Skipping a meal can be detrimental to student success
TNE Editor
/ Categories: Campus News, Health

Skipping a meal can be detrimental to student success

Published 4/14/16

Charity Muehlenweg

TNE Writer

In the busy, hectic life of a college student, meals are often one of the first things cut to save time or money. What most students may not realize is cutting those meals can lead to an even more hectic lifestyle.

Bryce McIntosh, Beggs sophomore, said he rarely ever eats breakfast due to time constraints.

“I don’t like getting up early enough to eat breakfast,” said McIntosh. “I don’t feel like the positives from that are worth the extra sleep that I get.”

McIntosh said he has heard it is not good to skip a meal, but he has not personally noticed any effects from missing breakfast on a regular basis and does not believe it is that big of a deal for him.

“If you are experiencing hunger, it could distract you in the classroom and brain function probably does not work as well when there is no nutrient supply to the brain,” said McIntosh. “It hasn’t personally affected me though so I don’t really focus on it.”

Jason Stevens, NSU Nutritional Sciences instructor, said research shows that academic performance is better when students are adequately nourished.

“When you are hungry, you aren’t going to be able to focus and it goes beyond just the biological processes,” said Stevens. “You cannot support the brain function that you need to be successful and simply being hungry can also be a distraction.”

Lindsey Moore, Collinsville freshman, said she has many friends who skip meals on a frequent basis and although dinner was skipped at times, more often it was breakfast that suffered the most.

“A lot of students skip breakfast because they sleep late and dinner is skipped because students are too busy at night,” said Moore. “I do think this is a problem on the NSU campus and on other college campuses as well.”

Moore also said cognitive abilities are affected in that students cannot think as clearly and are more fatigued.

“Skipping meals causes you not to have energy, so you don’t want to get out and do anything,” said Moore. “People are lazy when they don’t have food to fuel them.” 

McIntosh said he knows of people who have busy class schedules and so they skip breakfast and lunch and do not eat until the evening and he believes this probably happens on every campus across the nation.

Stevens said it also depends on the meal that students are skipping and if they are skipping breakfast and then trying to make it through the day.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kick starts your day and gets your metabolism up and running,” said Stevens. “You don’t need to eat first thing in the morning. Even grabbing a banana on your way out the door is good, as long as you eat something within the first couple of hours after waking up, that’s enough to get your metabolism up and going.

Stevens said this type of dietary behavior leads to poor food choices when the person does finally decide to eat, and they are more likely to compensate later in the day by eating more.

“Eating regular meals helps to make better food choices,” said Stevens. “By the time students get to dinner, after skipping both breakfast and lunch, they think they are limiting their calories by eating only one meal per day. What usually ends up happening is they way overcompensate the rest of the day.”

 

Stevens said when people are hungry, they tend to make bad food choices and are more likely to overindulge and that academic performance would obviously be greater when the body is well nourished.

“At the most basic level, your brain must have glucose to function,” said Stevens. “At the bare minimum, you need carbohydrates for the brain to even function correctly.”

Stevens said as people begin to deprive their body of that glucose, they will notice a significant impairment in concentration, and it may affect their mood and make them more irritable.

“We have a lot of athletes on campus as well, and they certainly cannot perform at their best level when their body isn’t getting the nutrients that it needs,” said Stevens. “It’s important to make sure that your body is getting fuel.”

McIntosh said he always assumed skipping a meal may cause your body to dip into other fat supplies to gain energy from the missed meal.

This assumption, however, is inherently false, according to Stevens, who said there are many factors, including how long people have gone in between meals and what meal is being skipped.

“The body has to maintain a certain balance of nutrients in order to do all the functions that it needs to do on a daily basis,” said Stevens. “When those nutrients aren’t being supplied to the body in the form of food, the body begins breaking down healthy tissue to make those things that it needs, such as glucose, so you essentially run the risk of your body breaking down healthy tissue, muscle and fat.”

Unfortunately, many people still believe not eating will help them lose weight, but Stevens said this is also a false assumption.

“Not eating has the opposite effect than what most people believe,” said Stevens. “Skipping meals lowers your body’s metabolism, which defeats the purpose of trying to lose weight.”

Financial reasons may also lead students to skip meals due to budget constraints or to running out of meals on their meal plan.

“I have plenty of friends who run out of meals and are asking for help with a meal,” said McIntosh. “People with a block meal plan have unlimited meals so a lot of times they will help those students out, however those who don’t have those types of friend groups to lean on probably just end up going without food.”

McIntosh said he had volunteered for the NSU food pantry last year, and it was a good resource for students to utilize if they find themselves without food for a period of time.

More than financial reasons, Stevens said he believes many students often just get overwhelmed and overworked and do not appreciate the importance of fueling their body to continue doing athletics or academics.

“Where students think they are making more time by skipping a meal, they are actually hindering their productivity,” said Stevens. “They will not be anywhere near as productive working without fuel for their body.”

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