You have probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You may have also heard that eating breakfast will boost your metabolism and improve your ability to lose weight. These things aren't true. But they aren't necessarily false, either. Before you change your breakfast habits to lose weight, get the facts about what breakfast can and cannot do for your weight loss plan.
Benefits of Eating Breakfast
Researchers have found that people who lose weight and keep it off are generally those people who eat a healthy breakfast. But that doesn't mean that eating breakfast causes weight loss. Eating breakfast can improve your ability to lose weight in the following ways:
- Eating breakfast can help to curb late morning cravings. These cravings may lead to unhealthy food binges when the only food available is high-calorie junk food from vending machines or fast food restaurants.
- Eating a modest breakfast and small meals throughout the day will help to reinforce portion control by preventing the possibility that you'll overeat and overindulge at a single sitting to make up for a lack of calories.
- Eating a healthy breakfast with lean protein and whole grains will help you to feel full and satisfied throughout the day.
- Eating breakfast may improve performance during morning or early afternoon workouts.
For these reasons, the American Dietetic Association recommends that you divide your total daily food intake into four or five meals/snacks per day including breakfast. They do not, however, take the position that breakfast is necessarily more important than any other meal in the day.
Myths About Eating Breakfast
So now that you know why breakfast is good for you, it is important to understand how eating breakfast will not improve your diet. Many people believe that eating breakfast will improve their metabolism. This is not true. In fact, there has been no evidence to suggest that eating breakfast has any affect on metabolism.
This is important for several reasons. First, it's important to get your expectations in check. If you want to lose weight, you should certainly plan to eat a healthy meal in the morning and several small meals throughout the day. But you can't expect to simply add a meal, like breakfast, and expect the pounds to peel away.
Second, it's important to note that the quality of your breakfast and the total calories that you consume in that meal and throughout the day is what matters in the end. Eating breakfast isn't a magic ticket to weight loss. You can't go to the local diner, eat a 2000-calorie bacon, egg, and pancake breakfast and expect to lose weight.
Eating breakfast should help you to feel satisfied and comfortable so that you avoid making choices that will cause you to gain weight and will prevent you from losing weight. But eating breakfast, alone, won't make you lose weight.
The Bottom Line: Should You Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight?
Don't get fooled by popular myths about breakfast. If you want to lose weight, yes, you should eat breakfast. But that breakfast should be part of a well-designed meal plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Your entire meal plan should result in a calorie deficit at the end of the day.
McCrory MA, Campbell WW. " Effects of eating frequency, snacking, and breakfast skipping on energy regulation: symposium overview." Journal of Nutrition, January 14, 2011.
American Dietetic Association. " Position of the American Dietetic Association: Weight Management." February 2009.
Paul M La Bounty, Bill I Campbell, et al. " International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition March 16, 2011.
Lecture: Nutrition and Exercise. Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D.. November 3, 2012. Woodwinds Medical Center, Woodbury, MN