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When trying to lose weight, there’s an old saying that goes something like this: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper.
The belief, commonly held among both health experts and the public at large, is that eating most of your daily calories in the morning sets you up for better weight loss because those calories are burned more efficiently.
Recently, though, a group of researchers in the field of appetite control has challenged this notion.
They decided to take a closer look at how time of day interacts with metabolism and weight loss and their findings might surprise you…
Do morning calories equate to weight loss?
Alexandra Johnstone is a professor and researcher in the field of appetite control at the Rowett Institute, a research center for studies of food and nutrition, located in Aberdeen, Scotland.
“There are a lot of myths surrounding the timing of eating and how it might influence either body weight or health,” she says.
The myth that Prof. Johnstone and her colleagues set out to tackle seems to stem from the field of research into circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm is the natural internal process — or body clock — that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Eating in sync with the body clock encourages higher calorie intake in the morning hours with all calorie intake to take place within a 12-hour window.
But does it help you lose weight?
Prof. Johnstone and her team recruited thirty overweight or obese people to participate in a study to see whether this idea held up under closer scrutiny.
At the start of the study, each participant was randomly assigned to eat either a diet heavy on morning calories (morning-loaded) or an evening-loaded diet for four weeks. The diets were matched in terms of total calories and had a balance of 30 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrates and 35 percent fat.
At the end of four weeks, and after a “washout” period of one week in between where calories were balanced evenly throughout the day, each participant began the opposite diet for another four weeks.
In the end, total calories burned and weight loss was the same for both diet groups. Participants lost just over seven pounds during each of the four-week periods.
But there was one interesting thing…
Morning calories prevented late-day hunger and snacking
All participants reported that their appetites were better controlled on the days they ate a bigger breakfast and that they felt full throughout the day and did not suffer hunger pangs.
That means less snacking during the day and better control if you’re trying to stick to an eating plan prescribed for weight loss. That makes a bigger breakfast a win!
So, what should this morning meal consist of to help encourage fullness, self-control and weight loss?
A breakfast low in carbohydrates and sugars is a good start. And you may need some protein to hold you over — like eggs.
A study at the University of Connecticut shows that eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast can help you feel fuller during the day and eat less at lunch.
In this research, men who had eggs for breakfast took in about 18 percent fewer calories during the day than men who ate cereal or other high-carbohydrate foods first thing in the morning.
Enjoy them atop avocado toast made with whole grain bread, for a dose of filling fiber.
Opt for coffee or tea over juice unless it’s fresh or a brand without added sugars. But if weight loss is your aim, coffee can help. That’s because caffeine is scientifically proven to boost your metabolism and suppress your appetite.
What about a delicious sandwich for breakfast that can help your weight loss efforts? Nutritionists say this one will fill you up nicely.
A satisfying meal and weight loss — who says you can’t have both?
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