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22 Aug
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Does Breakfast Really Boost Metabolism and Help You To Lose Weight?

I’m a breakfast eater. I like breakfast. If I don’t have something to eat in the morning then I feel ill, so I have a tough time understanding people who skip breakfast. But skipping breakfast is an easy way to lose a few hundred calories from your daily intake if you are on a diet. However, the almost universal advice for dieters is that you need to eat breakfast because it boosts metabolism. It also prevents you from over-eating the rest of the day just to catch up on what you missed – as if your body is keeping some kind of a check list.

Until very recently no one has actually completed any research on eating breakfast and its benefits regarding weight loss. The results are surprising.

The first study looked at 33 slim participants. They were split into two groups that either ate a 700 calorie breakfast or nothing at all. The study ran for just six weeks so it’s difficult to draw any earth-shattering long-term conclusions from it, but the results were interesting nevertheless. At the end of the study resting metabolism was measured and there was no difference between the two groups, so eating or skipping breakfast appeared to have absolutely no impact on how well the body burns fat. There was no difference in lunchtime eating either, so skipping breakfast didn’t make anyone hungrier by lunchtime. The breakfast eaters also lost no more weight than the non-breakfast eaters. So from this study eating or not eating breakfast appears to have no impact on weight loss. It doesn’t make you fatter and it doesn’t make you slimmer.

Of course there are problems with this study when you look at the participants. They were all lean people, therefore, I can only assume that they had their eating under control and have no problem stopping eating when their body says enough or eating when their body says hungry now. People who have a weight problem generally have difficulty listening to what their body is suggesting regarding food consumption and they eat because they want to, not because they need fuel. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with a group of overweight people because their psychology, in relation to food, is quite different from normal weight people.

However, there was another study. This one did work with overweight and obese people – 300 of them – so the study size was quite large and suggests that sensible conclusions can be drawn from the results.

These 300 people were split into three groups. One group was told to skip breakfast. One group was told to eat breakfast. The final group, the control group, was given the vague instruction to eat a healthy diet. Again there was no difference in the weight change among the three groups. This is looking bad for compulsory breakfast eating. Mind you, since there was no weight loss for the breakfast skippers it does suggest that if you are struggling to miss breakfast in order to help with weight loss then you are wasting your efforts and you might as well just enjoy your morning meal. Similarly if you are eating a breakfast that you don’t really want, in the hope that it is boosting your metabolism, then that also is a waste of time.

It seems, as far as breakfast and weight loss go, you can just do whatever you like best because it won’t make any difference.

There was, though, one really interesting finding that emerged from the smaller of the two studies. The breakfast eaters moved more and burned an extra 442 calories a day – which apparently is the same as an hour on the treadmill or the equivalent of a MacDonald’s Chicken McGrill and Garden Salad Shaker, whatever that is. Breakfast eaters just seemed to be more active throughout the day, and also maintained steadier blood sugar levels.

So maybe breakfast is good for you after all. This is what I love about science, it never really answers any questions. As soon as you look at a piece of research you just start thinking well what about this and what about this, and why if breakfast eaters are burning 440 calories more per day, why aren’t they losing weight at the rate of 2oz/day?

Still, it appears that there is now evidence that if you like breakfast, and you are attempting to lose weight, then eating it will not make any difference to your short term weight loss/gain. So go ahead and enjoy it.


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