Typically, breakfast foods are either high in carbohydrates, such as cereals, toast, and bagels, or rich in fat, like the classic bacon and eggs. While these options can be part of a balanced diet, focusing on a crucial nutrient—protein—can offer various advantages, from managing hunger to regulating hormones.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider incorporating more protein into your morning routine:
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Why You Need to Prioritise Protein at Breakfast?
1. Essential for Bodily Processes
Protein is a fundamental macronutrient, alongside carbohydrates and fats. While all three are crucial for health, protein plays a vital role in building and repairing tissues, including skin, hair, organs, blood haemoglobin, and muscles. Maintaining muscle mass is particularly important for a well-functioning metabolism, healthy ageing, and overall bodily functions.
Moreover, when it comes to building and preserving muscle mass, protein is indispensable. Whether you’re active or not, having sufficient protein in your diet can contribute to significant benefits.
Depending on your current dietary habits and objectives, you might need more protein than the recommended minimum. For the average person, the USDA suggests aiming for 10% to 35% of daily calories from protein, with a goal of 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight for most active individuals each day.
Adding protein to your breakfast can be a simple and effective way to enhance your overall well-being and achieve your health and fitness goals.
If you’re aiming to build muscle, you might need more protein – around 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. This helps support the development of new tissues and repairs muscle damage caused by strength training.
2. Provides a Stable and Lasting Energy Boost
Along with healthy carbs and fats, can provide a stable and lasting energy boost. Unlike carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, protein has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes.
Protein also plays a role in stabilising blood sugar, especially when you have a high-carb breakfast like cereal. Its slow digestive process can slow down the release of sugars into your bloodstream, providing a consistent energy stream.
3. Increases Your Appetite
A breakfast rich in protein helps control your appetite throughout the day. Studies consistently show that protein keeps you feeling full longer, thanks to its slow digestion. Research on breakfasts, with around 35 grams of protein, indicates they can keep you satisfied much longer than lower-protein breakfasts with only 13 grams.
Protein’s impact on hunger goes beyond just making you feel full. It positively influences hormones like ghrelin and peptide YY (PYY). PYY suppresses post-meal hunger and is produced in the stomach and small intestine, while ghrelin increases hunger feelings by signalling to your hypothalamus when your stomach and small intestine are empty.
For those who skip breakfast, this habit can lead to poorer diet quality and less nutritious food choices throughout the day, often involving snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods. While any breakfast is beneficial, a breakfast with higher protein content has the most significant impact on reducing evening snacking and improving overall diet quality.
4. Preserves Muscle
Ensuring you have protein in your first meal of the day is essential for preserving muscle. Muscle plays a vital role in healthy ageing and everyday activities, even if you’re not into weightlifting or building noticeable muscles.
As you get older, there’s a natural decline in muscle mass, typically starting around the age of 30. This ongoing muscle loss is linked to less healthy ageing, a higher risk of diseases, and an increased risk of overall mortality. Having low muscle mass can impact your quality of life as you age and limit your ability to stay physically active.
To counteract muscle loss, it’s crucial to consume an adequate amount of protein, and this should be spread out throughout the day. When you decide to eat matters, as protein intake significantly contributes to building and maintaining muscle. A study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that having a higher-protein breakfast and lunch helps people achieve a more balanced protein intake throughout the day. This distribution is associated with better absorption and utilisation, contributing to higher muscle mass in older adults.
Typically, most people consume the majority of their daily protein during their evening meal and the least during breakfast, according to the American Society for Nutrition. However, for optimal muscle maintenance and growth, it’s recommended to distribute protein intake more evenly throughout the day.
5. Improves Heart Health
Boosting your heart health may be as simple as having a high-protein breakfast. Skipping breakfast is connected to an unfavourable lipid profile, influencing cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and both “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol. This breakfast-skipping habit is also linked to heightened blood pressure, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.
While any breakfast can be beneficial, incorporating protein offers extra advantages for your heart. A study in Clinical Nutrition discovered that having protein in the morning is correlated with lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure, bringing them into a healthy range. Maintaining a normal blood pressure range reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia, eye conditions, and kidney disease.
How to Boost Your Protein Intake at Breakfast?
If you’re convinced that a high-protein breakfast is a wise choice for your health but unsure about the best foods to achieve this, here’s a guide. If you’re accustomed to sweeter or carbohydrate-based breakfasts, you might be wondering how to incorporate protein into the foods you enjoy.
When it comes to adding protein, traditional meat and animal-based options like eggs, ham, sausages, and bacon might come to mind. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the sodium and saturated fats in some of these foods, as they can contribute to heart health issues and weight gain.
Opt for lean and nutrient-dense choices that are lower in unhealthy fats and sodium, such as eggs and egg whites, turkey bacon and sausage, and lean ham. Eggs, in particular, are a fantastic option; they’re rich in protein and have been shown to increase meal satisfaction while promoting a healthy body weight compared to a cereal-based breakfast.
Dairy is another excellent source of protein and comes in various delicious forms such as Greek yoghurt, kefir, skyr, cottage cheese, and filtered high-protein milk. Dairy not only provides protein but also essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and probiotics, contributing to a healthy gut microbiome, weight management, muscle maintenance, and heart health.
Enhance the protein content of your breakfast by adding high-fibre and protein-packed nuts and seeds to yoghurt, cottage cheese, or smoothie bowls. Incorporate these dairy options into your oatmeal and top them with whole nuts and seeds or nut butter.
If you prefer oatmeal or other whole grains for breakfast, consider high-protein grain swaps or additions like amaranth, quinoa, oats, and spelt. Boost your bowl further with a scoop of whey protein powder.
For a more diverse protein-based breakfast, think outside the box with non-traditional foods. Add cooked ground turkey crumbles, shredded chicken, lean steak slices, or other leftover lean meats to breakfast sandwiches, scrambles, and omelettes.
Plant-based eaters can create delicious scrambles using soft tofu with a sprinkle of turmeric for colour. Incorporate beans and legumes for protein, fibre, and essential nutrients like iron and magnesium. While plant-based yoghurts may lack protein, you can enhance them by adding hemp seeds, pea protein powder, spirulina, and other protein-rich foods.