Does a Big Breakfast Help or Hurt Weight Loss?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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 “jump start” 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 doesn’t seem to matter very much as far as my weight or appetite is concerned. I’ve been through long periods when I didn’t eat breakfast at all. Sometimes that was a deliberate weight loss tactic—it felt easier to me to skip breakfast than to cut way back on other meals—and it worked over the short term. Over the years, I’ve 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t stop me from getting up to 400 pounds.

These days, I do eat breakfast regularly and it’s usually the meal that’s highest in carbohydrates. That’s 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 I’m 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 I’m 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 doesn’t mean it’s necessary for everyone. It’s certainly possible to get the energy and nutrients you need without eating breakfast, and you’re the person in the best position to know whether you need a morning meal to keep your appetite (or your attitude) under control.

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

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I agree. Report
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day! I eat within 30 min of getting up and usually have oatmeal and fruit. This keeps me eating healthy all day long. I used to grab a bagel/breakfast sandwich from a drive thru on my way to work but since SP, I am eating much better. Report
My best breakfast, is starting out with about 10 oz of orange juice, then making two pieces of toast and allowing self jam or preserves on half a slice and enjoying another 10 oz of oj with. Big breakfasts are only as a brunch sort of thing as I''d either be starving and overeat all day on a workday or if not on a workday, overeat to the point of not hungry until about supper time. Then I just feel like a beached whale. Report
I am a breakfast eater. Not only do I eat it every morning, but my son does also. I have attempted to some days go without it, but it seams that I tend to want to snack more.
The vending machine at work begins to have a hold on me... Report
I rarely eat breakfast, because I'm not a morning person & don't get hungry until lunch time. Though, I have found that if I do eat breakfast, I eat more throughout the day. If I eat breakfast, I get hungry again sooner. Lunch, though, seems to be the meal that impacts my daily consumption most, though. We switched to having lunch be our big meal, instead of dinner. I've found that that has helped me eat less all day, even if I eat breakfast. Report
I'm a big breakfast eater - most days I've had two substantial meals by the time my workday starts at 8:00 am. I'm lethargic and stupid at night and more interested in sleeping than in eating. I'm energetic, quick, and HUNGRY in the mornings, so that's when I eat. It works for me. Report
I find it's not so much the size of the breakfast as what it's made of. For me, if I get a lot of protein, I'm good for a long time. If it's too carby, I'm starved before long and probably eat more later. Report
I find that when I have a large breakfast , I tend to overeat the whole day. I prefer to have a glass of apple cider and 2 apples to start the day fresh! Report
When my breakfast includes lots of protein, I'm okay. But just fruit, then I'm snacking all day on healthy things, such as carrots, grapes, Kind bars, but still coming close to my max calorie count.

Yes, for me, sometimes when breakfast is the largest meal, I do overdue the rest of my day. Report
I eat pretty well the same thing for breakfast every day!
- 1 mini whole grain bagel
- 3/4 or 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
- 1/2 large banana or 1/2 large apple
- single serve vanilla fat free greek yogurt.

I find if I am awake longer than an hour before I eat, I feel awful! Just a nice, small, well rounded breakfast is key for me! Report
I have got in the habit of eating every 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Small meals and healthy snacks keeps me going all day. On Sunday, we go to brunch after church. I find I usually don't eat anything again until dinner time, but I also don't have much energy during the day. Sunday is usually nap day. Report
Whenever i have a big breakfast i do not overet the rest of the day. I can have a light lunch and then a normal dinner but the days i have my big breakfast are usually days i get a later start to the day so i am still full during the time i would tend to want to snack and it allows me to hold off my lunch for a little later. Report
I have always been a breakfast eater. I find that when I have a big breakfast (over 350 calories) I tend to eat more throughout the day. If I have a balanced breakfast under 350, I usually do really well with staying in my calorie range. Report
I think everyone's body is different but for me, I have to have breakfast. If I don't eat breakfast, I'm starving through the rest of the day and will eat more than if I did have breakfast. Furthermore, I've also noticed that if I eat a larger breakfast or a less carby breakfast, I tend to stay fuller longer. So I tend to have a fiber or protein rich breakfast. Oatmeal is my staple. I also like an English muffin with some Laughing Cow cheese. I don't eat donuts or cereal or junk like that. That will just make me hungry later. Report
For me, a substantial breakfast is a must. I do the best with my eating for the day when I start with a healthy, filling breakfast. I have about 3-4 breaksfasts in my groupings in my nutrition tracker that work well for me. When I start out planning ahead and eating well, I do the best. Report
Eating a big breakfast between 560-700 calories works well for me. I find that I eat less throughout the day! I have between 400-600 calories for lunch and about 130 calories for dinner with 2 cups of coffee and a couple of snacks-about 1500 calories all up. On intense workout days (when I burn 600-700 calories) I have a bigger breakfast and lunch and eat about 1700-1760 calories to give me that extra boost. Report
I NEED a big breakfast in the mornings especially when I do AM or lunch time workouts. If I don't, I start feeling light headed and sick, I look sick too! I go all pale!! That's why I have a breakfast of around 560 calories for when I don't have morning workouts and 700 calories for when I do. Burning 700+ calories on an empty tank is not healthy! It may not leave much for dinner (I prefer having light dinners anyway, an egg or tuna salad is enough for me at that time of day), but at least I have energy to burn when I need it! Besides, having a large meal 3 hours before bed is idiotic! All it does is ruin my sleep! You don’t burn 600 calories lying in bed all night, either. So why have a large meal at 7pm? Report
I like to have a hearty breakfast--then I'm not starting the day off feeling deprived! I'd rather spend most of my calories/fat/carbs on breakfast than any other meal or snack. Yay Breakfast! Report
I do always eat breakfast, but since starting SP, i have discovered that i need to have a high protein breakfast and/or mid morning snack to reach my protein goals for the day. Breakfast lately has been oatmeal made with milk instead of water, and maybe a greek yogurt mid morning for another 14 grams of protein. Report
I eat breakfast almost every day....on the weekends not so much as I like to sleep in on occasion. I a lost always have an egg sandwich, cheese and a coffee. On the weekends, berries or a yogurt smoothie keep me going. Report
Yeah when I used to not eat breakfast, I was still fat. But, it made me eat so much during the other meals. Now, I eat breakfast, it keeps me from bingeing. Report
I've secretly envied those who aren't hungry in the a.m. If I don't have breakfast within a half-hour of waking up, I begin to feel weak and nauseated. My day begins with a good mixture of protein, high-fiber carb and a bit of healthy fat...yum yum! Report
Strangely, I've just read a blog about the importance of a high protein breakfast - which has really helped me this year. I think that having a cooked meal (quorn sausages and tomatoes in my case), really makes me feel I've eaten well: I'm quite satisfied and don't snack before lunch any more. However, quorn sausages are low calorie and low fat, so with extras like toast and spread I still use less than 300 calories for my breakfast.
I guess I decided that if I was going to diet I was going to make sure I ate stuff I love - and that includes sausages! Report
I have to eat breakfast in the morning since its been programmed into me from an early age and helps jump start my day. Actually since being on SP for a year now, and amping up my exercise daily I wake up hungry so, for me its a must to energize myself for the upcoming day since I too prefer to workout in the mornings. Report
Breakfast is definitely a meal I struggle with.

Everyone keeps telling me how important it is, but my experience in the past is that if I skipped breakfast, I'm hungry about 2 hours later. If I eat breakfast, even 500 calories or so, I'm still hungry about 2 hours later. More, my stomach really doesn't want food in the morning. I've been eating breakfast most mornings since joining sparks and I have to force myself to eat every bite (needless to say, these breakfasts tend to be small). If I wait a few hours, I'm actually hungry and want food.

BUT--I work out usually after breakfast, and I *Have* to eat before I work out or my blood sugar crashes and I end up nauseous light headed and generally really ill feeling. So now I always eat before I work out, usually something small (150-200 calories is pretty typical, with something that has some protein it, not just carbohydrates) and then eat a more substantial lunch. Report
I've never been a big breakfast person (I would prefer to eat 2-4 hours after I got up, rather than right away), but ever since I was pregnant with DD 7 years ago, my body feels the need for it. So I always eat it, but try to keep it small. I have tried to see if a more substantial breakfast kept later meals smaller, and it didn't. If I aim for a 250-300 calorie breakfast, on days I go over that, inevitably I go over my overall calorie count at the end of the day, usually by about that same amount. The "substantial breakfast" idea really doesn't work for me! Report
I started eating breakfast last the age of 57. Was never hungry first thing in the morning. My husband, children and grandchilren always eat a great breakfast. I think my neglect in having one stemmed from a family upbringing where it did not matter either way and a pepsi was my mother's drink of juice for thing in the morning...She weighed no more than 100 lbs. her entire life (go figure). Wanting to live a longer and healthier lifestyle I made it a goal to start having a breakfast (fruits, yogurt, cottage cheese, a little protein etc.) and have to admit I'm lost without it, feeling sooooo much better with it. :) Report
I eat breakfast but its always small enough to have me hungry in the next 2 1/2 hours which makes me get a snack around 10:30, still hungry for lunch at 1:00, another snack at 3:00, Gym at 5:30, and dinner at 7:30...small portions of about 300 calories for each meal...if i dont eat breakfast, i will be starving by snack or lunch time and i WILL over eat because a sandwich will not cut it!! Report
I believe it's how you develop your habits. I can intentionally skip breakfast initially and have lite "sustaining" portions, such as a Fiber one bar. That usually keeps me going. It also depends on my ability and intensity of exercise. Report
I HAVE to eat breakfast or I feel lousy! I was raised eating at least just some kind of breakfast (cereal, banana and toast, granola bar, etc) every morning, so I guess it is just ingrained in me. Nowadays, I know more about nutrition, and I think it is not so much that we get a "big" breakfast in, but a hearty, filling one. A small to moderate amount of fat, along with a substantial amount of carbs, protein, and fiber are the key to revving your metabolism, satiety until lunch (or for me, mid-morning snack), and to get you fueled for the work day (or for me, morning workouts + school + work). However, my husband can't stomach breakfast, so I just send him along with "some kind of breakfast" (granola bar, etc) and he'll at least eat that. lol. :) Report
When I'm scheduled to come in for the morning shift at school I will usually have a breakfast bar or something small that I can walk out the door with otherwise I end up snacking on whatever I'm preparing for the day - there are always extra desserts or cut ends to chow on in the kitchen but when I'm on afternoons and don't have to be there until ten I usually just wait and have lunch at 11, as it is provided free for students. Report
I am a coffe drinker. I only eat breakfast on the weekends-maybe. That's if I make if for my family. I do try to eat something around ten though. Report
I am definitely a breakfast eater! It is my favorite meal and my favorite foods. However, it is defeating if I let the cals add up too high so early in the day. So I am learning to adjust what I eat for breakfast. Healthier choices! Report
Anone every mix protein powder into your oatmeal? It takes a little getting used to (looks like cement) but just recently I discovered that I function best when I get adequate protein in every meal. Knowing that I'm taking good care of my ody and wont feel sluggish later makes everything taste that much better. Report
I eat breakfast that includes protein only. If I eat any kind of carbs in a morning, I'll be craving for more all day, and end up overeating. Report
For me it's not if I eat breakfast or not, it's more about what I eat. A protein/fiber filled breakfast does keep me from going overboard at lunch; but a plain bagel or other high carb low protein/low fiber breakfast and I'm famished before lunch and looking for a snack. When I eat breakfast I try to each either oatmeal w fruit or an omelet with vegetables. Report
Eating breakfast for me is necessary. My work out starts at the gym at 5:30 each morning and I work out for almost 2 hours. So, it is beneficial for me to eat something afterwards. Sometimes, I just choose a protien shake or something a little more filling--carb/protien combination. However, when I don't eat breakfast, I have a tendancy to overeat the remainder of the day. Report
When I rise up early I have to have breakfast. I mix in a bowl fruits (pineapple, kiwi, mango, blueberries, straeberries, Pomegranate) that I change almost everyday, then I put ground flaxseed, oatmeal and a little bit of honey. Then I have a cup of coffee with milk with 2 slices of cereal bread with butter.
This is a boost to my energy levels with lots of vitamins.
It's not health, for several reasons, to be long hours without eating. One of them is that we'll be hungrier in the next meal. I have very strict meal hours and I eat even when I'm not hungry. This way I eat less. Report
I'm trying to eat breakfast, lately oatmeal and fruit. I'm 46 and have never thought about getting the metabolism started early. Lately this has been working for me. Report
Breakfast is a must if I don't want to keel over by mid-morning. I'm usually very hungry when I get up at 5:30 a.m. If I'm not hungry, then I know I over ate the day before. I usually have hot or cold cereal with some dried fruit and milk. Maybe some OJ. Sometimes I'll have an egg on an English muffin. I definitely feel better if I start out with a light breakfast. Report
I used to skip breakfast mainly because I was never hungry enough to eat. Why? Because I ate so much the night before. Now that I'm controlling what and when I eat, especially not late, my body is ready to eat again come morning time. When I'm cutting close to get to work, 1 minute oatmeal with sweetner is my usual. If I have a little more time, I eat egg beaters with veggies cooked in, along with a slice of high-fiber toast. Report
I used to skip breakfast and now I eat a bagel thin and I do better eating during the day and have more energy. Report
I generally eat fruit for breakfast, and that's it. If I eat a large breakfast, I still eat the same amount for lunch and dinner, so extra calories. But I think it varies from person to person. Some people might do best on a big breakfast and lighter meals throughout the day. Other people might do best with a light breakfast or none. It's about listening to your body. Report
I used to be one of those people who skipped breakfast so I could "save" the calories for later in the day. Glad those days are gone! I love Kashi Heart to Heart cereal with fruit (usually blueberries, blackberries or strawberries) and fat free milk. Have it almost everyday. Sometimes I have a half a grapefruit with it. Also like Trader Joe's steel cut oatmeal and occasionally two low fat Eggo wheat waffles with smartbeat and sugar free syrup. Report
I never never never skip breakfast - it's my favorite meal of the day! I'm always hungry in the morning, too. I keep it healthy, though - either oatmeal with fruit, a poached egg with fruit or some kind of whole grain side, yogurt with fruit and grapenuts, or some healthy cereal with soy milk. On weekends I may get more creative and have a brunch of whole wheat banana waffles or omelets or the like. Yum! Report
I have started eating breakfast recently but I don't see any real difference. If anything I think I'm hungrier now in the morning when at work then I was before I ate breakfast. Report
I eat when I am hungry so that means some times I will roll out of bed and want something to eat, other times it may be 10 or 11 before I feel ready to eat. If I don't listen to my body and eat when it tells me to I end up sick. So it is not worth it to force something down just because. However, I know that it might put me at risk for eating everything I can get my hands on later in the day so I never leave home without food. That way when I do get hungry I have something healthy to eat instead of what ever I can get my hands on. I also eat dinner later than most people do. I wonder if that has something to do with my late morning eating. Report
I was never a breakfast person. I could only eat after I had been up for more than 2 hours. Since I joined SP and stop eating early at night I am hungry first thing in the morning and if I don't eat soon enough I will chew some ones arm off. And the rest of the day I am constantly hungry and trying not to eat over my calories. Report
I eat breakfast because of needing to jump start my metabolism. Otherwise, I am not necessarily someone who is hungry right away in the morning. I usually have yogurt or a protein shake or a banana to get me going. On the weekend one day I will usually go to the diner and eat a real breakfast meal Report
I have at least toast every morning, but I was always told to get a big brakfeat & lit dinner. Report