Does the phrase eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper ring a bell? A recent study by Lombardo M., et al. aimed to shed light on whether there is some validity to this statement for optimal health and wellness.
They had two groups of 21 subjects follow a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seafood. Poultry, eggs and dairy were used in moderation, while red meat and sweets were reserved only for special occasions.
Both groups followed the same dietary regimen made of 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 15% protein. The difference between these two groups was the caloric distribution of these foods throughout the day. Group 1 ate 70% of their calories at breakfast, morning snack and lunch, and 30% for their afternoon snack and dinner. Group 2 ate 55 % of their calories for breakfast, morning snack and lunch, and the remaining 45 % for afternoon snack and dinner.
Subjects were tested with a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry at the start of the study, and three months later when the study ended to assess body composition.
The results indicated significantly improved body composition, metabolic parameters, blood pressure and cholesterol in both groups. However, Group 1 subjects lost more weight, more fat, had smaller waist circumferences and insulin sensitivity improvement over the 3-month evaluation than group 2 subjects.
The research group concluded that “A low-calorie Mediterranean diet with a higher amount of calories in the first part of the day could establish greater reduction in fat mass and improved insulin sensitivity than a typical daily diet.”
In addition they stated “The satiating power of morning meals can be explained by evolutionary theory, hormone theory, and metabolic theory. Earlier in human evolutionary history, the loss of light in the evening significantly limited activity. In modern times, however, the extensive use of artificial lighting has allowed people to remain active as well as eat late into the night. Thus, obesity in recent evolutionary years could be explained due to eating in the evening when satiation is weak.”
I will be honest in stating that as a San Diego fitness trainer my breakfasts are fairly similar in size to my lunches and sometimes my dinners. That being said, I do not subscribe to any late night snacking, high fat or carbohydrate consumption at dinner. My dinners are made up of only protein and vegetables and are consumed before 8pm at night. My breakfasts and lunches are comprised of carbohydrates, protein and fat. In my experience, when a person subscribes to this type of eating it becomes much easier to attain and maintain a lean physique. Due to the body’s natural circadian rhythm there is very little need for calories later in the day, as our body is starting to wind down from the day and prepare for rest. At the other end of the spectrum, breakfast is the prime time to eat and fuel the body for the rest of the day. Research has found time and time again, those that eat breakfast obtain a much leaner physique than those who skip or eat very little. When a person eats a well-balanced breakfast they will often eat more of their calories in the first part of the day and their appetite will naturally decrease as the evening rolls around. That is why I will always recommend to my weight loss personal training San Diego clients to eat their calories as a pyramid.
In conclusion, a 15% difference in earlier caloric distribution could help you reach your fat loss and health goals earlier.