Research by the Virginia Commonwealth University has shown that eating a large, well-balanced breakfast can help reduce cravings and hunger during the rest of the day, which can lead to significant weight loss.
The study involved 94 obese, sedentary women with metabolic syndrome. Half of the women were told to eat a big breakfast as part of a 1,240 calorie daily diet, while the other half at a 1,085 calorie high-protein, low carbohydrate diet.
After 8 months, those on the more restrictive low-carb diet lost an average of nearly 9 pounds. However, those on the big breakfast diet lost nearly 40 pounds. Furthermore, those on the big breakfast diet reported feeling less hungry and had fewer carbohydrate cravings.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, a clinical professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and an endocrinologist at the Hospital de Clinicas Caracas in Venezuela, explains that upon waking in the morning, your body is ready for food. Your metabolism is high, and levels of cortisol and adrenaline are at their highest. Furthermore, your brain needs energy right away, and if you don’t eat or you eat too little, the brain will seek another fuel source – muscle. When you do eat later, the body and brain are still in that emergency state, so the body stores the energy from the food as fat.
Further compounding the problem, your levels of serotonin are highest in the morning, which means that your cravings are at the lowest. However, as the day continues, serotonin levels drop, and your cravings for sweets increases. I you eat sweet foods, your serotonin levels rise, and your body begins to associate good feelings with eating these foods, which creates an addictive cycle.
Dr. Jakubowicz and her colleagues recommend eating a breakfast which accounts for nearly half of your daily calories. They recommend having a breakfast that includes milk, 3 ounces of lean meat, two slices of cheese, two whole grain servings, on fat serving, and one ounce of milk chocolate or candy. The candy will help cut down on cravings, because it won’t taste as good while serotonin levels are so high, and the brain won’t feel the same serotonin boost, which will eventually help cut down on cravings. She also recommends eating meals containing protein and complex carbohydrates, like vegetables, for the rest of the day.