You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why? Breakfast can help with so many aspects of improving your day. Eating breakfast can replenish your body energy stores, boost energy, and even aid in weight loss. It may just become your secret weapon to lose weight.
Weight Loss Study and Breakfast
The mechanisms of how breakfast aids in weight loss has been studied closely over the years. One study1 by Jakubowicz and colleagues investigated how a nutrient-dense, filling breakfast can help with weight loss and other blood health markers. Our meal timing matters because our body runs on circadian rhythms. The most popular/familiar circadian clock is the one that helps with sleep and is stimulated by the light-dark cycle of day and night. Other body tissues also have a similar clock system like in our fat cells, liver and gut. These clocks are important since they control our hormones and enzyme activity. Because the circadian clock and metabolism are tightly linked, a disruption of our circadian rhythm can have negative side effects like obesity or insulin resistance, making meal timing so important.
These researchers looked at changes in body weight when two different groups of women were given the same total amount of calories, but at different times of the day. In this study there were 93 overweight or obese participants, and they were either in had a high calorie breakfast or a high calorie dinner. The high calorie breakfast group had a large breakfast ~700 kcal, a medium lunch ~500 kcals, and light dinner ~200 kcal. And the large dinner group had a smaller breakfast ~200 kcal, a medium lunch ~500 kcal, and a large dinner ~700 kcal. The two different groups had the same daily macronutrient composition even though there were different meal sizes throughout the day.
What Happened In The Study?
While both groups lost weight, the group that ate a large breakfast lost 2.5-fold greater weight loss than the large dinner group, and they measured a smaller waist circumference. Reducing waist circumference is important because it is a determining factor of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk.
The large breakfast group decreased their triglycerides (a type of fat that circulates in your blood), whereas the large dinner group actually had increased triglycerides. Also, the large breakfast group saw a decrease in total cholesterol, lower fasting glucose levels, lower insulin levels, and higher HDL (good cholesterol) concentrations. Since insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance decreases throughout the day, those who ate more at breakfast actually had better health outcomes.
The large breakfast group not only lost weight, but they were getting healthier than the other group!
What Else Can Eating Breakfast Do For Me?
You may have heard that eating breakfast can kick start your metabolism, and it’s true. It can help prime you to continue to burn calories throughout the day.
Breakfast can help maintain consistent blood glucose levels throughout the day. When we skip breakfast or go too long between meals our blood sugar can drop. When we have low blood sugar we often reach for the simple sugars/carbohydrates that cause rapid increases in blood glucose, which cause large blood sugar fluctuations. Eating breakfast can also help avoid getting too hungry before our next meal which might lead to overeating. Eating breakfast is beneficial to control blood glucose and hunger levels which both play a critical role in weight loss.
Eating a balanced breakfast can also increase your daily movement. When we eat breakfast we will be more likely to do activities. This can range from increased fidgeting, cleaning, to even having the energy to go on a walk or do a workout. So, eating breakfast can help get extra activity and movement into your day. If we are moving more we can even see some weight loss.
What Should My Breakfast Look Like?
A breakfast should include a source of carb, a protein, and preferably a fat. This will help keep you full and satisfied for longer. If you’re not a fan of breakfast food, don’t worry you can have any meal as your first meal of the day, including “dinner food.” Some examples of breakfast food can include:
- Egg sandwich
- Oatmeal with nut butter
- Banana-peanut butter toast
- Scrambled eggs and fruit
- Veggie omelet
- Avocado egg toast
- Protein smoothie
- Greek yogurt parfait
- Breakfast burrito
- Bagel and lox
- Egg, low-fat sausage, and toast
- Veggie muffins and peanut butter
- Energy bites
If you want help resetting your metabolism, fill out this form to get set up with one of New Leaf Nutrition® dietitians. They would love to talk with you.
-Molly Miller, SIUE dietetic intern
- Jakubowicz, D., Barnea, M., Wainstein, J., & Froy, O. (2013). High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity, 21(12), 2504–2512. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20460
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