The answer is a little complicated.

By Isadora Baum
Updated December 13, 2018
Photo: John Autry

When it comes to that morning meal, it’s generally on the less-filling or less-healthy end (or sometimes it’s even non-existent), especially during the busy workweek. Unfortunately, what you eat bright and early makes a huge impact on the next couple of hours, where the right type of meal can provide immediate and sustainable energy to power your day.

So, now that we’ve established how critical breakfast is—let’s think about doubling it. Is there any reason to have a second breakfast? It turns out, eating two meals in the AM might be smart, depending on the person and their schedule.

The Pros

If you’re heading out the door and don’t have time to eat something filling enough, or you’re squeezing in a morning spin class, that second breakfast could help you get the vitamins and minerals you need to stay energized.

“Sometimes you may not always have time to sit down for a proper breakfast with a balance of protein, carbs and fat. When that happens, you may end up hungry again an hour or so later and a second breakfast can help tide you over until lunch,” explains Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD.

In fact, Rizzo does this herself. “I tend to eat two breakfasts when I run in the morning because my first one is a small carb-rich breakfast (usually toast) and then I have some protein and fats after my run, like a smoothie with fruits and yogurt or eggs with fruit and toast,” she says.

It’s also a good idea for people whose jobs have off hours. “I think this system works really well for morning exercisers or people who have jobs that require them to wake up early and be moving around a lot (nurses, doctors, teachers, construction workers),” Rizzo adds.

The Cons

Eating two breakfasts won’t make sense if you’re planning on eating a huge omelet and toast and then another large meal shortly after.

“If someone is having excess calories eating two breakfasts, this could potentially lead to weight gain. Instead, it may require shifting the timing of when you are eating breakfast and lunch in the morning in order to eliminate that second breakfast,” says Brooke Zigler, MPP, RDN, LD.

For instance, “if you're eating breakfast too early in the morning and eating lunch more than four hours later, you may just need to eat lunch earlier to ensure it is within four hours of having breakfast. This can eliminate that second breakfast, which means less calories,” she says.

What’s more, opting for two breakfasts doesn’t allow you to use the second breakfast as an excuse to devour a sugary pastry before.

“If you're not thinking about having something nutritious, you may end up eating too many calories in the morning, which can contribute to weight gain. For instance, if you eat a sugary cereal that doesn't provide much nutrition and end up hungry again an hour later and eat a pastry or danish, you aren't getting any protein and you may be eating more calories than you need,” Rizzo says.

It’s also not such a good move for those who don’t exercise in the morning and need the added fuel, unless that first meal is more like a healthy snack. “It may not be beneficial for people who have desk jobs and aren't doing much activity in the morning,” Rizzo explains.

Want more breakfast ideas? Try these next:

If You’re Doing It, Here’s What to Eat

If you are planning on eating two breakfasts, take note of the time in between to see if it’s worth it. “I think it depends on the person and their schedule, but around two hours apart seems fair. Realistically, any longer than 2 hours would probably be moving into the lunch hour,” says Rizzo.

And eat the right types of foods. You can take Rizzo’s lead with the toast and then a well-rounded meal, or you can have some granola before a workout and then avocado toast with an egg after a workout, since the latter has protein and healthy fats to tide you over until lunch.

You can also try a hard boiled egg with berries as a lighter option before a workout, and then a larger breakfast of Greek yogurt with a high-fiber cereal for recovery, says Zigler.

The key is that both should be good for you. “Both breakfasts should have a combination of both fiber and protein since the combination of the two provides a steady blood glucose level,” says Zigler.

“If you're eating two breakfasts, one of them should be smaller. Or maybe the first breakfast would be an apple with nut butter and the second could be a loaded oatmeal, made with fruit, nuts, and yogurt,” Rizzo clarifies.