Which is Better for Weight Loss: Big Breakfast or Small Dinner?
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The old adage goes “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper “. When you’re trying to lose weight, it helps to arm yourself with the right tools and advice to succeed. Most people don’t realize how important meal timing is to weight loss. So, is it better to eat a big breakfast or a small dinner?
Is Eating A Big Breakfast Better for Weight Loss?
In our article “How Late is Too Late to Eat Dinner”, we talked about how our bodies have a circadian clock for eating and how eating late at night leads to weight gain.
Researchers believe that our body burns less fat at night than in the morning. Additionally, our bodies are less efficient at burning carbohydrates during the evening than during the day. This may be due to reduced insulin sensitivity at night. So, it makes sense to eat more in the morning and limit your caloric intake in the evenings.
A 2013 study published in Obesity studied 93 obese women. The women were split into two groups. One group, the “big breakfast group”, consumed 700 calories during breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 200 calories at dinner.
The second group, the "big dinner group", consumed 200 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 700 calories at dinner. The researchers found that the big breakfast group lost an average 17.8 pounds and 3 inches from their waist while the big dinner group lost 7.3 pounds and 1.4 inches from their waist.
Does that mean eating a big breakfast is better? Well, yes and no.
In the 2013 study, the heavy breakfast eaters did lose more weight than their counterparts. But then even if the women were eating a bigger breakfast their total daily calorie count was still restricted to 1,400 calories. The problem lies when you eat a big breakfast and exceed your total calorie count for the day.
Having a big breakfast is only acceptable if your caloric expenditure -- the amount of calories you burn through activity is relatively high during the day. Athletes can get away with a big breakfast because they need the energy for the day’s activities. That doesn’t exactly apply to the rest of us.
In the end, it’s not so much about how much you eat but what you eat for breakfast that matters. Research has shown that a protein-rich breakfast helps increase satiety and reduces hunger throughout the day.
Is Eating A Small Dinner Better for Weight Loss?
Our metabolism slows down at night. Moreover, we also experience lowered satiety at night. So eating a small dinner might make sense. But you shouldn’t be restricting yourself to 200 calories like the participants in the study. According to nutritionists, a caloric intake of less than 600 calories during the evenings is the ideal number. Plus, it makes you less prone to midnight snacking.
The takeaway here is that you should follow what’s best for you. If you’re active throughout the day, a bigger breakfast might suit you. If you find that you prefer to eat 5 small meals throughout the day, then that works too. It’s all about finding a calorie-restriction meal plan that you can stick to for the long run.
The old adage goes “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper “. Our metabolism is much more efficient at burning fat and carbohydrates during the day than at night. So while there is some truth to the adage. The problem lies when we exceed our daily caloric intake. Athletes can get away with a high-calorie breakfast but not us regular folks. On the other hand, drastically limiting your caloric intake during dinner makes you more prone to midnight snacking. The key is finding the right balanced meal plan that fits you.