How Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Fat

Do you eat in the mornings? Should you?


I have been training with weights for over 15 years, yet only a year ago did I decide to focus on and improve my diet. Not surprisingly, exercising and following a well-designed diet of healthy eating for one year has packed more muscle on me than 15 years of exercise with unplanned eating.

Many of us who aspire to become stronger, faster, and in better condition, tend to neglect our diet. This article will elaborate on the diet aspect and specifically the importance of eating breakfast.


"Most people eat 150% more calories in the evening than they do in the morning."

When it comes to eating, recent research shows that it’s not only what we eat that is important but when we eat. In fact, the time of the day we eat:

This article will focus on the second element—the time of the day we eat affects our overall calorie consumption—and will arouse interest to those of us who want to eat less and lose fat.

We may have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it appears that most of us don't give it the attention we should. In fact, most people eat 150% more calories in the evening than they do in the morning. Interestingly, when those who consume most of their calories in the morning are compared with those who eat a larger portion of their daily intake at night, morning eaters are found to consume fewer calories overall [3], suggesting that placing an emphasis on breakfast may help people eat less. It turns out that people are less satisfied by food later in the day, resulting in them eating larger meals closer together and taking in more calories overall. This suggests that it may be more than a coincidence that the modern trend toward later eating and an increase in the prevalence of obesity and overweight are taking place together.

It appears that the time of day one eats impacts overall calories, but how does the type of food eaten factor in? This is the question Dr. John M. de Castro set out to answer, taking a closer look at the relationship between overall daily intake and the proportions of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) eaten at certain times of day [4]. For a solid week, 867 individuals recorded everything they ate or drank, along with the time of day it was consumed, the amount consumed, and the way the food was prepared. This data was then examined to determine how the characteristics of the food eaten during different times of the day impacted the overall amount of food the study participants ate.

Supporting the folk wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the analysis revealed that eating more of a macronutrient in the morning was associated with a smaller overall intake of that macronutrient over the course of the day. To determine more precisely which macronutrients had the largest impact on the satiety properties of breakfast, intake was also compared across days. Total overall consumption was compared for days when a participant's morning meal contained less of a particular macronutrient than usual and days when the morning meal contained more than usual. The results showed that each macronutrient has an impact on daily consumption as follows:

Effect of Different Breakfast Macronutrients on the Overall Daily Food Consumption

These results confirm that morning meals, which people find particularly satisfying and filling, can lead them to eat less food over the course of a day. In contrast, eating at night is less satiating and can result in a greater overall intake of food. This is true for all three macronutrients—individuals who ate more of each macronutrient in the morning tended to eat less over the course of the day. Furthermore, it appears that the carbohydrate content of breakfast is primarily responsible for its ability to satisfy, while the carbohydrate and fat content of foods eaten in the evening are responsible for the impact of those meals.

What Does This Mean for You?

Food is more satiating when you eat it early in the day. Eating breakfast helps you avoid the late afternoon binge eating. Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, makes you vulnerable to impulsive eating later through the day, and reduces control over what you eat. Eating breakfast has been fundamental for my body transformation over the past year.

Could encouraging people to eat the majority of their daily intake of food in the morning be an effective way to lose unnecessary fat? The evidence seems to suggest so.

Therefore, eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, because research shows that eating a full breakfast helps you better control the overall calories you consume daily.

Carrying extra fat is associated with skipping breakfast and eating later in the day [5], and only 4% of those who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off report skipping breakfast [6].

In fact, the science shows that an increase of 1 calorie of carbohydrate or fat in the morning results in 1 fewer calorie of food being ingested overall throughout the day. That means, a person who eats a 500-calorie breakfast consumes 100 calories less over the day than a person who eats a 400-calorie breakfast. In study participants, a carbohydrate-rich breakfast resulted in a reduced intake of approximately 108 calories per day, amounting to a projected 11-pound fat loss over one year.

While simply eating more in the morning seems to be associated with eating less overall, focusing on certain macronutrients appears to make a difference as well. People who eat breakfasts high in carbohydrates tend to have a lower BMI than those who skip breakfast or eat a high-protein breakfast [7], and children who eat breakfasts cereals that are high in carbohydrates tend to have lower body weights [8]. This accumulation of evidence suggests that eating a breakfast high in carbohydrates, restricting evening eating, and eating low-energy-density foods may be the optimal dietary pattern—and one that could result in the easy loss of 11 pounds per year.

References

  1. Panda S. (2012) Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet. Cell Metab. Jun 6;15(6):848-60
  2. De Castro (2009) When, how much and what foods are eaten are related to total daily food intake. Br J Nutr. Oct;102(8):1228-37
  3. de Castro JM (2004) The time of day of food intake influences overall intake in humans. J Nutr 134, 104 – 111.
  4. de Castro JM (2007) The time of day and the proportions of macronutrients eaten are related to total daily food intake. British Journal of Nutrition (2007), 98, 1077–1083
  5. Forslund HB, Lindroos AK, Sjostrom L & Lissner L (2002) Meal patterns and obesity in Swedish women – a simple instrument describing usual meal types, frequency and temporal distribution. Eur J Clin Nutr 56, 740 – 747.
  6. Wyatt HR, Grunwald GK, Mosca CL, Klem ML, Wing RR & Hill JO (2002) Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry. Obes Res 10, 78 – 82.
  7. Cho S, Dietrich M, Brown CJ, Clark CA & Block G (2003) The effect of breakfast type on total daily energy intake and body mass index: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). J Am Coll Nutr 22, 296 – 302.
  8. Albertson AM, Anderson GH, Crockett SJ & Goebel MT (2003) Ready-to-eat cereal consumption: its relationship with BMI and nutrient intake of children aged 4 to 12 years. J Am Diet Assoc 103, 1613 – 1619.

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Matthew Denos

Matthew Denos PhD is a biologist and fitness enthusiast. On his website, he reviews medically studied diet plans, and provides information about fitness equipment. Check his review of TRX, an innovative training solution invented by Navy Seal Randy Hetrick. Matthew follows the science in the field of resistance training and nutrition and enjoys writing articles explaining the new research findings in the fascinating world of fitness. Matthew has conducted academic research for over 10 years exploring human physiology. Since joining the inspiring Straight to the Bar community Matthew has reinforced his goal to gain 10 pounds of muscle.



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