10 July 2012 What You Eat for Breakfast Can Help You Lose Weight!

Most of us already know that eating breakfast is important for both health and weight control. But it looks like what you eat for breakfast can also affect your success with weight loss and maintenance of weight loss. "Meal timing, dietary composition resulted in sustained weight loss in obese adults," a talk given at the Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting & Expo in June 2012, had a short summary published online at Endocrine Today (June 26, 2012). This report has some important findings about breakfast. Thanks to Dr. Donahoo (endocrinologist and medical director of clinical weight management at Kaiser in Colorado) for alerting me to this article!

Protein + Carbs – A Good Team!

Jakubowicz tested two breakfasts with obese men and women – one high carb/high protein and the other low-carb, both with the same number of calories. Weight, height, fasting blood glucose, insulin, ghrelin (hunger hormone), lipids, and craving scores were assessed every 4 weeks. Hunger, satiety (feeling satisfied after a meal), insulin, and ghrelin responses after breakfast were tested at baseline, after 16-weeks, and again after 32-weeks. This is what they found:

  • By 16 weeks (4 months): both breakfast groups lost about the same amount of weight.
  • By 32 weeks (8 months): the low-carb breakfast group regained about 75% of the weight they had lost whereas the high carb/high protein breakfast eaters not only sustained their weight loss, but they lost an addition 6.9 kg (15 lbs)!


Ghrelin levels and craving scores were lower and satiety was greater with the high carb/high protein breakfast eaters compared to the low-carb breakfast eaters. That means the high carb/high protein breakfast eaters lost more weight yet felt more satisfied and less hungry than the low-carb breakfast eaters.


Eat a King's Breakfast and a Pauper's Dinner

The companion study reported by the same author looked at whether or not eating the largest meal of the day at breakfast vs. dinner would make a difference in weight loss. It did. Both meal test patterns contained a total of 1400 calories. When the largest meal was eaten at breakfast (700 calories) and the lightest meal (200 calories) at dinner, weight loss was 2.5 times greater after 12 weeks (3 months) than if the largest meal was consumed at dinner and the lightest at breakfast. Here are the test meals:

Largest meal: 700 Calories: 50% carbs (88g), 30% protein (53g), and 20% fat (15g)

Same lunch meal for both test groups: 500 Calories (moderate carbs, high protein, low fat)

Lightest meal: 200 Calories: 13% carbs (7g), 40% protein (20g), and 47% fat (10g)

In addition to losing more weight, eating the largest meal at breakfast also improved satiety, lessened hunger and craving scores, and lowered serum triglyceride levels. Interestingly, eating the same large meal at dinner instead of at breakfast resulted in HIGHER serum triglyceride levels.

So breakfast skippers and skimpers take note – it pays to front-load your calories, not back load them. As well, protein plays a key part in feeling satisfied after a meal, and the addition of carbs to the meal does not diminish its powerful affect on satiety. My take home message from these studies is that protein and carbs both play an important role in weight control.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Meal Planning & Diets/Breakfast

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