When to Eat Your Biggest Meal of the Day for Maximum Weight Loss

A new study finds breakfast, lunch, and dinner are not created equal.

A new study suggests that eating a high-calorie breakfast and smaller dinner is the best way to maximize weight loss. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day—even if some choose to skip it. And lately, it seems more and more research has jumped on the breakfast bandwagon with a recent study coming from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The 12-week study examined two groups of 93 obese women who were restricted to a daily 1,400-calorie diet consisting of a balance of carbohydrates and fats. Each group’s diet split those calories differently among three meals throughout the day: Some women were assigned to consume 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at dinner, while the numbers were reversed for the other group (200 at breakfast, 500 at lunch, 700 at dinner).

All the 700-calorie meals consisted of the same food—dessert included—regardless of whether they were consumed at breakfast or dinner. (Yes, that means the breakfast group kicked off the morning with a slice of chocolate cake or a cookie—which beats a bowl of sugary cereal, in our opinion.)

After three months of monitoring their diet and health, the big-breakfast group participants lost the most weight, dropping about three inches off their waistlines and shedding an average of 17.8 pounds. The big-dinner group only lost an average of 1.4 inches from their waistline and 7.3 pounds. Researchers linked beginning the day with a high-calorie meal to an overall decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels and a potentially lessened risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Researchers honed in on a key hormone impacting both groups: ghrelin, which regulates hunger. They saw lower levels of the hormone in the big breakfast group, along with less snacking throughout the day compared with the big dinner group. Researchers endorsed a high-calorie breakfast followed by a gradual tapering of calories from lunch to dinner as an approach to combat obesity and work with the body’s natural metabolic circadian rhythm.

Now, the only question that remains: Where can we score a slice of chocolate cake at 8 AM?