There’s an old saying that goes like this: Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince, and eat dinner like a pauper. The idea behind this is that having the biggest meal of the day in the morning provides energy for the workday. In addition, the calories in foods eaten earlier in the day are processed more efficiently than those in foods eaten at night. The benefits of eating this way include not only more energy for work or school but also weight loss. And, interestingly, a recent research study seems to support this idea.
When’s the best time for a big meal?
In Italy, 420 individuals participated in a weight-loss study for 4 months. The average age was 42 years old and the average body mass index (BMI) was 31.4, which puts the average participant in the obese category. They were divided into two groups: those who ate their biggest meal in the middle of the day (the “early lunch” group), and those who ate their biggest meal in the evening.
Surprisingly, the early-lunch group lost more weight by the end of the study, even though both groups took in comparable amounts of calories (about 1,400 a day). The researchers also looked at other variables, such as participants’ energy expenditure and their intake of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, as well as whether the “morning” people’s sleep patterns and hormones were related in any ways to those of the “evening” people.
Start the day right
I think this study is fascinating! As a dietitian, I’m always encouraging people to start the day with a good breakfast and to avoid large meals at night. After not eating for the past 8 to 10 hours, your goal is to start the day by giving your body foods that provide energy and nutrients. Eating breakfast helps jumpstart your metabolism, which is at its lowest after sleeping, and this meal provides food that will be used for energy as you go about our daily routine. Since the alternative is that the food will be stored as fat, eating a good breakfast ultimately helps with weight loss.
For those with diabetes
People with diabetes reap several benefits from eating breakfast. For one thing, it helps you start the day with a routine, one that includes checking your fasting blood glucose levels and taking your prescribed medications—with less gastrointestinal side effects.
Sometimes people aren’t hungry in the morning. If this is true for you, you may still be full from what you eat the night before. Try eating less in the evening; you may see your morning appetite improve.
Others simply don’t like breakfast foods--but no rule says you have to eat cereal or eggs and toast. Breakfast can be anything: a sandwich, leftovers, even vegetables! The important thing is to eat something within one hour of getting up and then to plan on eating more food during the day and less in the evening. Give it a try and see if it helps with your weight-loss goals!