Big Breakfast Won’t Boost Metabolism, But May Aid Weight Loss

A new study is shaking up what we have been told about dieting for decades. Researchers found that eating a big breakfast didn’t shift people’s metabolisms in their study. The prevailing thought was that eating earlier in the day gave you more time to burn calories and boosted weight loss.

A clinical trial compared people eating most of their calories at breakfast or dinner. Their weight loss results were almost identical, and their energy expenditure — the number of calories their bodies burned — was exactly the same.

The research methods were extremely rigorous. Meals were provided to participants for eight weeks, and their movement and energy expenditure were carefully tracked. Everything was controlled. They had 35 percent of their calories at lunch, and then their other meals were 20 percent and 45 percent of their daily allotment. The study had 16 men and 14 women. Their calories were 30 percent protein, 35 percent carbs and 35 percent fats. It was as rigorous as it could be.

While the researchers cannot say for certain that the claim that eating a big breakfast helps metabolism is false, their results come as a blow. One study doesn’t disprove everything that has come before it. But, it was a very controlled study with clear results. However, there is some truth to the claim that eating a big breakfast can aid weight loss. Starting your day by eating more can help you feel less hungry later.

We know that appetite control is important to achieve weight loss, and our study suggests that those consuming the most calories in the morning felt less hungry, in contrast to when they consumed more calories in the evening period,” said co-author Alexandra Johnstone, a professor of medicine at the Univ. of Aberdeen.  

If you start your day out full, avoiding snacks and picking lighter options later in the day is easier. So, even though it might not boost your metabolism, this study still suggests that eating a big breakfast and a small dinner is a healthy way to manage weight.

Older studies that were longer than eight weeks and had more participants saw larger weight loss results. It may be that eating a large breakfast and a smaller dinner does change a person’s metabolism over time, and this study was too short to show that. Or it could be that those older studies weren’t rigorous enough. But, there were only 30 people in this eight-week study.

When it comes to real-world applications, it seems like the old advice is still the best. Eating early in the day surprises appetite, even if it isn’t kickstarting the metabolism.

The participants reported that their appetites were better controlled on the days they ate a bigger breakfast and that they felt satiated throughout the rest of the day,” Prof. Johnstone said. “This could be quite useful in the real-world environment, versus in the research setting that we were working in.”

Banner image: Heather Ford via Unsplash

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