Is ‘Second Breakfast’ Your Secret Weapon for Weight Loss?

by Sidney Fry, MS, RD
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Is ‘Second Breakfast’ Your Secret Weapon for Weight Loss?

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We’ve been hearing that mantra for decades from nutritionists and other health professionals who argue the benefits of jump-starting our engines for better health.

But now, some research is leading us to believe it might be better to eat not once, but twice, before the midday meal.

Let’s back up for a moment. Overall research on breakfast is contradicting. Some studies show eating a healthy breakfast leads to improved memory and cognition, elevates mood and even aids in weight-loss efforts. Other studies argue skipping breakfast doesn’t necessarily help or harm weight-loss efforts or metabolism, though it may be linked to lower energy levels during physical activity and less stable blood sugars in the afternoon and evening.

And now, a third party is suggesting a second breakfast may be as good (if not better) than just one. After following the eating habits of students at 12 middle schools for more than two years, researchers from Yale and the University of Connecticut found a double breakfast may actually increase your ability to maintain a healthy weight.

The reasoning? Not starting the day (and your metabolism) with breakfast may lead to overeating later in the day. In the study, frequent breakfast skippers had greater odds of becoming overweight or obese compared to those who had breakfast twice. The study also found no difference in weight-gain or weight-loss patterns between the students who ate two breakfasts versus those who ate just one.

Not convinced? Consider the habits of early risers, who set the alarm well before sunup. Researchers from the Obesity Society recently found that people who wake up early are more likely to eat a more balanced diet, inclusive of healthier, more high-energy and nutrient-dense foods than those who sleep in.

These individuals also have more time to be active and burn calories between morning and lunchtime, making the case for a second breakfast even stronger. Fueling up with a light snack before hitting the gym, pool or pavement, then refueling once you settle into your daily routine is almost necessary when burning several hundred calories before daybreak.


Intrigued? Here are some tips on how to take on this practice: Consider the idea of both first and second breakfasts more snack than meal. That pastry, Pop Tart, stack of pancakes or bowl of sugary cereal aren’t doing your brain or body any favors. Keep the morning meals small, simple and nutrient-dense, high in protein, healthy fats and fiber.

For your “first” breakfast, consider half a piece of whole-grain toast with nut butter or a few bites of protein-packed cottage cheese. Or try one of these recipes that can be prepped in advance: energy-dense quinoa bites or pistachio bites. They’re a perfect pre-workout energy boost that won’t weigh you down while you’re exercising and will tide you over during your morning commute.

Then go for something with a bit more staying power to keep you fueled until lunch for the “second” mid-morning breakfast. Try one of these simple make-ahead breakfasts with less than 300 calories, or one of these quick-and-easy options for people on the go.

As far as timing, try to space your first and second breakfast (or mini meals) 2–3 hours apart. If you rise at 5 or 6 a.m., have your first bite within 15 minutes of waking. Then aim to get the second, slightly more substantial breakfast in around 9, which should keep you fueled until lunch.

Don’t overthink or over complicate it. Make your morning mini meals simple, packed with lean protein, fiber and healthy fats. By keeping them small and spacing them a few hours apart, you’ll keep your energy levels elevated and maintain stable blood sugar levels. By planning ahead, you’ll not only be less likely to turn to junk foods at breakfast and lunch, but you’ll be better able to focus and concentrate, which has benefits far beyond breakfast.


  • Peter

    Thanks I have been doing two breakfast because I ride to work on a bicycle.

  • Clean77

    This is NOT 2 breakfasts, nor is it a new idea! It is simply a pre-workout snack followed by a post-workout breakfast… something I and everyone I know have been doing for years! Sorry, but this is nothing new.

  • Balvinder Chawla

    15 mins after waking up ? Did you forget the morning basics as a matter of convenience? Secondly smaller meals thru the day is common so what’s new here – BS blogging has become more common than people doing the right thing.

  • Bet Rob

    This isn’t two breakfasts. It’s just another take on “grazing” or six meals a day. I was always hungrier (and not losing weight) when I ate three small meals and three snacks–which, not coincidentally, were high carb and low fat, as recommended by the “experts” who gave us the food pyramid and the “healthy plate”. I could eat a light breakfast (toast with light margarine and fruit juice) at 7 a.m., be hungry for another small meal (cereal and skim milk) at 9 or 9:30, and my stomach would be growling again by 11 or 11:30.

    OTOH, on low-carb, I can eat eggs and bacon at 7 a.m., sip coffee with a little heavy cream throughout the morning, and not really be hungry until noon, when a handful of almonds and half a low-carb protein bar will get me through until I get off work at 3 p.m.. I feel much better, I’m not eating all the time, and I’m more productive.

    • Debbie

      The way you ate before… toast, margarine and OJ—that’s straight carbs and would cause your blood sugar to spike, then crash (especially the OJ). Cereal and skim milk is also carb heavy and wouldn’t help to keep you feeling full.

      Eggs are fine but I suggest not eating bacon—full of sat fat and nitrates. Nothing healthy there. Margarine is unhealthy and has trans fat. Putting a tiny amount of butter on your toast is much healthier than any margarine. Any juice is practically mainlining sugar. Better to eat an orange instead.

      The reason you’re now feeling full in the morning is that you’re consuming a lot of fat at breakfast. But your fat choices could be healthier—try incorporating more omega 3’s and cutting back on omega-6s. Adding avocados slices to your eggs and cutting out the bacon is a much better choice. Chia seeds and flax seeds are good sources of healthy fats, too.

      I have coffee with half n half (my splurge for the day) but heavy cream is just too high in sat fat. I’ll eat a hard-boiled egg with whole grain toasted oat cereal (zero sugar) or steel cut oatmeal (with chia seeds added). Sometimes I’ll also eat plain Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries—that also makes a good mid-morning snack.

      The almonds are good but virtually all protein bars are too much like a candy bar. It’s better to eat a healthy lunch—a grilled chicken breast on 100% whole wheat bread with some veggies on it and a piece of fruit would be a balanced lunch: mainly protein, carbs, and nutrition.

      The trick is to eat a high-quality protein with every snack or meal. Keeps blood sugar regulated and you’ll feel fuller longer.

      I was pre-diabetic in 2015. I completely reversed it in six months (something that most people are unable to do). I immediately cut out all sodas, including diet, and stopped buying sweetened almond milk. I cut out bananas, white rice, and pasta and ate strawberries and watermelon. But I always ate a protein with any snack or meal. That’s essential for balancing blood glucose and assisting weight loss.

      My protein choices are eggs, Greek yogurt, partly skim mozzarella, feta or Parmesan, peanut butter, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, salmon, 1% milk, beans and legumes (high in carbs though). Almonds are good but one serving is 1/4 cup, which is tiny. (My guess is you’re probably eating two servings.) I found that nuts just had too many calories for me and it was hard to just eat 1/4 cup—besides, they’re awfully expensive. So I cut out the nuts.

      My added sugar consumption is no more than 10g/day.

      I now drink at least 98 oz of water/day. I drink water after breakfast and before/after every meal and snack. What got me drinking all that water was adding sliced lemons, mint, and strawberries to my pitcher of water. Now I enjoy drinking water. Finally!

      I’ve tracked my food and exercise for over 720 days. It helps me manage my macros and micros and sodium. I eat clean and minimally processed foods.


    Breakfast should be healthy. Six meal foruma is more suitable for those who wants to reduce weight

  • ktuck79

    So.. no Tolkien fans in these comments..

    7:00am – Breakfast
    9:00am – Second Breakfast
    11:00am – Elevenses
    1:00pm – Luncheon
    4:00pm – Afternoon Tea
    6:00pm – Dinner
    8:00pm – Supper

    • Jason Mincey

      Loves me some Peregrin Took!

  • john

    Meanwhile the 5-6 meal a day, 50% carb diet is making us all overweight/obese. Show me a study with enough participants to prove results (retrospective or otherwise) and maybe I’ll concede to this notion. Till then, I’ll stick to my intermittent fasting with a 10 hour window and 50% fat diet.

    • Barbara Van Syckle

      I am experiencing early success with moving away from so many carbs as well as the smaller window of eating. I also have added much more in the way of nuts and avocado and no margarine or oils other than olive and all in moderation. I have tried the 5:2 fast. I would like to learn more what others are doing. What does a typical day of eating look like for you, both times and food choices?

      • john

        I started with a ketogenic diet, and eliminated most typically considered inflammatory foods. I’ve moved more to a 50fat, 30 protein, 20 carb diet since then as it seems to work better for me. Good reading is “the obesity code” if you get the chance to pick it up, text or audio, it’s interesting.

        No soy, corn oil, canola/vegetable oil. I moved to more natural oils like coconut, olive, avocado and grapeseed for cooking. Even using cooking fat over the highly processed stuff, as long as it’s high quality it’s not that bad.

        Basically I try and stick to organic meats, and grass fed beef depending on that weeks food budget. Fruits in moderation, lots of veggies, and i love my avocados. But I don’t stress the occasional cheat, cookies or ice cream once a week as long as it’s really 1 serving.

        I try to eat intuitively, but generally intermittent fasting between 9am and 7pm works best. But I also don’t stress if I’m really hungry before or after that window.

        Typical day:

        3 eggs scrambles, 1 teaspoon grass fed ghee butter.

        Lunch: large salad: 2 cups (85g, use a food scale, it’s a lot more than it sounds) of some kind of greens, tomato, bell pepper, 3-4oz chicken, whole avocado, a serving of nuts (walnuts, sunflower seeds etc) and I love the primal kitchen dressings, usually about 2 Tbsp.

        Dinner: usually some kind of animal protein, asparagus, sweet potato, sauteed mushrooms, or whatever other typically low carb veggies are on hand.

        Snacks (usually 1-2 of these/day): high protein yogurt, either siggis Icelandic style, or fage 2% greek strained yogurt. Hemp and or chia seeds in the yogurt add good texture. Hummus and organic pita chips, Apple or banana with coconut butter (nikkis is awesome but a little pricey), protein shake depending on that days workout.

        Hope this helps!!

        • Barbara Van Syckle

          Yes! This guides me to the exact next level for me! I can do this. Many thanks for the easy to follow eating plan and reading material!!

          • john

            No problem, just remember what works for me may not work for you. I shoot for between 1800-2200 cal per day to maintain my weight,and I probably should be eating a little more. Biggest thing is eating clean, and doing your own research. Good luck!

      • Jonathan Roth

        This is me almost every work day:

        Breakfast – oatmeal with a small amount of legit maple syrup for taste
        Lunch – Chicken and Spinach, Oikos Zero greek yogurt, an apple and carrots
        Dinner – whatever the family is eating unless it’s a heavy carb meal. If so, more chicken.

        I spend 5 hours working out a week or more.

        I’ve been able to drop 35 lbs and get down to a normal BMI. Really, I’m just trying to keep the calories under 2k and use exercise to burn another 500-700. Eventually I change it up to a higher protein diet when I’m done trimming and ready to start building more muscle bulk.

        • Barbara Van Syckle

          I appreciate seeing your eating plan and your data as I am trying to navigate a new regimen for myself. I was Paleo for several years and then a spike in cholesterol set me onto Fitness Blender where I dropped 40+ points.

          However, I gained 6# and on my 5’4″ frame that is a whole dress size plus I felt “thick” in the middle and that was new and uncomfortable for me. FItness Blender is 60% carbs, 20% fat and 20% protein. I was hungry and suffered from swings in energy. So now I am going to try 25% carbs, 35% fat and 40% protein and see what kind of results I get; all clean eating, of course, as for me that is always the foundation.

          • RenegadeRN

            Your post illustrates what I tell my patients all the time- ” we are all different, and what works for one person may or may NOT work for you. Don’t just follow trends”

            I jumped on the low carb/keto/paleo primal bandwagon many years ago when Mark Sisson first came up with Primal Blueprint. I had a little success, felt like John describes above. But could never lose more than about 10 lbs,and developed bowel issues, liver issues, and carbohydrate intolerance. It bummed me out because I really believed in the information behind it.
            Fast forward several years, and I decided to try the IFM (Institute for Functional Medicine) elimination diet because I use it with patients sometimes (hey gotta try out what you are subjecting patients to eh?) and the results have been miraculous!

            I have no cravings, I feel wonderful, losing weight easily etc etc. I used to eat a ratio of about 60-75% fat, 20-30% protein and 5-10% carbs. Now I am eating about 55-60% carbs (!), 20-25% protein and 15-20% fat. I have also regained my carb tolerance.
            I find it sad that healthcare practitioners who pooh-poohed the low carb/keto diet for years have now jumped on the bandwagon for everyone, seemingly across the board. I spend my time undoing the blanket statements made about it.

            The BEST diet is the one that works for YOU and improves your health- not just makes you thinner. Lots of thin people are not actually healthy.

          • Gina Savela


    • Rabi Asghar

      Yeah, the major article in contention is referencing kids with incredibly fast metabolisms. Here’s the actual study that’s been referenced but not cited: http://10.1111/ijpo.12127 Nothing here shows me, that as an adult eating 2 breakfasts is going to help me get more fit. Weight loss means less eating period. Intermittent fasting is the way to go along with low carbs and has been proven to work time and time again.

      • Susie Chapple

        I agree. I was eating a light and lean protein meal for breakfast and then a “second” breakfast 2 hours later. I had fallen victim to the belief that you need to feed your starving body first thing in the morning to kick-start that metabolism. I was not losing weight, I was actually gaining. So when that clearly was not working for me, I discovered intermittent fasting and ditched the breakfast or eating before noon. The weight loss was much easier and I regained energy, which was a nice surprise. Some of the MFP blog posts don’t make any sense to me.

      • Stace

        Well, I rise at 5:30 and eat about 6:15. I have to wait 45 minutes because of Thyroid med. I’m hungry about 9-9:30 and have another breakfast so to speak. It’s lite. maybe yogurt, hard boiled egg, small amount of oatmeal. So I did this for awhile and actually lost weight. I’m 58 and female struggling with menopause weight, but I eat a healthy diet and manage to stay fit and thin. This isn’t meant to state that you should eat another big breakfast meal. If you’re hungry, not thirsty…as thirst is a sign of hunger, then by all means, EAT. 🙂

    • Gordon Rita

      are you losing weight eating this way?

      • john

        I did drop about 15lbs, mostly fluid and bloating. But my goals now are not losing weight, but dropping body fat.

        HOWEVER, I’m hardly ever truly hungry like I used to be on high carb. I feel more awake, I have more energy and focus. I’m more regular. And most importantly, I literally feel less pain and soreness/fatigue than I previously did.

        • Catherine Smith

          I have struggled all my life with 10 to 20 lbs overweight. I am 59 and female. What really makes me angry is the bread and grains they keep saying you need and all these cereals and breads do is make you chubby and lazy. I started a keto lifestyle in march and now I am 21 lbs lighter with 6lbs to my goal wait. Telling us for years that fat is bad and grain is good is bs. I’m tired of it

    • Talya Solomon

      I eat five meals and I’m under weight . It doesn’t mean your eating more calories just dividing it into smaller snacks and meals to keep your energy up .

      • john

        You may be underweight but thats not the rule but the exception. Except that notion doesn’t make sense. 2000 calories is 2000 calories, the amount of energy available doesn’t change.

        By eating 5 meals on a high carb diet you are constantly spiking insulin driving glucose into your cells therefore storing fat. In contrast a 3 meal a day higher fat diet with intermittent fasting maintains more steady insulin levels, reducing this hormonal fluctuation and contributing to less weight gain on average and in many cases weight loss.

        • Talya Solomon

          carbs are a pretty broad term and are not all created equal . That being said I thought we were just talking about five meals . Who said they all had to be high carb ?

    • Atlantic

      I’ve tried to do this, but just can’t drink black coffee in the morning, and I need my coffee. My understanding is even the cream in the coffee breaks the fast? Is that correct?

  • Ben Jenkins

    I’ve had better success with intermittent fasting and low-carb lifestyle than any version of 2 breakfasts or 6 meals a day. But, I do love bacon. And when I start eating around noon or 6 pm I am breaking fast.

  • PamK

    I’ve been having a “snack” between breakfast and lunch for the past 9 1/2 months. My planned meal schedule is breakfast at 7:00 am snack 10:00 am, lunch 1:00 pm afternoon snack 4:00 pm, dinner 7:00 pm and evening snack at 10:00 pm. I seldom feel hungry and so far have lost 95 lbs during this period.

    • DL

      Hi Pam,
      I am wondering what you like to have at 10:00 pm. I need something t get me through the night, or hunger actually wakes me up. But I always feel bad about it because it goes against everything I read, so I think I might choose poorly. thanks for your comments.

      • PamK

        It all depends on what I need to get close to my protein/carbs/fats target. (currently 35%/40%/25%). I’ll have things like fruit, rice cake w/1tbs peanut butter, 100 cal bag Skinny Pop popcorn, veggie chips, protein bar or shake (1/2 serving), yogurt (Oikos Triple Zero is great). nuts….I could go on

  • Gaia

    This is pretty much how I eat most days – because I can’t eat a lot at once, but I HAVE to have caloric intake every few hours. And on long run days, I may eat 100-150 calories to pre-fuel, then have second breakfast after my run and my shower.

    So…. when is MyFitnessPal going to give us an option to customize our Food Intake under four meals, and not Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Snack? =) Though I do sometimes use “Snack” to mean “Second Breakfast….”

    • imoorenewton

      Premium does have this option.

      • Gaia

        Aha! Makes sense. :3

    • Carmen Rook Lee

      I do not have MFP Premium, and I customized my meal names and the order they showed in my diary. In the app, choose “More” at the bottom, then scroll down and open “Settings.” From there choose “Diary Settings.” Near the bottom is a tab called “Customize Meal Names.” You will need to rename your meals in the order you want them to appear in your diary. So if you do a pre-workout snack first thing in the morning, do it first as Meal 1, then breakfast as Meal 2, etc. Loved it when I found this feature.

      • Gaia

        Oh my gosh, this is delightful! Thanks so much for sharing, Carmen!

  • Bonnie Weaver-Randol

    all good points but you got to do what works for your body and you.

  • Gordon Rita

    what is this “intermittent fasting everyone is talking about?

    • Abby

      Intermittent fasting is where you limit your food intake to a certain time or hours of the day. I use 8:16 which means I eat within the same window of 8 hours every day and fast for the other 16. I go from 12 pm to 8 pm, so outside of those hours I cannot consume any calories. Other people may do 12:12 or I’ve even heard of people doing 1:23, its all what works best for you. Combined with a keto diet, I have lost about 15 lbs. in under 6 weeks, so I plan on sticking with it.

      • Atlantic

        I’ve tried to do this, but just can’t drink black coffee in the morning, and I need my coffee. My understanding is even the cream in the coffee break the fast?

  • Carmen Rook Lee

    I often have breakfast early then a small nibble/snack mid-morning. My problem is that I cannot eat within 15 min of waking up. I take daily morning medication that requires an empty stomach and a 30-minute minimum waiting period before I can eat. Suggestions?

  • Nortina Simmons

    When I was in college, I would get up early in the morning, eat a bowl of “sugary” cereal, walk to the gym on campus to workout for about an hour to an hour & a half, come back to my dorm and cook a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage/bacon, and toast or grits. Did this for a year and lost 40 pounds.

  • Max Holliday

    No where in the article that I read did it push the idea of high carbs. if you look through some of the recipes you’ll see that most are fairly low in carbs. I prefer my first meal of the day be more protein/fat & veggies with carbs being implemented more around my workouts.

  • Nadia

    ??? “The study also found no difference in weight-gain or weight-loss patterns between the students who ate two breakfasts versus those who ate just one.”

  • I’m In – Two breakfasts are better than one! Not just for Hobbit’s. I have a bullet coffee upon waking before the gym to give me energy and fat to burn, then after the Gym, have my second breakfast. A healthy shake – Whey Protein, lots of veggies, 1/2 banana, cayenne pepper, water, coconut water. On no Gym Days, (Tue./Thur) just the bullet coffee until noon. Lost 80 pounds of fat, added 10 pound of lean muscle over several years, maintained for the last 5 years. Happy healthy, love the Myfitnesspal app!!!

  • I’m In – Two breakfasts are better than one! Not just for Hobbits. I have a bullet coffee upon waking before the gym to give me energy and fat to burn, then after the Gym, have my second breakfast. A healthy shake – Whey Protein, lots of veggies, 1/2 banana, cayenne pepper, water, coconut water. On no Gym Days, (Tue./Thur) just the bullet coffee until noon. Lost 80 pounds of fat, added 10 pound of lean muscle over several years, maintained for the last 5 years. Happy healthy, love the Myfitnesspal app!!!