You’ve surely heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Now science is backing up that statement when it comes to weight loss. It appears that eating in the morning proves more satiating as it takes less food for people to feel satisfied, while later in the day, people have the tendency to eat larger meals close together. That shows that the ability of food to satisfy decreases throughout the day. In fact, people who eat a large proportion of their dietary intake in the morning tend to eat less overall, while those who eat most of their food at night end up eating more . Unfortunately, the average person doesn’t seem to consider breakfast the most important meal, thus consuming 150% more calories in the evening than in the morning .
Eating Breakfast Lowers Overall Calorie Intake – The Study
Finding these facts worthy of further study, Dr. John M. de Castro took a closer look at how the time of day and the proportions of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) eaten are related to total food intake for the day . To study this, data was collected from 867 individuals. Each was given a small diary with instructions to record everything they ate and drank, including the time of day it was eaten, the amount, and the way the food was prepared. This was done for 7 consecutive days.
When the data was examined, it was discovered that the overall amount of food participants ate over the course of a day varied depending on the characteristics of the food and the time the food was eaten during the day. More precisely, the analysis revealed that consuming a greater proportion of a certain macronutrient in the morning led to a lower overall daily intake of that same macronutrient.
To determine which macronutrients are responsible for the satiety properties of breakfast, the researchers compared days when a participant ate relatively more of a macronutrient during a particular time, to days when the participant ate relatively less. For example, days when a participant’s morning meal contained more protein than usual, were compared to days when their morning meal contained less protein than usual. Total amounts of macronutrient consumption for those days were then compared, with the following findings:
- Eating a relatively large amount of carbohydrates in the morning is associated with a lower total carbohydrate intake and a lower total food intake over the course of the day.
- A relatively high intake of fat in the morning is associated with a lower overall fat intake for the entire day, as well as lower carbohydrate intake and lower total food intake. However, a relatively high intake of fat in the evening is associated with higher total fat intake.
- Consuming a relatively large amount of protein in the morning is associated with lower total protein intake over the day, while a relatively high intake of protein in the evening is associated with a higher total protein intake over the entire day.
The Importance of Breakfast For Weight Loss Success
What does this mean? Stated simply, people find food they consume in the morning to be particularly filling, while food eaten at night is less satiating. When overall food consumption is compared between the morning and evening intake, those who eat more in the morning tend to eat less overall than those who eat more at night. All three macronutrients play a role in explaining this. The carbohydrate content of morning meals appears to have the greatest impact on lower overall daily intake, while the carbohydrate and fat content of evening meals is primarily responsible for the impact of increased evening eating.
These findings may shed some light on the obesity epidemic currently facing developed nations. The modern trend appears to be for people—children, adolescents, and adults—to eat little in the mornings and take in the majority of their food later in the day. Clinically researched weight management programs like Nutrisystem—featured on Lodlois—help people reverse this habit and start their day with a good breakfast
This discovery—that morning eating is associated with less overall eating while night eating appears to lead to more overall eating—suggests that the co-occurrence of a shift in eating habits and an increasing prevalence of obesity and overweight may be more than a coincidence. This is further supported by evidence that overweight and obesity are associated with skipping breakfast and eating later in the day . Only 4% of breakfast skippers have lost a large amount of weight and been successful at keeping it off .
This evidence suggests that encouraging people to eat a good portion of their daily intake in the morning may prove a novel and effective approach to treating and preventing obesity. It appears that something as seemingly trivial as the time of the day a person eats, actually has significant implications on weight gain or loss.
Here is the most interesting part of the study: “For every 1kJ (kilojoule: energy unit) more of carbohydrates or fat that was ingested in the morning, the present study indicates there was approximately a 1kJ less total intake over the entire day.” More specifically, morning eating for participants in the study resulted in approximately 108 fewer calories being consumed per day—an amount that would burn off 11 pounds of fat per year!
Previous studies have shown that eating a high-carbohydrate breakfast is associated with a lower BMI more so than high-protein breakfasts or skipping breakfast altogether . In addition, children who eat carbohydrate-heavy breakfast cereals tend to have lower body weight .
This, combined with the previously presented evidence that certain macronutrients have specific effects, suggests that the optimal dietary pattern is a breakfast high in carbohydrates, intake of low-energy-density foods, and restricted night-time eating. Just adapting your eating pattern to this recommendation, could result in the loss of 11 pounds per year—everything else staying the same.