You have probably heard the theory that eating a big breakfast can help you lose weight, as you won’t be as hungry later in the day. That way you will avoid late night snacking, when your body is less active, and can’t burn off the calories.
There have been studies that seem to suggest that this theory is true. But this evidence has been accused of being biased by misrepresenting its own data, and due to the scholarship of the researchers. So how true is the idea that eating breakfast can help you lose weight?
In 2019, the British Medical Journal reviewed previous research into breakfast and weight loss. They found that there is no strong evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast can help you lose weight, or that skipping your morning meal can lead to weight gain.
The study showed that those who eat breakfast generally consumed more calories a day than those who skipped this meal – on average they ate 260 more calories. Breakfast eaters were also around 0.44 kilograms heavier than people who didn’t eat breakfast.
Does this mean that you should skip breakfast to lose weight? The short answer is no – breakfast can be an important part of your diet. The researchers warned that “eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, such as improved concentration and attentiveness levels in childhood”.
We all know that some breakfasts are healthier than others – many breakfast cereals are packed with sugar. Overall, weight loss is about calorie intake more than when you eat your meals, or skipping meals altogether.
Is Skipping Meals Healthy?
A lot of people skip breakfast, as they don’t have time in the morning to eat before going to work. As discussed, this may not impact your weight overall, but skipping meals isn’t considered to be a good idea.
The NHS advise that skipping meals can lead to tiredness, and that you may not take in enough essential nutrients in a day. If your body is low on energy, you may also crave more high-fat and high-sugar foods, to make up your daily calorie intake. If you then indulge in such foods, you could actually consume more calories than needed, and end up putting on weight.
● Much of the research showing that eating breakfast can help you lose weight has been found to be biased
● Eating breakfast can lead to a higher calorie intake, though this will depend on what you choose to eat
● Skipping meals may lead to tiredness, and craving foods with higher calorie counts. This in turn can lead to weight gain
● When you eat doesn’t really impact your weight – the bigger concerns are eating a balanced diet and your activity or exercise levels
Late Night Eating
Closely connected to the idea that eating breakfast is good for you is the belief that eating later in the day can cause you to put on more weight. While the reasoning behind this theory makes sense – your body doesn’t digest as quickly while you sleep, so eating late at night could mean your body doesn’t have enough time to fully digest the meal – some studies show that the time you eat makes no difference to your weight.
A study was conducted a few years ago at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, looking at the diet of 16 female rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were placed on high-fat diets, similar to the fat content consumed by humans in the United States and other Western countries. The monkeys also had no ovaries, so could be comparable to menopausal women. Between the high-fat diet and decreased ovarian function, the monkeys were bound to put on weight.
The monkeys were observed for a year, with researchers recording how much the monkeys ate, when they ate, and how much weight they gained. What they found was no consistent pattern. Eating more didn’t necessarily mean putting on more weight, and the time of day or night the food was consumed didn’t seem to matter.
The conclusion was that late night eating may not be any worse for you than eating earlier in the day. The researchers also stated that your diet may not be the biggest factor when it comes to weight gain or loss. Your activity level is more likely to make a difference in terms of losing weight.