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Could Eating More Calories in the Morning Help You Lose Weight?

Eating More Calories

It’s frustrating when you’re trying to lose weight and aren’t making progress! The numbers on the scale stay static and you wring your hands in frustration. Why aren’t you losing weight? You watch what you eat. That’s the most important, but research shows you may get better results if you also focus on when you eat too. There’s growing evidence that the time of day you consume most of your calories can influence your weight and make it easier or harder to slim down.

Do you wake up in the morning, grab a coffee to sip, but consume no solid food? Not only is that not a nutritionally sound practice, it could also make it harder to lose weight. Instead, research suggests it may be better to eat a satisfying breakfast or lunch and lighten up at dinner. Some people refer to this as front-loading calories because they eat more early in the day and less later in the day. Doing this could help with weight control.

Meal Timing and Weight Loss

How do we know that when we eat matters for weight loss and weight control? A study carried out by the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) in Northern Ireland looked at the effects of meal timing on weight loss and weight maintenance.

The researchers found that people who ate more of their daily calories later in the day ate a poorer quality diet overall. Rather than making nutrient-dense, whole food choices, these folks were more likely to choose ultra-processed foods and other foods that are harmful to metabolic health and weight control.

On the other hand, the researchers in this study also found eating breakfast was associated with better diet quality, and subjects who enjoyed a satisfying breakfast ate less later. Over the course of the day, they consumed fewer calories. The participants in the study ranged from age 19 to 64 and the differences in calorie intake between subjects who ate more early in the day and those who took in more calories in the evening was surprising. Those who front-loaded their calories and ate less in the evening took in 40% fewer calories over 24 hours. That’s a significant difference and one that would impact on your body weight over time.

During the study, the participants kept food diaries documenting what they ate, and the researchers scored their meals using the Nutrient Food Index to determine the quality of what they ate. However, the study didn’t look at physical activity and other factors that might affect food intake or diet quality.

Does Eating Breakfast Help with Weight Loss?

Based on these findings, you might assume that eating more early in the day, beginning with a healthful breakfast, boosts weight loss. However, studies are conflicting. Some research shows eating breakfast offers a weight-loss advantage, while others do not. In fact, a few small studies find that breakfast eaters consume more calories compared to those who skip this first meal of the day.

However, experts point out, the quality of some earlier studies is low and didn’t consider the type of foods people eat for breakfast. For example, eating a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast especially processed carbs, low in protein, isn’t as satisfying as a breakfast high in protein. In fact, research shows people consume more calories later in the day when they start the morning with a bagel as opposed to a breakfast of eggs, one of the best sources of high-quality protein.

When you buy a bagel at a coffee or bagel shop, you get more than you bargained for. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, bagels have doubled in size over the past 20 years. Twenty years ago, the average bagel was 3 inches in size, but now the average bagel has morphed to 6 inches of high-glycemic carbs that leave you feeling hungry a few hours later.

Why is protein in the morning so important? Consuming more protein reduces hunger and calorie consumption later, and it’s easier on your blood sugar. When your blood sugar levels are more stable, you’re less likely to experience hunger, and that helps with weight loss and weight control.

The Bottom Line

Whether when you eat affects weight loss is murky, mostly because studies can’t control all relevant factors like the nutrient content of what people eat. Ultimately, diet quality matters more than when you eat it, but if eating a nutrient-rich breakfast curbs hunger and gives you more energy to power through your day, it serves a purpose.

However, eating a bowl of sugary cereal from a package and a cup of coffee in the morning would likely have the opposite effect. Such a breakfast will leave you feeling tired from your blood sugar dropping too fast after you eat it and hungry too. If you end up eating more because of it, it will be harder to lose weight. Plus, you’re not giving your body the nutritional support it needs.

So, there are no hard and fast rules, but if you eat in the morning, choose something nutrient-dense and high in protein. Skip the convenience breakfast meals like cereal from a package. Also, watch the nighttime snacking, especially when you’re relaxing and watching television. Scrutinize the quality of those night-time munchies too. Skip the chips and munch on a handful of nuts, seeds, or a container of low-sugar yogurt instead. Your waistline will thank you!

 

References:

  • HealthLine.com. “Should You Eat Breakfast If You Want to Lose Weight? Here’s What to Know”
  • Medscape.com. “Evening Eating Linked to Higher Calorie Intake, Lower Diet Quality”
  • Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Feb;50(2):113-9. doi: 10.1080/10408390903467514.
  • Physiol Behav. 2014 Jun 22;133:130-5. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.05.015. Epub 2014 May 24.
  • Medscape.com. “Evening Eating Linked to Higher Calorie Intake, Lower Diet Quality”
  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. “Serving Sizes and Portions”
  • Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Oct; 32(10): 1545–1551. Published online 2008 Aug 5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.130

 

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