How Does Breakfast Impact Weight Loss?

How Does Breakfast Impact Weight Loss?

Growing up, we were all told that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Furthermore, conventional wisdom when it comes to dieting in weight loss, is that small frequent meals help “stoke the metabolism” and that consuming a high-protein breakfast is paramount to starting each day of your weight loss transformation.

But a new systematic review and meta-analysis shows that eating breakfast may actually impede your fat loss goals.

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The Breakfast Study

Published in The British Medical Journal, a new systematic review and meta-analysis assessing the effect of breakfast consumption on body weight and energy intake found that people who follow conventional advice to start their day with breakfast actually tend to consume a higher amount of calories than they should for weight loss. [1]

Included in the review were a total of 13 randomized controlled trials, including the largest-to-date study from 2014 (involving 300 people) which found that eating breakfast had no effect on weight loss over the course of 16 weeks. [2]

Other studies that satisfied the inclusion criteria were those that compared breakfast consumption with no breakfast consumption or skipping breakfast and its effects on body weight or energy intake. Additionally, since “breakfast” can mean a variety of things in regard to meal composition or timing, the meta-analysis only included studies that defined breakfast according to food content or timing.

Studies excluded from the meta-analysis were those that compared breakfast content but did not track weight loss or energy intake. Furthermore, other studies excluded were those conducted in children or adolescents as well as those conducted in populations with comorbidities, such as diabetes.

Breakfast

After collecting, organizing, and sorting the data, researchers noted that breakfast-consuming individuals tended to eat 260 more calories per day. The individuals who ate breakfast regularly also weighed a pound heavier than breakfast skippers.

Based on the data, researchers concluded that there is:

“This study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit. Caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect. Further randomized controlled trials of high quality are needed to examine the role of breakfast eating in the approach to weight management” [1]

Takeaway

At the end of the day, total calorie intake is what matters most for weight loss. If skipping breakfast helps you remain within your calorie limits, then feel free to use intermittent fasting.

But, it’s not magic.

Intermittent fasting is merely a tool to improve dietary adherence. If it works for you, that’s great. But, if not, then there’s no need to worry.

If you’re an athlete who trains early in the morning, consuming breakfast may offer some benefit to you in regards to performance and muscle growth. But if you’re not typically hungry in the morning and only concerned with fat loss, there’s no need to worry that skipping breakfast will slow down your metabolism or put you into “starvation mode.”

References

1) Sievert, K., Hussain, S. M., Page, M. J., Wang, Y., Hughes, H. J., Malek, M., & Cicuttini, F. M. (2019). Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMJ, 364. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l42

2) Emily J Dhurandhar, John Dawson, Amy Alcorn, Lesli H Larsen, Elizabeth A Thomas, Michelle Cardel, Ashley C Bourland, Arne Astrup, Marie-Pierre St-Onge, James O Hill, Caroline M Apovian, James M Shikany, David B Allison; The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 100, Issue 2, 1 August 2014, Pages 507–513, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.089573

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