What did the scientists find? It’s unlikely that eating the most critical meal first thing in the morning will change anything.
According to study author Alexandra Johnstone, a registered nutritionist and professor in the school of medicine, medical sciences, and nutrition at the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, “the notion of timing of eating to influence health has been around for a long time.”
Johnstone acknowledged that many people follow the maxim “breakfast like a king and dine like a pauper.”
Indeed, earlier mealtimes “suggested that eating enhanced weight loss, affecting energy metabolism, compared to eating later in the day,” she added, citing earlier studies.
Johnstone warned that “chrono-nutrition”—the connection between food intake and the time of day—”is a relatively young science.”
She and her colleagues decided to conduct a diet test with 16 men and 14 women to separate myth from reality. According to the study’s authors, each participant was assigned at random to follow either a morning-heavy diet or an evening-heavy diet for a month.
The breakdown of each meal was 30% protein, 35% carbs, and 35% fat, with a fixed daily calorie intake.
However, those who followed the morning-heavy diet got 45% of their daily calories for breakfast, 35% for lunch, and 20% for dinner.
On the other hand, the evening-heavy diet required a daily calorie split of 20%, 35%, and 45%.
All participants took a one-week break at the end of the month, after which there was a switch: for the following month, all morning eaters became evening eaters and vice versa.
According to Johnstone, “We found weight loss was similar with both diets.
With an average weight loss of around 7 pounds each month, all participants lost a significant amount of weight. Just neither dietary pattern resulted in more substantial weight loss.
However, Johnstone and her colleagues found one significant distinction between the two eating habits: the morning-heavy diet group experienced less hunger.
She stated that although “there was no impact on energy expenditure,” “a big breakfast had a positive influence on controlling appetite throughout the day, with less hunger.”
And that might help a diet that emphasises breakfast in the long run.