- People who eat a big breakfast burn twice as many calories compared with those who eat a larger dinner, according to a new study.
- Over the course of 3 days, researchers evaluated 16 men who alternated eating a low-calorie breakfast and a high-calorie dinner and vice versa.
- Eating a high-calorie breakfast was linked to lower hunger pangs and sweet cravings throughout the day.
Breakfast has long been deemed the most important meal of the day.
What we eat and drink after waking up has been shown to have a big impact on our cognitive performance, mood, and energy levels throughout the day.
Now, new research from the Endocrine Society shows breakfast plays an even bigger role in our overall health than previously thought.
People who eat a big breakfast burn twice as many calories compared with those who eat a larger dinner, according to the new study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism on Wednesday.
They also experience fewer cravings, particularly for sweets, and have healthier blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels throughout the day.
People’s metabolisms are more active after breakfast
Over the course of 3 days, researchers evaluated 16 men who alternated eating a low-calorie breakfast and a high-calorie dinner and vice versa.
Then, the diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) — a measure of how well the body is metabolizing food — was tracked in the participants, as was overall hunger, blood glucose levels, and cravings for sweets.
The researchers discovered that, on average, the participants’ DIT was 2.5 times higher after breakfast versus after dinner, essentially showing that people’s metabolisms are more active after their morning meal.
Additionally, eating a high-calorie breakfast was linked to lower hunger pangs and sweet cravings throughout the day.
Compared with a richer breakfast, a low-calorie breakfast is more likely to cause snacking throughout the day. Plus, those who eat smaller breakfasts tend to eat larger meals at dinner, according to the researchers.
People’s insulin — a hormone that helps turn food into energy — and blood glucose, which is used for energy, were also lower after breakfast compared with after dinner.
The findings may have huge implications for people looking to lose weight, along with those with diabetes who have higher than normal blood glucose levels.
“Our results confirm that a large dinner has particularly negative effects on glucose tolerance, which should be considered by diabetic patients looking to avoid blood glucose peaks,” the researchers stated in the study.
“An extensive breakfast should therefore be preferred over large dinner meals to reduce the risk of metabolic diseases,” they added.
Skipping breakfast slows metabolism and causes cravings
According to the researchers, skimping out on breakfast is a common dieting practice tried by many hoping to lose weight.
Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says she sees people skip breakfast time and time again in an effort to control their calorie intake.
“This goes against our normal circadian rhythms, and for some with a strong morning hunger signal, it can lead to overindulgence once the fast is ‘broken’ at the midday meal,” Sood told Healthline.
“It can also lead to overeating at dinnertime in part due to the psychology of ‘making up for lost calories,’ and this often backfires,” she added.
Our metabolism is greatly influenced by the circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle.
Sood says people are more insulin sensitive in the morning, which essentially means their bodies need to produce less insulin to control blood glucose levels after eating.
“We are most efficient at metabolism in the morning hours and the most insulin sensitive in the earlier part of our ‘eating window,’ therefore it makes sense that our diet-induced thermogenesis [DIT] and overall metabolism would be more effective in the earlier part of the day,” Sood said.
On top of that, people are more physically active during the morning and day, and physical activity helps manage insulin and blood glucose levels.
Eat breakfast to fuel your day
Dr. John Magaña Morton, the division chief of Yale Medicine Bariatric & Minimally Invasive Surgery, recommends eating your bigger meals earlier in the day, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
As the study shows, our metabolic rate slows down at night, making it more work for the body to digest food and burn it off for fuel.
Additionally, aim for a well-balanced breakfast — such as fruit, eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt — and avoid overly processed foods, like pastries and sugary cereals. Those get absorbed more quickly and can cause blood sugar levels to spike, Morton adds.
“One saying I believe in is that you should eat like a queen for breakfast, princess for lunch, and pauper for dinner,” Morton said.
The bottom line
New research has found that people who eat a big breakfast burn twice as many calories compared with those who eat a larger dinner.
They also have less hunger pangs and cravings, especially for sweets, throughout the day.
A big breakfast (compared to a bigger dinner) was also linked to lower insulin and blood glucose levels, implying that people with diabetes should prioritize breakfast over dinner.
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