Many people will be familiar with the saying "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper".
The adage refers to the belief that eating the bulk of calories in the morning optimises weight loss.
However, according to new research, whether a person eats their largest meal early or late in the day does not affect the way their body metabolises calories.
For the study, scientists from the University of Aberdeen investigated myths surrounding the timing of eating and how this might influence either body weight or health. After studying the eating habits of 16 men and 14 women, the researchers found that energy expenditures and total weight loss were the same for morning-loaded and evening-loaded diets. The subjects lost an average of just over three kilograms (about seven pounds) during each of the four-week periods.
However, people who ate their largest meal in the morning did report feeling less hungry later in the day.
"The participants reported that their appetites were better controlled on the days they ate a bigger breakfast and that they felt satiated throughout the rest of the day," senior author Professor Alexandra Johnstone said. "This could be quite useful in the real-world environment, versus in the research setting that we were working in."
Johnstone also noted that this type of experiment could be applied to the study of intermittent fasting to help determine the best time of day for people following this type of diet to consume their calories.
"One thing that's important to note is that when it comes to timing and dieting, there is not likely going to be one diet that fits all," she concluded. "Figuring this out is going to be the future of diet studies, but it's something that's very difficult to measure."
Full study results have been published in Cell Metabolism.