tissue. According a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins and a leader in intermittent fasting research, skipping meals reduces inflammation in the brain, cognition is improved.
7. You may lengthen your life
A 2018 study from Cell Metabolism, researchers found that male mice who were put on an increased fasting diet were healthier and lived longer overall than mice who ate more frequently. The study also found that the mice who ate less ended up with less age-related diseases, like liver issues or metabolic disorders.
Interestingly though, when the mice were allowed to eat, they weren’t given particularly healthy food, which led researchers to conclude that intermittent fasting benefits were real. Increasing daily fasting times, without a reduction of calories and regardless of the type of diet consumed, resulted in overall improvements in health and survival in male mice. Perhaps this extended daily fasting period enables repair and maintenance mechanisms that would be absent in a continuous exposure to food.
8.You might not maintain weight loss in the long run
One benefit many people tout for skipping meals is the sustainability of the weight loss. A healthy diet versus a diet with intermittent fasting share similar results in the long term. This was one of the few intermittent fasting studies donen huma ons, and it found that after a year of both dieting and maintaining weight loss, the group who fasted, using the 5.2 method, didn’t maintain a higher percentage of weight loss than the group that dieted normally. This doesn’t completely disprove the benefits of skipping meals though—the study also found the 5:2 dieters were “metabolically healthier.”