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Does a Big Breakfast Help or Hurt Weight Loss?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/2/2011 5:32 AM   :  204 comments   :  25,604 Views

One of the bits of advice most frequently offered to dieters is to eat a good breakfast. The theory goes that a substantial breakfast will ďjump startĒ your metabolism and also help control appetite, making it easier to avoid overeating later in the day.

But does it really work that way?

Apparently not, according to the study reported in this article. Researchers studied the eating habits of both overweight and normal weight subjects and found that, in both groups, the size of their breakfast had no effect at all on how many calories they ate at other meals. But a large breakfast was associated with eating more total calories during the day.

According to the study, the specific foods associated with a higher daily calorie total for both overweight and normal weight subjects were the foods usually eaten at breakfast: bread, eggs, yogurt, cheese, sausages, marmalade and butter.

Although this was a small, observational study and doesn't "prove" anything, it does raise the question of whether a substantial breakfast should be on the list of things every dieter "should" do.

My personal experience has been that eating or not eating breakfast doesnít seem to matter very much as far as my weight or appetite is concerned. Iíve been through long periods when I didnít eat breakfast at all. Sometimes that was a deliberate weight loss tacticóit felt easier to me to skip breakfast than to cut way back on other mealsóand it worked over the short term. Over the years, Iíve lost 20-30 pounds more times than I can count with calorie restriction due mainly to skipping breakfast and/or going on some weird diet, but I always regained the weight, and usually more. Other times, I just wasnít interested in breakfast, for some reason. I very rarely ate breakfast during the 4-5 years when I was at my heaviest weight, but that didnít stop me from getting up to 400 pounds.

These days, I do eat breakfast regularly and itís usually the meal thatís highest in carbohydrates. Thatís because I usually do my exercise (a fairly long bike ride or mountain hike) in the middle of the day and need the energy for that. If I skip breakfast I usually find myself running out of steam before Iím done with my ride or hike.

I also find that consciously choosing to eat a healthy breakfast (oatmeal with berries and a dash of cocoa powder is my staple) is a good way to get my attitude adjusted in the right direction for the day, especially if Iím trying to reduce calories and lose weight. Eating junk or skipping breakfast seems to have the opposite effect.

So, all in all, I have to say that eating breakfast seems to work best for me. But that doesnít mean itís necessary for everyone. Itís certainly possible to get the energy and nutrients you need without eating breakfast, and youíre the person in the best position to know whether you need a morning meal to keep your appetite (or your attitude) under control.

Whatís your story? Are you a breakfast eater or do you skip it? What works for you?


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Comments

  • CALLIPYGEA
    154
    I'm don't have much of an appetite the first 2-3 hours I'm awake, but if I don't eat something then I'm a wreck by lunchtime. Can't stand cold cereal, I'm starving 1/2 hour later. I usually grab toast and PB, or oatmeal and egg, or waffle with cream cheese, or cheese with crackers and fruit. - 2/6/2011   2:59:23 PM
  • 153
    Before Sparks i never ate breakfast, I now eat breakfast every day, my favorite is peanut butter and banana on toasted muffin, but I sometimes switch it up with oatmeal and banana, I really thing eating breakfast has helped me with my journey. - 2/6/2011   1:02:33 PM
  • 152
    i definately feel better with breakfast and need the fuel. The first thing I do upon waking is make myself a latte with Almond milk , powdered cocoa and light whipped cream ...Always ....!
    However My breakfast (solid food ) could be in a 2 hour window and not right away when I first wake up ...but I still find Ithe day goes much better that way . I will say cereal does nothing for me and so It needs to be mostly protein . - 2/6/2011   12:46:56 PM
  • BONSTER9
    151
    I eat oatmeal everyday for breakfast with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little applesauce for flavor. I find it I don't eat breakfast I'm hungrier throughout the day. I've also found that oatmeal is very satisfying and I don't feel hungry until lunch time. - 2/6/2011   11:33:58 AM
  • 150
    I eat a rather small breakfast most days. On weekends I have a larger breakfast but it is later in the morning. It works for me. - 2/6/2011   11:19:09 AM
  • EMMALEE74
    149
    My personal feelings on this are that I am overweight and have a hard time eating breakfast. If I was at a healthy weight and never ate breakfast this article might validate that. I know that the only way for me to have success is to start the day off with a higher protein breakfast first thing in the morning.

    It is not just if you eat, it is what you eat. I don't think most people would be thinner just because they ate "something." I would probably lose some control of my appetite if I ate high carb stuff for breakfast.

    My main understanding is that it is important to eat breakfast to prevent muscle loss. Dieting of any sort can get your body in "starvation mode." This can lead to muscle loss which leads to a slower metabolic rate. Break Fast. Break the Fast. Just my humble opinion.

    - 2/6/2011   8:50:04 AM
  • 148
    The article does not mention any weight gain or loss in the three groups, only how many calories they consumed through the day. I would like to see if people who ate no breakfast really lost weight faster than those who ate a moderate breakfast.

    I can see that a big breakfast doesn't help in the overall picture. I used to go to Denny's every once in a while until I found out how many calories those breakfasts have. Ugh! No wonder I usually felt sluggish and ready to go back to bed! - 2/6/2011   8:30:39 AM
  • PERKINSSISTERS
    147
    I eat breakfast everyday. Need it to run or I wouldn't have any energy to fuel the run. - 2/5/2011   11:45:43 PM
  • 146
    I have never been a breakfast person. My first "meal" of the day is typically around 11 a.m. and once I began this weight loss journey everyone told me I had to eat breakfast. I take the easy way out, 2 hardboiled eggs for breakfast. I can eat them on the run and it gives me just a little boost through the morning. - 2/5/2011   9:01:17 PM
  • TOP48761
    145
    Breakfast is something new to me but does seem to keep me from pigging out around noon. Since I am new to this program and this is my first diet I will let time tell. - 2/5/2011   7:37:14 PM
  • 144
    Breakfast? O, yes, if I don't I will run around looking to eat anything insight. And most of the time it's nothing good for me!!! - 2/5/2011   7:09:38 PM
  • 143
    I have to eat breakfast every day, although I use to rarely eat breakfast. If I don't, I will snack and on the wrong kind of stuff then not eat a healthy lunch. Sometimes I will just have a bowl of cereal with 2% milk and then my Activia for a midmorning snack. Other times, usually on the weekend, I'll have my scrambled eggbeaters (2) with turkey sausage and an Orowheat Sandwich Thin and my yogurt. It's a bigger breakfast but I don't do the midmorning snack because it's usually more like brunch. Then I'll eat a later lunch than during the work week. Either way I go, I have been keeping my daily calories between 1300 and 1550 and my other numbers are for the most part in range. I feel WAY better when I eat breakfast, and more in control of my eating for the day. - 2/5/2011   2:46:50 PM
  • 142
    I eat breakfast 5-6 days a week (I sometimes don't on the weekends if I decide to sleep in). But if I eat a bigger breakfast, it doesn't make me eat less for the rest of the day. It just adds to my total calories. I try to stay around 300 calories, except for when I strength train in the morning, in which case I also have whey protein with milk. - 2/5/2011   2:04:20 PM
  • 141
    I DO eat breakfast every day BUT I don't eat it straight away as this seems to make me feel very hungry for the rest of the day & all my best efforts of staying within a calorie range go out of the window.
    I normally have water, a piece of fruit, then do my cardio exercises (my main exercise being a long brisk walk) then return home to have my breakfast maybe 2/3 hours after I have woken up.
    It might not suit everyone but this approach works best for me!! - 2/5/2011   1:53:34 AM
  • 140
    Definitely have to have breakfast every day! I keep my calories to 250-300, some oatmeal and small piece of fruit, or yogurt with healthy granola and 1/2 an apple, or hard boiled egg, 1/2 a whole wheat eng muffin, & small piece of smoked salmon...these are easy and some of my favorites during the work week. - 2/5/2011   12:12:10 AM
  • 139
    when i was younger i never ate breakfast. When i started dieting i was told its a must. well now i cannot go with out it im super hungry when i wake up but i try to eat something light. if i eat a really big breakfast i feel more hungry throughout the day - 2/4/2011   11:38:13 PM
  • 138
    i am a big breakfast eater, and i guess it depends on what you are eating.
    i do so well in the morning, fruit, oatmeal, wheat toast, maybe some yogurt or a protein shake.
    now, if i can just keep this up in the evenings. - 2/4/2011   11:18:05 PM
  • 137
    I usually eat breakfast. But what I have discovered is I have to eat it after I do my morning exercises or I won't exercise after I eat. Plus if I eat too early in the morning I seem to want to eat all day. I usually have hot or cold cereal and fruit and milk and hot herbal tea. If I eat eggs, pancakes, turkey burger or turkey sausage; I end up eating all day. - 2/4/2011   10:50:01 PM
  • 136
    If I don't eat breakfast within an hour or tow after I wake I feel a little sick. But breakfast is also my weakness. I love breakfast food and can eat it all day and really big portions. Psychologically I don't like to eat anything else if I have not had breakfast first and it has to be breakfast food. - 2/4/2011   10:45:59 PM
  • 135
    Breakfast is a challenge for me. I was never a fan until I joined SparkPeople and learned how crucial breakfast was for me to reach my goals. I made an effort to make breakfast the biggest meal of the day for months, but it didn't work for me. I would eat a big breakfast and then a big lunch due to hunger, and ultimately wound up eating more calories.

    In January, I decided that instead, I would eat a tiny breakfast (100-200 calories) and have 2-3 snacks ranging in 50-200 calories. I used to get a big 2:00pm craving, but since I decided to make lunch my first big meal, it's made a difference. - 2/4/2011   10:10:13 PM
  • 134
    Over the years I have gone through spells of not eating breakfast, but it almost always backfires on me making me crave food later in the day. Eat a big breakfast and I don't usually eat as much later on. However, I now have medication which delays breakfast for 90 minutes after I get up in the morning, and that includes COFFEE! So I find myself definately ready for breakfast when my time is up! Oh, how I yearn for the days when I could eat first thing to get my motor runnin'! - 2/4/2011   8:51:09 PM
  • 133
    I love breakfast and breakfast foods. This morning I had a serving of oatmeal (1/2 C. before cooking), 1/6 C. Craisins, 1 Tbsp. Walnuts, 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar, and 1/2 C. Almond Breeze milk. This was too filling. When lunchtime came I was not hungry.
    Do most people cut the oatmeal to a smaller amount? - 2/4/2011   8:37:59 PM
  • 132
    I love breakfast- it's the most important meal of the day for me! I am grumpy and find it hard to work efficiently if I haven't eaten breakfast. - 2/4/2011   8:31:17 PM
  • 131
    I eat breakfast, but not a big one - a bowl of oatmeal or cheerios. I eat breakfast at 5:00 in the morning, so I do better to eat a small breakfast, then mid-morning, I eat a piece of fruit and some protein - think and orange and hard boiled egg; a banana and 2 tsp. of peanut butter, an apple and 1 or 2 oz. cheese, a yogurt and some grapes. I didn't use to eat breakfast, then found myself eating the cheese danishes from the vending machine at work. The small breakfast and snack work well for me to carry me through to lunch.

    On weekends, when I am home, I tend to eat a bigger breakfast, but it is usually at "brunch" time and doubles as breakfast and lunch. - 2/4/2011   7:06:36 PM
  • 130
    I always eat breakfast!! I can't go without it. I do try to limit the calories to 300-400 as I only get 1400-1500 per day. Hot cereal, fruit, milk and juice are my usual though I like hot bread and cheese or egg and sausage on occasion. - 2/4/2011   3:21:29 PM
  • 129
    I love breakfast and find that I'm my hungriest first thing in the morning. If I eat a big breakfast, I won't be hungry at lunch and if I skip breakfast,I tend to overdo it at lunch. So I usually go for oatmeal and yogurt with an apple as a snack in between. That usually keeps me balanced. - 2/4/2011   1:58:26 PM
  • 128
    Big Breakfast? Breakfast does help me. Not Big anything, as that sets my gut to "on" - 2/4/2011   1:00:16 PM
  • 127
    I cannot do without eating breakfast. I wake up hungry every morning and the first thing i do is drink a glass of water and eat breakfast. Even if it is fruit i make sure i break the fast. - 2/4/2011   12:09:31 PM
  • 19PITSY53
    126
    I was hooked on oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon for quite some time. Lately it hasn't been satisfying me so i changed to egg white omelet with smokies on a thin bun. I seems to keep my hunger at bay longer. - 2/4/2011   9:46:07 AM
  • WINEDINETRAVEL
    125
    I generally eat when I'm hungry. In the morning, I eat about 2-3 hours after I get up and have exercised. - 2/4/2011   9:26:07 AM
  • JASPEED
    124
    I always eat a HEALTHY breakfast of protein, complex carbs and a fruit. Couldn't make it to lunch without it. - 2/4/2011   9:21:46 AM
  • 123
    I never ate breakfast. In High school, it was a constant source of tension between my mother and I. I just refused. That became the pattern for most of my life. But, when I stopped eating breakfast, I was thin. It was after I stopped that the struggles with my weight began. It may just be a coincidence of timing (I grew up and my metabolism changed), but I believe that it is more than that.
    5 weeks ago, I made it a goal to eat breakfast every day. I have only missed once during that time and I have found it much easier to stick to my nutrition goals for the day, I have more energy and am working out daily without having to totally battle myself into submission.
    whether it is a small breakfast or a large one, if it fits within your meal plan for the day, it is a good thing!!
    I BELIEVE IN BREAKFAST!! - 2/4/2011   9:12:37 AM
  • THIN1GIRL
    122
    Breakfast is a must! I would go without makeup before going without breakfast. Many good reasons to eat breakfast: http://tinyurl.com/4lo5rsr - 2/4/2011   8:48:16 AM
  • 121
    I haven't read the accompanying article but I find it is easier not to get ravenous by lunch if I eat a breakfast with protein & carbs. Actually I'm not particularly hungry at lunch but can go until early afternoon without eating. I I had to make myself learn to eat breakfast. Is this just mental? - 2/4/2011   6:37:52 AM
  • 120
    I eat breakfast I find that it keeps me on track. If I eat cereal I need my fruit at +- 11h00 sometimes before but if I eat egg and health toast I dont get hungry at all. I can go on a weekend with having this till mid to late afternoon before I need to eat. - 2/4/2011   1:48:46 AM
  • 119
    I workout to hard all day in order not to eat breakfast because it may be 1230 or 200 PM by the chance I get around to eating Lunch and if I don't eat breakfast, it may be that I don't eat lunch and then pig out for dinner. On those days though I end up only eating about 600 calories for the whole day and that can't be good for my weightloss. I then end up over eating on one of the other days of the week. So breakfast helps me stay focused. - 2/4/2011   1:11:58 AM
  • 118
    I definitely HAVE to eat breakfast every morning, otherwise I'm violently hungry by around 11 am and will want to eat anything in sight! Since I'm not a morning person, I pack ahead of time my breakfast and eat it at my desk once I get to work. I usually bring half a cup of blueberries (or a banana, or some other easily transportable fruit) and yogurt and it fills me up nicely. - 2/3/2011   10:13:13 PM
  • 117
    I'm with PUMPKINPHD - skipping breakfast means dizziness, cold sweats, and tunnel vision about three hours later. My body demands that I break the fast. - 2/3/2011   9:30:58 PM
  • 116
    I love breakfast! But, I have to agree with the article. If I eat a lot for breakfast I am more likely to go over my calories for the day. That's my biggest problem on weekends when I am more likely to eat a large breakfast. The issue being that my metabolism is set to want food through out the day. It's much harder to par down my lunch or especially dinner to account for my large intake at breakfast. My staple is oatmeal or a protein smoothie. But, if I am feeling super hungry, I will have one egg and whole wheat toast with a little butter =). - 2/3/2011   5:35:51 PM
  • 115
    I've been a breakfast eater for as long as I can remember - certainly since starting elementary school. On occasion I don't eat breakfast because of medical tests and I'm surprised that it doesn't seem to bother me (if my stomach starts to grumble I just have a glass of water). So I"m not sure if it's a necessity or habit, like brushing my teeth. - 2/3/2011   4:54:32 PM
  • LQUIJANO
    114
    Sometimes I don't have time for breakfast. But then I'm absolutely STARVING by lunch time and tend to overeat or eat less healthy things...anything I can stuff in my face. I think if I had time for a mid-morning snack I could skip breakfast. If I don't eat a healthy breakfast, however, it doesn't "hold me over" any better than a healthy breakfast. So it does just tend to take me over my calorie goal for the day. The trick for me is eating the right kind of breakfast. - 2/3/2011   4:40:59 PM
  • 113
    I always eat breakfast. I usually eat, fruit, eggs, or cereal. I go to exercise in the morning, and wouldn't think of going without something in my stomach. It is not healthy to go all day, with nothing to eat. I tend to eat less, the rest of the day,when I eat my breakfast. - 2/3/2011   4:39:06 PM
  • 112
    I rarely eat breakfast. When I was young, I couldn't eat breakfast before school without it making me feel sick to my stomach for the rest of the day. Even now, I just don't get hungry until lunch, and I would rather listen to my body than force myself to eat.

    On the rare occasions I do wake up hungry, I eat something like oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fruit, yogurt, or cereal. It just depends on what I feel like and how hungry I am. I do know that now when I do eat in the morning, I am usually STARVING for the rest of the day and tend to overeat. - 2/3/2011   4:08:20 PM
  • 111
    As a diabetic, I HAVE to eat breakfast or my blood sugar levels drop off the chart. I usually have a high fiber, moderate to high protein and low fat breakfast of about 400 calories. Sometimes I eat an uncommon breakfast, like this morning when I had a 4 oz. skinless, fried chicken breast, a fiber bar and a large orange with 2 cups of skim milk which came in at 600 calories. With a range from1600 to 1900 calories a day, I find it easy to adjust calories by increasing frozen or fresh veggies at my other meals and small snacks.

    My last A1c measurement was 5.8, so it's working well for blood glucose control and I've been reaching my weight loss goal for the past 6 months. - 2/3/2011   3:55:35 PM
  • 110
    I eat breakfast most days. I like to make healthy/balanced choices. Some days I don't feel hunger pains until lunch, some days I feel hungry after an hour of eating (regardless of the foods I eat). I also workout first thing when I wake up, and don't eat breakfast until 2-3 hours later. I've found I have an easier time dropping weight when I choose to eat breakfast regularly, but I've also skipped it here and there when I've over-indulged for a few days.

    I usually skip breakfast on weekends because my other meals are higher in calories or we go out to eat (which is usually more calories).

    Basically, each individual needs to do whatever works best for them. In the beginning, it's good to try different things to see what works for you, and make changes as necessary. - 2/3/2011   3:33:50 PM
  • ONLYTEMPORARY
    109
    I eat breakfast but it's usually hot oatmeal and toast or cold cereal and toast. Occasionally it will be eggs, toast and maybe a couple slices of bacon. Rarely bacon or sausage or pancakes or french toast. - 2/3/2011   3:19:03 PM
  • 108
    I have to eat breakfast -- I always wake up hungry. If I don't eat, I will start to feel tired & fuzzy-headed after a few hours. It's often my biggest meal of the day. I only skip it when I sleep through it on the rare days when I can sleep late. I try to eat healthy foods for breakfast, though, like fruit and whole grain cereal or oatmeal. - 2/3/2011   2:11:22 PM
  • CHARFANIE
    107
    I've once heard that you should eat Breakfast like a King, Eat Lunch like a Queen and eat like a Princess for dinner... Any comment to this??? - 2/3/2011   1:31:57 PM
  • EMMAWHITEMAN
    106
    Personally I have to eat breakfast and I actually lost weight when I started eating breakfast and kept my other meals the same.

    I think there is a big difference between a "good" breakfast adn a "big" breakfast! - 2/3/2011   12:53:20 PM
  • MELLYBEANS0919
    105
    I eat breakfast everyday. Eggs, yogurt, toast, oatmeal - not all at once! haha - 2/3/2011   12:17:34 PM

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