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New Study Supports Eat Breakfast Like a King Adage

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Breakfast like a King, much like a prince and supper like a pauper.

Eating before going to bed is associated with unmanageable weight gain and diet failure. Here’s a recent study that explains what happens when you have the habit of eating the majority of your calories later in the day that might just affect how much you weigh in the morning.


In a recent article about one woman’s success toward weight loss, the dieter made it a point to always eat dinner at the same time every day between the hours of 7 and 7:30 p.m.

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While not explicitly stating that the timed dinner regimen came with the caveat that it must be healthy too (her evening meals were largely healthy grain based) the advice she gave followed the wisdom of the adage of “Eat your breakfast like a king, your lunch like a prince and your dinner like a pauper.”

This advice has been promoted by weight loss experts who believe that eating your dinner later in the day—and especially snacking—interferes with the body’s need to fast (the “fast” part of breakfast) for 12 hours between your evening and morning meals.

According to a news release from Ulster University, researchers from the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) in Northern Ireland have found that eating like a king for dinner carries a double whammy on calorie consumption: an increase in caloric intake and a decrease in the quality of food.

The study, represented at the 2020 European and International Conference on Obesity suggests that eating a significant proportion of your daily calories during the evening, results in taking in more calories; and, at a cost of those extra calories coming from unhealthy foods.

The study is based on evidence that sensations of hunger follow a strong daily rhythmic pattern and are often most intense later in the day, which could affect what we choose to eat and how much of it.

Focused on investigating the association of quality of diet and calories consumed during the evening with respect to the total calories consumed for the entire day, the researchers analyzed data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey that contained detailed information on the eating habits of over one thousand adults aged 19-64 years.

The data from the adults was grouped according to what percentage of their daily total calories came from evening time eating after 6 p.m.

What they found was that the range of calories consumed after 6 p.m. ranged from 31.4% to 48.6%. On average, about 40 percent of the day’s calories were consumed after 6 p.m. by the subjects.

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What was found to be significant about this data is that the subjects who consumed the higher end of the range in calorie percentage after 6 p.m., were also the ones who also consumed more calories overall; and, were calories that came from the least healthy food sources. In other words, subjects who consumed the majority of their daily calories after 6 p.m., ate more, and what they ate more of was essentially junk food.

According to the Ulster University news release, the authors stated that:

“Our results suggest that consuming a lower proportion of EI [total daily calories] in the evening may be associated with a lower daily energy [calorie] intake, while consuming a greater proportion of energy intake in the evening may be associated with a lower diet quality score.”

They concluded that:

“Timing of energy intake may be an important modifiable behavior to consider in future nutritional interventions. Further analysis is now needed to examine whether the distribution of energy intake and/or the types of food consumed in the evening are associated with measures of body composition and cardiometabolic health.”

For more about the importance of your cardiometabolic health, here are some recent select articles about the importance of weight loss:

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of photographer Kyndall Ramirez on Unsplash.

Reference:Evening eating is associated with higher total calorie intake and lower diet quality” Ulster University news release, 1 Sept. 2020.