In the world of weight loss, women are often told that when we choose to eat is just as important as What we choose to eat. This is because the body burns more calories at certain times of the day. The advice that usually follows is: Eat a big breakfast to boost your metabolism. But is there any merit to the big breakfast theory? According to a recent study published in Cell metabolismnot exactly.
Here’s the bottom line: According to the results of this study, eating a big breakfast doesn’t change the way your body metabolizes calories. (In other words, consuming more calories in the morning won’t necessarily help you burn more calories throughout the day.) However, it may help you feel less hungry later in the day, and therefore less likely to snack in the evening – which could help you lose weight. Learn more about the search below.
The Cell metabolism study was conducted by researchers at the Scottish University of Aberdeen who wanted to better understand the effects of a large breakfast. To do this, they recruited 16 men and 14 women for a four-week trial. (It may seem like a small group of participants, but the study was a randomized crossover trial, which is a high standard in the scientific community.) All participants were either overweight or obese — depending on the CDC definition — at the start of the trial. The average age was 51 years old.
For all four weeks, researchers gave participants the same prescribed diet. It was just over 1700 calories per day and included 30% protein, 35% fat, and 35% carbs. Then, the participants were randomly divided into two groups. During the first half of the study, group one followed a “morning loaded” diet, or more calories before noon, and group two followed an “evening loaded” diet. Then there was a one-week “washout period” in which all participants consumed the same number of calories and the calories were distributed evenly between each meal. After the washout period, the groups switched; group one ate a loaded diet in the evening, while group two ate a loaded diet in the morning.
The researchers carefully measured the participants’ energy and exercise levels, noting that the average number of daily steps, for all participants, was around 7,000 per week. The researchers also monitored sleep times, blood pressure, and blood glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels.
Here’s what the researchers found: Eating a busy diet in the morning did not lead to greater weight loss. At the end of each week, all participants lost a similar amount of weight. However, participants on the morning diet reported feeling significantly less hungry (and even less thirsty) than those on the evening diet. The reason? The researchers pointed out that large meals take longer to empty out of the stomach and intestine. This process suppresses the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and increases satiety hormones. Thus, participants in the morning regimen enjoyed a feeling of fullness throughout the day, while those in the evening group did not feel full until dinnertime.
“Participants reported that their appetite was better controlled on days when they ate a larger breakfast and that they felt fuller throughout the day,” said lead author and researcher Professor Alexandra Johnstone. University of Aberdeen. said in a press release. “It could be very useful in the real-world environment, relative to the research context we were working in.”
Things to keep in mind
Although this study is of high quality, it has its limitations. Some participants ate foods outside of the prescribed diet. In addition, many participants had leftovers. (People on a heavy diet in the morning often couldn’t finish their breakfasts and lunches. The researchers, however, argue that each participant generally ate the same amount of calories.) The study was also conducted under life-like conditions. free, meaning the researchers couldn’t control every aspect of each participant’s day.
Despite these caveats, this trial supports the theory that “a calorie is a calorie,” and your body will metabolize it the same way, regardless of the time of day. Still, eating a bigger breakfast has its benefitsand can be a useful tool if you’re trying to lose fat and gain muscle.
Not a big breakfast lover? Start small. Nutritionists recommend making breakfast a habit even if you don’t eat much in the morning, as this will give you more energy throughout the day. This could be the key to staying more consistent with healthy eating.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before proceeding with any treatment plan.