Will eating breakfast help me to lose weight? Losing weight can be difficult for a lot of people. There are a variety of factors that impact our ability to lose weight; some we can change and some we cannot. The ones we cannot change include our family history, genetics, race, age, and gender. While the ones we have control over include our eating and physical activity habits.
The sheer amount of nutritional information out there is overwhelming and at the best of times confusing. Some sources praise certain foods or dietary methods, whilst others tell you to avoid those same things. Nutritional information about weight loss is one of the biggest culprits for this. One of the many dietary methods that have been said to help promote weight loss is eating breakfast.
By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” at least once before. Breakfast is often pushed as an essential part of a healthy diet, which can help us lose weight and lower the risk of obesity and developing certain chronic diseases (such as type two diabetes and heart disease). It has also been said to improve your energy levels and ability to concentrate. Despite these reported health benefits, many people often chose to skip it, for many reasons.
There is a variety of evidence out there regarding weight loss and eating breakfast. So, let’s go through the evidence together. Breakfast eaters have been found to have healthier habits There have been many studies that have found an association between eating breakfast and overall being healthier, with a lesser likelihood of being overweight or obese, and reducing the risk of several chronic diseases( 1-4). This evidence forms the basis of the claim that eating breakfast is good for you. The studies that found this association are observational, meaning that they can’t show causation. The studies can only show that eating breakfast may make you healthier but cannot necessarily prove that eating breakfast alone causes the participants to be healthier.
So why might this association be the case?
Breakfast eaters have been shown to eat a healthier diet, with a particular increase in the amount of fibre and micronutrients (4-6). Breakfast skippers, on the other hand, were found to typically smoke, drinker larger quantities of alcohol and exercise less (7).
However, the types of foods you choose to eat for breakfast is important. Choosing foods high in refined carbohydrates that are also low in fibre and protein, like sugary cereals, will make you
feel hungrier again sooner. On the other hand, if you have a breakfast rich in fibre, protein, and healthy fats, it can help you feel fuller for longer, which can aid in losing or maintaining weight.
Breakfast skippers are more likely to not meet their nutritional requirements People who skip breakfast have been found to typically have a very different nutritional profile than those who regularly consume breakfast (7,8). The biggest differences were found in the consumption of folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D (7,8). Additionally, those individuals were also found to have a poorer overall diet quality, through increased snacking habits on sugar, carbohydrates, and fat (7,8).
Foods that are typically consumed for breakfast, such as cereal, milk, fruit, and grains, are less likely to be consumed at other times of the day.
These foods are naturally rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, phosphorus, and fibre. Many of these foods are also fortified with other nutrients of importance. Refined grains and cereals often have added iron, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and folate (B9), whilst dairy is sometimes fortified with vitamin D.
As these foods are often unique to being consumed at breakfast, these nutrients are less likely to be eaten in other meals. However, if you are eating nutrient rich foods later in the day, then skipping breakfast may not be a problem.
Eating breakfast has no effect on your metabolism Metabolism is a term that describes the chemical reactions that happen in your body, which convert foods and drinks into energy (9). These reactions help to keep your body alive and functioning (9). The amount of energy a person “burns” in a day is affected by how much they exercise, the amount of fat and muscle in their body, and their BMR (9).
Basal Metabolic Rate (or BMR) is a measure of the rate at which a person “burns” energy at rest.9 A person’s BMR can play a major role in their tendency to gain weight. For instance, a person with a low BMR will tend to gain more weight over time than a similar person of the same size with a high BMR.
So, you might have heard that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism. Even though eating breakfast has been associated with a lower body weight, there is no clear evidence that suggests that eating breakfast can boost metabolism. Your metabolism depends on the amount of food consumed throughout the day, so no matter what time or how often you eat, the amount of energy “burnt” will be the same (10,11).
The effect eating breakfast has on your weight As mentioned before, people who skip breakfast tend to weigh more than those who regularly consume it. Those who do consume it have been found to have a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese. But how can skipping a meal make you gain more weight? Well, it is often thought that if you skip breakfast, you will be extremely hungry, causing you to overeat throughout the day.
Even though this claim makes a little bit of sense, the evidence shows a different story. Several high-quality studies have shown that skipping breakfast does not cause weight gain, if anything, it can effectively reduce energy intake and increase weight loss (12-16). Even though it might mean you’ll need an extra snack or larger lunch, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will consume more calories than if you had breakfast.
Some studies have shown that skipping breakfast may reduce overall energy intake( 15). While other studies show no difference in weight between groups (5,15,16).
As stated before, the types of food being consumed across the day will have the biggest impact on your weight. Consuming high carbohydrate, low fibre and protein foods will make you feel hungrier again sooner.
The health benefits of skipping breakfast Skipping breakfast has been linked to some health benefits.
It is a common practice in many intermittent fasting methods. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are many different types, including the 16/8 and 5:2 methods.
The 16/8 method consists of a sixteen hour overnight fast, which is then followed with an eight-hour eating window. This eating window would typically be over lunch and dinner, meaning that breakfast is skipped every day.
Numerous studies have found that following this eating pattern can have a wide range of health benefits for your body. These include: - Weight loss and fat burning (17) - Protection against certain diseases, such as Type Two Diabetes (18) - Improved insulin resistance (18) - Cellular repair (19) - Increase in the amount of human growth hormone in the blood (20,21)
It is important to note that some people are not suited to this kind of diet. The effects are individual, with some experiencing headaches, drops in blood glucose levels, faintness, and a lack of concentration.
What is the bottom line? So, the evidence is divided. There are clear health benefits to eating breakfast, but there are also clear benefits to skipping it.
What you eat can determine how full you feel, as foods affect the sensations of fullness differently. Foods that are filling can help to control your hunger, and therefore help you eat less at the next meal. For this reason, foods rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats can help to manage your weight in the long run. The types of foods you decide to include in your diet will have the biggest impact on your weight, rather than the timing of the meals. Even though eating breakfast isn’t a sure way to lose weight, it has other benefits including giving people the opportunity to meet their requirements for essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed for optimal health.
Eating breakfast does not “jump start” your metabolism. If you skip it, it does not necessarily mean that you will overeat the rest of the day and therefore gain weight.
At the end of the day, eating breakfast is optional, and it all boils down to personal preference.
So, if you wake up in the morning and you are hungry, then go ahead and eat breakfast. But, if you wake up and you’re not hungry and don’t feel the need to eat breakfast, then feel free to go ahead and skip it.