The role of breakfast in weight loss and diet is a subject of many debates. Some say you need a big breakfast, others imply a small breakfast is just fine. Then, you have the claims that skipping breakfast is not good for your weight loss whereas other reports say it doesn’t jeopardize your effort to slim down. With so much opposing information it’s difficult to determine what’s true or not. If you’re confused as well, this article is just for you. Read on to learn whether a big breakfast could blow your diet true or false, is the breakfast truly the most important meal of the day, and more.
What is a big breakfast?
The idea of a big breakfast may seem like eating as much food as you can take first thing in the morning, but it’s not. Big breakfast doesn’t imply the consumption of supersized portions and unhealthy junk food. Instead, it refers to greater calorie intake. Big breakfast usually involves 300 to 600 calories depending on gender, metabolism, and levels of physical activity. Calories should derive from healthy, well-balanced meals instead of sugar-laden foods and meals loaded with trans fats.
Is eating a big breakfast bad for you?
Big breakfast is not bad for you, even though the idea of a large meal could invoke that assumption. Keep in mind we’re not talking about a big breakfast in terms of unhealthy food intake that leads to a higher obesity code.
Studies show that a big breakfast can, actually, benefit you. For instance, it can support weight management.
The February 2020 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found people who consume a big breakfast burn twice as many calories as subjects who eat big dinner (1). The study included 16 normal-weight male participants who consumed low-calorie breakfast and high-calorie dinner, then vice versa. The number of calories consumed during the day was identical for high- and low-calorie breakfast or dinner days. However, results showed dietary-induced thermogenesis or metabolism (to burn fat cells) was 2.5 times higher in the morning compared to evening following high- and low-calorie meals. Compared with dinner, food-induced rise in blood glucose and insulin levels diminished after breakfast. On the other hand, consumption of a low-calorie breakfast was associated with more intense feelings of hunger, especially cravings for sweets during the day. Big breakfast, on the other hand, is linked to lower hunger pangs.
Based on the abovementioned results, scientists concluded that an extensive breakfast should be prioritized over a large dinner. This lifestyle adjustment could aid in the prevention of high blood glucose and obesity, even if a person adheres to a hypocaloric diet such as a low-carb diet. Low-carb diets are known for significant restrictions of food supply to lose body weight.
In other words, having a big breakfast will not ruin your diet. What’s more, it could help you reach your body goal more successfully.
For many men and women skipping breakfast is a common weight-loss tactic. This tactic isn’t really effective, evidence shows. People who don’t eat much for breakfast tend to snack more and overeat during the day. However, this subject needs further research (2).
The habit of skipping breakfast is against our circadian rhythm. For persons with a strong morning hunger signal, the avoidance of breakfast could result in overeating later on, especially at dinner. This happens because you strive to compensate for lost calories, which can backfire. Additionally, breakfast skippers may be less knowledgeable about health and nutrition. For that reason, they could be more prone to making unhealthy diet choices.
You see, circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) greatly influences your metabolism. Insulin sensitivity is more pronounced in the morning. This means your body needs to produce lower amounts of this hormone to regulate blood sugar levels after a meal and thereby prevent insulin resistance.
Since metabolism and blood glucose control are most efficient in the morning, it makes sense why a big breakfast can be beneficial. After all, it’s more useful than a big dinner.
Plus, you are more physically active in the morning and during the day, but less at night. For that reason, opting for a big dinner isn’t a good idea if you are striving to slim down or maintain your healthy weight.
Will I gain weight if I eat a big breakfast?
The impact of a big breakfast on your diet and weight isn’t as simple as you’d like it to be. While studies show big breakfasts can help accelerate metabolism and thereby support your weight loss, some tell a different story.
You see, some people consume more calories during the day despite eating breakfast. At the same time, some people who don’t skip breakfast also experience no cravings during the day. In other words, eating a big breakfast doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss, the same way skipping this meal won’t cause weight gain in every person.
Eating breakfast could contribute to weight gain simply because it adds to calorie intake. However, this doesn’t mean a person who eats breakfast should stop doing so. This just means if you’re overweight or obese and want to lose weight, you should strive to count the calories you eat during the day. Do it over several days or a week and learn more about the average caloric value of foods you consume. It’s easier to control calorie intake that way and ensure you consume fewer calories during breakfast than you normally do. About 20% to 25% of daily calories should be obtained from breakfast.
Keep in mind whether a big breakfast supports or undermines weight loss depends on an individual. Your metabolic rate and activity levels are important factors here. They determine whether your body will spend those calories quickly or not (3, 4, 5).
Whether or not you will gain weight from a big breakfast depends on your body’s metabolism. To avoid weight gain, it’s important to stick to eating healthy foods. Learn more about healthy foods to eat for breakfast in the section below.
What to eat for breakfast?
Although it’s the first meal of the day, you should still make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. Instead of heavily refined grains, carbs, you should go for whole foods including fruits, oatmeal, eggs, cheese, smoked salmon, whole grains, and yogurt. Avoid processed foods including sugary cereals and pastries. These foods contain simple carbs that are easily absorbed but have no nutritional value and cause a major spike in your blood glucose levels (6). If you like to eat breakfast cereal, read the label and avoid unhealthy options.
When it comes to a healthy breakfast, the trick is to make sure you get enough protein. But, you shouldn’t get your protein from a single source only. Probably the best option for a high-protein breakfast is to eat lean meat. Your breakfast should be versatile, like other meals. As a result, you truly get everything it offers.
Some useful breakfast foods ideas include:
- Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and banana or other fruit
- Poached eggs with spinach and whole-grain toast
- Oatmeal topped with fruits of your choice
- Omelet with two eggs and mushrooms, herbs, and peppers alongside whole-grain toast
- High-fiber breakfast cereals low in sugar and fat with low-fat milk
- Yogurt with a sprinkle of muesli and fresh fruit salad
- Sandwich with two whole-grain bread slices, tomato, smoked salmon or chicken breast, and lettuce
- Breakfast smoothie with frozen or fresh fruit and a tablespoon of muesli
Your breakfast may also include orange juice, but if you want something tasty without added sugar, dark chocolate is a good option. You can add it to cereals, smoothie, oatmeal, you name it. Stick to drinking water during breakfast and throughout the day.
Experiment with different ingredients to make sure your breakfasts are versatile and always choose healthy fats instead of unhealthy ones. It’s useful to generate breakfast ideas over the weekend so you know what to prepare every morning during the week or you can make breakfast bars. Stop eating foods that will make you feel hungry quickly such as fast food. Like other American adults, your goal should be to support energy balance.
Is it really true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
Breakfast is referred to as the most important meal of the day because it jumpstarts the metabolism and helps us burn calories throughout the day. At the same time, breakfast boosts our energy levels at the beginning of the day and thereby helps us stay productive and perform daily tasks.
Some studies report an average person should go for consuming about 15% to 25% of daily energy intake at breakfast, which accounts for 375-625 calories for men and 300-500 calories for women. That being said, around 18% to 25% of adults in North America and 36% of adolescents skip breakfast. However, a healthy breakfast is necessary to supply nutrients to their growing body.
The main reason breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day is that failure to eat something in the morning could have various health consequences. Skipping breakfast is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. That being said, a high-fat breakfast is also problematic as it can lead to atherosclerosis (7).
Breakfast is also a great opportunity to get protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs to function properly (8). Evidence shows those who make breakfast the largest meal of the day are more likely to have a lower BMI (9). Not only does breakfast increase satiety, but also improves the food quality due to the nutrients it delivers.
Although a growing body of evidence confirms breakfast is the most important meal of the day, some studies say that’s not quite true. For example, one review found no evidence that eating breakfast could contribute to weight loss (10). Take this finding with a grain of salt because various studies have shown the link between weight loss and breakfast.
Scientists explain that even though you eat breakfast, you can still be hungry later on (11), which is why it’s not the most important meal of the day.
To sum up this section, there is no consensus on this subject. It’s highly likely the worlds of medicine and science will never agree on whether breakfast is the most important meal. For many, the focus shouldn’t be on a single meal. Instead, we should strive to eat balanced, healthy, and nutritious meals throughout the day (12) to avoid excess consumption of calories.
It’s useful to mention that almost half of people who eat breakfast do get more structure, especially when they’re trying to modify their diet and establish healthy eating habits.
So, while some scientists don’t agree breakfast is the main star of daily meals, you should still make sure to eat something like a morning meal every day.
Is a big breakfast necessary?
As seen throughout this post, a large breakfast could be beneficial for you and your weight-loss diet (13). However, if you’re not the type of person who can eat a big breakfast, then you shouldn’t force yourself to do so. Even a small breakfast with single-ingredient foods can keep you satiated if your body works that way.
For many people, a smaller breakfast may intensify their appetite for food and sugar cravings.
After all, not every person is different. Two people may not have the same metabolic rate. So, while one person needs a big breakfast, the other can do fine with a fewer number of calories. However, if you plan to do intermittent fasting, big breakfast really is necessary so you avoid doing so on an empty stomach.
When it comes to this subject, there is no “one size fits all” approach (14). If you’re not sure about what to do and how to make it happen, you may want to consult a dietitian or nutritionist who will provide medical advice. They will create the best plan bearing in mind your needs, current weight, and other parameters.
One thing is for sure, you should not starve yourself or develop an eating disorder just to slim down or maintain your weight. You’ll achieve the best results when you make wise choices.
Is one piece of toast enough for breakfast?
Toast, especially whole-grain, is wonderful breakfast food. But just one slice on its own is not enough. You may want to combine it with scrambled eggs or healthy spreads (15). That way, you will achieve satiety and have a delicious, yet nutritious or healthy breakfast.
Breakfast will always be a major subject in the world of science such as Harvard Medical School, clinical nutrition, and food industry. Many people skip breakfast hoping to slim down. Others eat it regularly because they consider it a major segment of a healthy diet. There is no conclusive evidence as to whether a big breakfast is good for your diet or bad, particularly when it comes to losing weight. However, most scientists confirm it is beneficial due to its influence on metabolism and satiety. Start your day with a well-balanced breakfast and strive to make healthy food choices during the day as well.