If you're trying to shed the pounds by cutting calories at breakfast, you may want to reassess your diet strategy. A new study confirms there is truth to the old saying "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper," discounting the popular belief that eating several small meals throughout the day is the best metabolism-boosting weight-loss method.
"Our results suggest that in relatively healthy adults, eating less frequently, no snacking, consuming breakfast and eating the largest meal in the morning may be effective methods for preventing long-term weight gain," concluded the study, which was published in The Journal of Nutrition last week. "Eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be a useful practical strategy."
Led by Dr. Hana Kahleova, director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee, researchers examined data from 50,660 individuals over the age of 30 from Seventh-day Adventist Churches in the United States and Canada. Over the course of seven years, they looked at the size, timing and frequency of participants' meals as well as any changes in their body mass index (BMI).
The individuals with the biggest decreases in their BMIs were those who ate their largest meal early in the day and ate less frequently. On the other hand, people who ate more than three times a day and had their biggest meal later in the day (after 6 p.m.) saw the biggest increase in their BMIs.
"Our body has an inner clock and regulates the levels of different hormones during the day," said Dr. Kahleova. "So, for example, insulin is secreted most efficiently in the morning. Therefore our carbohydrate load should be the largest in the morning."
Skipping dinner altogether also proved to a be an efficient weight-loss tactic, as people who ate less than three meals a day and had the longest overnight break between meals also saw a significant decrease in their BMIs.
Based on the results of this study, that would mean the best possible eating schedule for weight loss would be a huge breakfast, a decent-size lunch and then basically fasting the rest of the day.
According to Dr. Kahleova, this has to do with the fact that the body's process of digesting larger quantities of food at once burns more calories than when the calories are spread equally throughout the day. So, basically, you're less likely to gain weight consuming 2,000 calories at once than 2,000 spread across many meals, she said.
It's important to note that this study examined long-term weight loss, so it's possible that other diets could be more effective in the short-term. As with any dietary strategy, it may not be appropriate or even healthy for everyone, especially those with pre-existing health conditions — such as diabetes — who are encouraged to eat several times throughout the day. Always talk with your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet.