Is “breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper” good for losing weight?


There is a popular saying that “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”.

The theory behind this “formula” is that consuming most of your calories in the morning helps burn them off. more efficiently and quicklywhich would help to lose weight or maintain it.

Is it real that the time of day we eat can affect weight control? A scientific study published in the journal Cell Metabolism sheds new clues.

Myth or Reality?

“There are a lot of myths around when to eat and how it might influence body weight or health,” said lead author Professor Alexandra Johnstone, a researcher in the field of appetite control at the University’s Rowett Institute. from Aberdeen, Scotland.

“This has been largely driven by the circadian rhythm field. But we in the field of nutrition have wondered how this could be possible. Where would the energy go?Johnstone explained.

And she said that question prompted her and her team to “take a closer look at how the hour of the day in which we eat interacts with the organism”.

Diet, metabolism and schedules

For this study, the researchers recruited 30 healthy people (16 men and 14 women) who were overweight or obese to monitor their diets and measure their metabolism over two periods.

Each participant was randomly assigned to eat a more “loaded” diet in the morning or at night for four weeks.

The diets were isocaloric (balanced in the three large groups of nutrients), with a balance of 30% protein, 35% carbohydrates and 35% fat.

After an interim period of one week, in which caloric intake was balanced throughout the day, each participant went to the opposite group for another four weeks.

Thus, each participant acted as their own “control” inside the studio.

Many people make dinner at night "stronger" of the day  Photo Shutterstock.

Many people have the “strongest” meal of the day at night. Photo Shutterstock.

same weight loss

Throughout the study, the total daily energy expenditure of participants was measured using the doubly labeled water method, an isotope-based technique that analyzes the difference between the turnover rates of hydrogen and oxygen in body water as a function of carbon dioxide production.

The primary endpoint of the study was energy balance measured by the body weight.

Overall, the researchers found that energy expenditures and total weight loss they were the same for the morning and evening loaded diets (3.33 kg and 3.38 kg averaged over four weeks, respectively).

less appetite

Secondary endpoints were subjective appetite control, glycemic control, and body composition.

“Participants reported that their appetite was better controlled days that they ate a larger breakfast and felt full for the rest of the day,” Johnstone said.

“This could be quite useful in the real-world setting, compared to the research setting we were working in,” he said.

What does it mean? That feeling more full by eating more in the morning could promote weight loss in practicesomething that, however, was not observed in the limited framework of the study.

One limitation of the work is that it was performed under free-living conditions, rather than in a laboratory setting.

Also, certain metabolic measurements were only available after breakfast and not after dinner.

Intermittent fasting proposes eating food in a limited period of time.  Photo Shutterstock.

Intermittent fasting proposes eating food in a limited period of time. Photo Shutterstock.

The relationship with intermittent fasting

Johnstone points out that this type of experiment could be applied to the study of intermittent fastingto help determine the best time of day for people on this type of diet to consume their calories.

The group also plans to expand its research on how the time of day affects metabolism by conducting similar studies in people who work shifts.

It is possible that these people may have different metabolic responses due to the disruption of their circadian rhythms.

“One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that when it comes to timing and diet, you’re likely to there is no diet that suits everyoneJohnstone concluded.

“Solving this will be the future of diet studies, but it’s something very difficult to measure“, he admitted.

Mixed results

This difficulty translates into a certain uncertainty regarding the evidence.

In fact, a study led by researchers from the University of Murcia, in collaboration with Harvard and Tufts, published in 2013 in the journal International Obesity Magazine had concluded that the timing of eating influences weight control.

The researchers evaluated the timing of the meal on the effectiveness of weight loss in a sample of 420 people who followed a weight loss treatment for 20 weeks.

The result? Those who ate early lost on average four kilos more than the later group.

“The alteration of circadian rhythms disrupts the metabolism of carbohydrates, since the biological clock controls the activity of the enzymes and hormones involved in its regulation, especially ghrelins and leptins”, the authors explained and suggested having breakfast at 8, have lunch around 1pm and dinner around 8pm.

And intermittent fasting?

Regarding the impact of intermittent fasting and its different modalities (fasting on alternate days, the 5:2 diet, and time-restricted eating) on ​​weight loss, a scientific review found that the decrease It’s similar that achieved with traditional diets that restrict calorie intake.

However, they also observed that fasting shows results in improvement of some cardiometabolic risk factors (blood pressure, insulin resistance, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and some positive effects on the gut microbiota).


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