Does eating a big brekkie burn more calories?

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New research is adding to what we already know: you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

What we eat and drink after waking up has been shown to have an impact on our cognitive performance, mood and energy levels throughout the day. But breakfast may play an even bigger role than previously thought.

Now, scientists have found that people who eat a big breakfast compared to a large dinner may burn twice as many calories throughout the day.

The research – published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism – looked into diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), which is the process our body goes through when digesting food and the energy it expends.

The study’s corresponding author, Juliane Richter, of the University of Lübeck in Germany, says: “Our results show that a meal eaten for breakfast, regardless of the amount of calories it contains, creates twice as high diet-induced thermogenesis as the same meal consumed for dinner. This finding is significant for all people as it underlines the value of eating enough at breakfast.”

The way the research was conducted is simple. In the first round, 16 men consumed a low-calorie breakfast and a high-calorie dinner, and then did the opposite and compared the results.

The participants had 2.5 times higher DIT in the morning than in the evening, if they started the day with a high-calorie meal.

The research also found eating a low-calorie breakfast can increase your appetite for the rest of the day, specifically for sweets. This makes perfect sense. If you haven’t started your day with plenty of nutrients and you don’t feel satiated, you’re far more likely to graze and snack as the day goes on, ultimately consuming more calories than if you’d just had a hearty breakfast.

This isn’t the first time scientists have looked into the benefits of consuming more calories at breakfast compared to dinner, but it does go against social norms – as we’re far more likely to grab a quick brekkie on the go and then sit down to a big dinner at night. After all, society is largely geared towards working in the morning and doing our socialising in the evening.

A 2013 study from Tel Aviv University found eating a high-calorie breakfast can help protect you against diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

It also showed how important a big breakfast can be for weight loss – obese women were the subject of the study, and those who had a big breakfast lost an average of 17.8 pounds (8.1kg) compared to 7.3 pounds (3.3kg) for the group who had a big dinner.

While these studies specifically focus on eating a higher calorie breakfast instead of dinner, it’s an important reminder to actually eat something to kick off your day – something so many of us skip. In fact, research by The Grocer found that “44 per cent regularly refrain from eating in the morning” in the UK.

Growing up, your parents probably drilled it into you to have breakfast, and science backs them up. Another study found eating first thing improved cognitive function and academic performance in children, and it’s likely it would also help you focus better through adulthood.

Breakfast can also help boost your mental health. A 2019 study published by the Cambridge University Press found those who skipped breakfast or even delayed it had a higher prevalence of mood disorders, compared to those who ate breakfast at a normal time.

So, maybe it’s time we start taking the morning meal a little more seriously.

What is your go-to brekkie?

– With PA

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Total Comments: 10
  1. 0

    I’m a bit of a night owl and this leads to me not getting out of bed before 7-8am and now that the weather is getting cooler it’s often a bit later.

    I just don’t feel hungry in the morning and so I usually have my first food anywhere between 10.30 and midday with midday being more the norm.

    Then it can be anything from a couple of boiled eggs and toast to a full on fryup with bacon,eggs, toast and fried egg. Every morning is different.

    • 0

      I’m the same; late breakfast. Some days I’ll have porridge; on others I’ll have eggs with something, whether that’s toast, sausages, tinned spaghetti or half an avo. I have lunch around 2 or 3pm which is also one of the above, but not the one I had for breakfast. Dinner can be substantial or light, depending on how much money I have and how lazy or otherwise I feel at the time.

  2. 0

    Plenty of articles claim the opposite to this. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (the 16/8 diet) for six months and have lost weight. This means I skip breakfast and have lunch at 11am.

  3. 0

    Taken at face value the article suggests that eating a big breakfast means our system and food conversion is less efficient than eating a small breakfast. The article says we burn more calories from eating a large breakfast, it doesn’t say that as a result we have more energy or can do more physical work. In fact after a big breakfast we may well feel more sluggish. In our climate the last think we may need in summer is to burn more calories and feel warmer. Based on the articles claim this is like saying fill up your car in the morning and you’ll use more fuel without saying your car will go faster or further on that fuel. It assumes we all want or need to lose weight, I don’t but more energy wouldn’t come amiss.

  4. 0

    High calories does not equal high nutrition, it equals fat! If you are having animal products as a meal you are not getting fiber either. The best food for breakfast for quick fast energy easy to digest is fruit, a big bowl of it. If you eat a hard to digest meal for breakfast than your body is working hard most of the day to digest it.
    I personally have celery juice first, do some exercises/yoga, then eat a fruit salad (cut up fresh fruit in a bowl), then check my emails, feed the birds, check the mail, and then make a buckwheat porridge (with almond milk). Lunch is my main meal with a big salad, and dinner is a lot lighter, I have a small snack later with a cup of tea, otherwise I never snack throughout the day. I have heaps of energy and am not overweight.
    Personally I think you have to work out what is right for you, take notice how you feel after you eat, change it around and then see what works best.

    • 0

      And too many calories over the whole day means more fat. Eat highly nutritious food but low calorie ones and you will lose weight without being hungry.

  5. 0

    Without exception, FOR ME, eating breakfast is the best way for me stacking on the weight, and leads to me wanting to eat all day. Everyone is different, and that’s what happens to me. I joined weight watchers, and reluctantly started having breakfast, and didn’t lose any weight in 3 weeks. I am now retired, sleep in till when want, and lunch around 1.00 is my main meal. Then light dinner around 6.00pm. If I don’t feel like eating, I don’t.
    Having any kind of breakfast also tends to make me lethargic, tired and feel ‘heavy and weighed down’.

  6. 0

    When wife, Jo, & I are overseas or travelling anywhere necessitating staying away from home, we always start breakfast big with egg & bacon etc followed by porridge or cereal. We may only have a light lunch, or none, then have another feed when we return to our accommodation, late afternoon (4-4.30-ish)It’s always worked well for us. A good breakies gives the boost needed to get going & keep touring for the day. We’re both early risers when on hol, otherwise Jo stays in bed sleeping till 9, while I’m up at 6.

  7. 0

    When wife, Jo, & I are overseas or travelling anywhere necessitating staying away from home, we always start breakfast big with egg & bacon etc followed by porridge or cereal. We may only have a light lunch, or none, then have another feed when we return to our accommodation, late afternoon (4-4.30-ish)It’s always worked well for us. A good breakies gives the boost needed to get going & keep touring for the day. We’re both early risers when on hol, otherwise Jo stays in bed sleeping till 9, while I’m up at 6.



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