Can eating breakfast help you lose weight?
It seems everyone’s got an opinion on breakfast!
Whether it’s those who believe you’ve got to fuel up to get going in the morning to the evangelical types who won’t let anything past their lips until mid-day!
But what’s the truth and what role does breakfast play in weight loss? I hope to answer these questions in this blog.
Breakfast…The most important meal of the day…
Did you know it was Mr Kellogg who told us, in a marketing campaign, that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’?
Yes, Mr Breakfast himself came up with that golden oldie!
The word breakfast literally means ‘breaking your fast’. In days gone by, as we hadn’t eaten since our evening meal the day before, we needed to ‘fuel up’ to keep us going until lunch (late night snacking and drinking wasn’t such a big thing back then!).
Our mothers taught us, as their mothers taught them, ‘eat your breakfast, you can’t go out on an empty stomach’! And of course many years ago life was a little more manual – we weren’t going from home to car to desk and back again, so this wasn’t such a bad idea.
And then there are some who argue that eating breakfast can actually help us lose weight as
1 You are raising your energy levels and kick-starting your metabolism…but I’m afraid this is a myth!
2 You won’t snack your way through to lunch time which can ultimately lead to eating more calories than you would if you’d had breakfast in the first place!
There’s definitely something in that second argument, however there is more to it if you want breakfast to = weight loss!
Are you actually hungry when you eat breakfast?
I’ve had many clients who were eating breakfast very early, before they left for work, because ‘you shouldn’t leave home on an empty stomach’ (can you hear your mother’s voice?😄).
The thing here is that they weren’t actually hungry, just eating for the sake of it…
By mid-morning, with breakfast a dim and distant memory, they would start snacking. Having breakfast at 6 – 7am probably isn’t going to keep you going until lunch at 1pm.
So I always advise to eat when you’re hungry.
If you’re going into an office most days, find a breakfast that is easily transportable and take it with you to eat when you’re ready to eat . Good choices might be –
- Fruit and yogurt
- Overnight oats (more on this later…)
- Hard boiled eggs
And then you have those who just can’t stomach food first thing in the morning!
I fully understand this, many can’t, especially if it’s a really early start. But this so often leads to unhealthy snacking. I met someone recently who said they could never face breakfast…it was 10.30am and they were tucking into a Bakewell tart – slightly ironic I felt!
Again, I think it would be better to have a late breakfast planned, something healthy – to stop the high sugar/high fat snacking mid-morning!
Changing this habit alone can have a really positive impact on weight loss.
Another reason to not eat the minute we jump out of bed…
📢 It’s important to have a minimum of a 12 hour fast between your last calories at night and your first in the morning.
Not taking in any calories for 12 hours overnight gives our bodies time to burn fat, we generally start burning fat 6 – 8 hours after our last meal – and this increases as we get to 12 hours, so the habit of fasting for 12 hours can help with weight loss (knowing this can help prevent late night snacking too!)
Another benefit of a 12 hour fast is that when the digestive system is dormant, it gives the body time for essential body/organ repairs. This process is called ‘autophagy’..
Here’s the science bit! Autophagy is the process where diseased, deformed and dead cells are broken down and recycled generating new cells for the brain, heart and immune system.
The minute we take in anything with a calorie (which includes the milk in tea or coffee I’m afraid), the digestive system kicks into action and autophagy stops.
Research is beginning to link the lack of autophagy to many diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer and even some types of cancer.
Now that’s worth changing habits for, don’t you think?
But of course it’s not just When you’re eating breakfast – it’s WHAT you’re eating?
If you’re starting your day with a bowl of sugary cereal – Coco Pops, Sugar Puffs, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, (even the most healthy looking Granolas are full of sugar!) or buttered toast and jam…these are all going to give you a blood sugar rush, which will lead to a crash mid-morning, hence the search for biscuits, chocolate, anything you can put in your mouth, by mid-morning! And that’s never going to help us lose weight!
There are just a few cereals that are ok – Weetabix, Bran Flakes and Shredded Wheat are our best options, but make sure you top them with some berries, a banana, maybe a grated apple or pear for a better nutritional punch (added vitamins and minerals and fiber!)
Research has shown that our bodies function best when we take in protein throughout the day – in the UK it’s just our evening meal that generally contains most of our daily intake of protein.
Protein keeps us fuller for longer, so again helps us cut out the snacking. (I know I keep banging on about snacking – but in the UK it’s one of the key factors behind the nation’s weight and obesity crisis, so anything we can do to help reduce it is a win). See my blog on snacking here.
So by starting the day right, by fuelling our bodies with great nutrition and by including some protein, that’s going to have a positive knock-on effect for the rest of the day and will help the scales shift in the right direction.
Here’s three great Breakfast ideas to consider
Eggs are a real winner, and so versatile; poached, soft boiled, even fried, is a great start to the day; add some avocado, maybe some spinach, a few cherry tomatoes…
Oats are a good source of protein and are a slow releasing carbohydrate, so will keep you fuelled throughout the morning.
If you’re pushed for time in the morning – Overnight Oats can really help, basically oats mixed with natural yogurt (full fat) and fruit, maybe with added seeds and nuts. There are literally hundreds of healthy recipes out there for Overnight Oats, and it’s portable, so if you throw all the ingredients in a pot the night before, then it’s ready to grab and go wherever you’re heading the following morning.
- A not so full English breakfast!
There are a lot of great foods on the English Breakfast plate, eggs, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms are all worth keeping on the menu. Just go easy (or leave out altogether) the bacon and sausages!
And here’s another top tip –
Start your day with a large glass of water.. We often wake up dehydrated and the brain confuses hunger and thirst – so you may think it’s breakfast you want, but it’s actually a pint of water you need! It’s really important to stay hydrated if you want to be able to identify when you’re really hungry.
N.B – It has to be water (or herbal tea) – glugging a big glass of fruit juice won’t do the same job as water and it’s full of sugar!
Try feeding your body water first thing and see if you’re still really hungry afterwards.
So, does eating breakfast help with weight loss?
I would argue, if you’re eating the RIGHT BREAKFAST as the RIGHT TIME, then yes breakfast can play an important part in weight loss.
I wish I could just share a magic breakfast pill but that’s not how healthy weight loss works in the real world!
My advice – take a step back and have a good look at your eating habits around breakfast. Just because that’s ‘what you’ve always done’ doesn’t mean it’s right or the best thing for you.
What do you think? Is your breakfast helping your weight loss or contributing to weight gain?
What could you change to improve your morning routine?
For anyone who’d like some help with weight loss – I’m here!
Let’s have a chat – book here for a virtual cuppa. I’ll put the kettle on!