Fact or Fiction: Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight

A man preparing a green smoothie in the kitchen

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” – your grandmother probably gave you this piece of advice as a child. You had to eat something before school, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to concentrate during the lesson. If you want to lose weight today as an adult, the general opinion is that you should eat breakfast in the morning. This is supposed to boost your metabolism. But is that really true? And will you gain weight if you skip breakfast? Or is that simply a diet myth? We decided to take a closer look at this issue and would now like to share what we found with you.

Close up of young woman eating a muesli with fruits.

Does breakfast boost your metabolism?

Your body uses energy for everything you do, including eating. Energy is needed to store food in your stomach, transport it to your small intestine, absorb it (into the bloodstream) and digest it. In technical terms, this is known as “diet-induced thermogenesis.” This, together with your basal metabolic rate and physical activity, determines your daily calorie intake. When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight.

When you eat breakfast, you activate the thermogenesis process and thus stimulate your metabolism. Plus, studies have shown that eating a meal in the morning boosts your metabolism more than eating the same meal in the evening. But don’t overestimate this effect. The boost you get from eating only accounts for about 15 percent of your daily calorie intake.

Young woman measuring her belly.

Do you consume more calories in total if you skip breakfast?

Without your eggs and toast in the morning, chances are that you will reach for higher calorie foods during the day. Plus, people usually tend to eat more for lunch because they are hungrier. However, researchers from New York have found out that in the end, it doesn’t make a difference: the total energy intake in the evening was the same whether people ate breakfast or not. Therefore, it seems that skipping breakfast does not lead to excess calories.

Are you less hungry during the day when you don’t eat in the morning?

When you eat something in the morning, you find yourself getting hungry again at lunchtime and you feel like you could eat a huge meal. But if you skip breakfast, you don’t really feel hungry even hours later… Does this sound familiar? The fact is that your body gets used to a routine. The stomach is an elastic organ. When it’s empty, its volume is about 50 ml. When you eat, it can expand up to two liters. If you regularly eat large portions, your stomach gets used to a lot of content. This means that you will feel hungry faster when it remains empty for a longer period of time. Plus, eating breakfast stimulates your metabolism. If you eat the last meal of the day in the evening and then skip breakfast, your stomach content is relatively small. As a result, you don’t get hungry. But this doesn’t mean that you will automatically gain weight if you for once eat more than usual. If you get too hungry between meals, try snacking on a handful of nuts.

Did you know that the hormone ghrelin is responsible for your hunger in the morning? It is also known as the “hunger hormone.” It regulates your feelings of hunger and fullness. Studies have shown that grehlin levels in your blood are particularly high in the morning.

Photo of bred with avocado and scrambled eggs with salmon.

Are you going to gain weight if you skip breakfast?

According to studies, going without breakfast is associated with a higher weight and an increase in fat mass. But this does not mean that you will automatically gain weight if you skip breakfast. These findings could also suggest that people who eat breakfast daily lead a healthier lifestyle in general. It doesn’t necessarily mean that eating breakfast protects you from obesity. There is no detailed evidence that supports grandma’s abovementioned advice.

You should keep the following in mind:

  • Breakfast is not always breakfast! There is a big difference between eating sugary chocolate muesli or oatmeal with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.
  • If you skip one of the main meals of the day, you may not get all the macro and micronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, etc.) that your body needs.
  • Eating a meal in the morning can have a positive effect on your blood sugar concentration. Plus, breakfast should help reduce postprandial hyperglycemia (higher blood sugar levels after eating) in people with diabetes mellitus.  
  • Running on an empty stomach can be a welcome change in your training. Especially when your goal is to lose weight.
    Do you want to improve your performance, build muscle or run faster? In that case, it is a good idea to fill your energy reserves before working out, so you can give it all you got.

So, do you need to eat breakfast to lose weight?

The answer is yes and no. There are many reasons that speak for and against it. No matter whether you decide to eat breakfast or not: the main thing is that you listen to your body and keep your personal goal in mind. If your stomach is already growling as you climb out of bed, you should give your body the energy it needs. But don’t force yourself to eat when you don’t feel like it. Eat when you are hungry and put your fork down when you start to feel full.

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Julia Denner Runtastic dietitian Julia is a creative cook. She is convinced that a varied diet and regular exercise are the keys to success. View all posts by Julia Denner »

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