5 Reasons Why You Should Consume A High Protein Breakfast
Protein is a powerhouse macronutrient that should be included with breakfast in order to help you feel fuller for longer, regulate blood sugar levels, increase energy levels and lose body fat, as well as boost your mood.
In this article you can find:
- What is protein?
- Types of protein
- How much protein do we need?
- What are the benefits of consuming a high protein breakfast?
- Signs you are not consuming enough protein
- High protein breakfast ideas
What Is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that is found throughout the body. Proteins are essentially large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body since they are virtually found in all body parts and tissue. It is essential to consume an adequate amount of protein in your diet as it is fundamentally the building blocks of muscles, tendons, organs, and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other various molecules that serve many important functions.
Types of Protein
Protein is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Amino acids link together like beads on a string, which form long protein chains and fold into complex shapes. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of protein, and proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass (1). In the human body, there are 20 amino acids that function as building blocks of proteins, 11 being non-essential and 9 being essential. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body, while essential amino acids are required through your diet. Thus, we must get our essential amino acids from the foods we eat. When a food contains all nine essential amino acids, it is called a ‘complete protein’. Animal products are complete, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. There are also a few plant-based sources that are a complete protein, this includes quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, blue-green algae and soybeans. However, these sources may not contain as much protein per serving as animal products.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
Since protein is a macronutrient, it is required in large amounts in the diet in order for the body to function correctly. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8-1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This amounts to approximately 46g-75g for the average reasonably active woman and 56g-91g for the average reasonably active man. This number could be higher or lower depending on many factors, such as your activity level, age, muscle mass, physique goals, and overall health (3).
What Are the Benefits of Consuming A High Protein Breakfast?
Keeps you fuller for longer
Studies have found that those who consume a high-protein breakfast in comparison to those who consume a low-protein breakfast feel fuller for longer (6). This is due to the fact that protein slows the release of the hormone ghrelin, which triggers feelings of hunger. Protein also increases the release of satiety hormones, such as leptin and PYY, which communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that regulates appetite and food intake (11). A study carried out on men with obesity found that men who consumed 25% of their calories from protein increased feelings of fullness, as well as reduced late-night snacking desires and obsessive thoughts about food by 50% and 60% (9).
Regulates blood sugar
Protein decreases the rate at which the body absorbs carbohydrates, which helps to steady blood sugar levels. On the other hand, consuming a breakfast high in refined carbohydrates, for example a doughnut or scone, can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which in turn will lead to a blood-sugar crash. This results in a sudden drop in energy levels. In addition, consuming a breakfast high in refined carbohydrates can also stress the pancreas and may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Increase energy levels
Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, providing a longer-lasting energy source. In your sleep, your body breaks down protein. Thus, it is important to fuel your body with the power-building nutrient when you wake up. It is particularly beneficial to consume protein with breakfast if you exercise in the morning, as it will energize your muscles and prevent your body from tapping into protein stores for recovery.
Lose body fat
Due to protein’s appetite-suppressing effect, individuals who follow a high-protein diet tend to lose a greater amount of body fat in comparison to alternative diets (5), as a result of consuming fewer calories. One 12-week study carried out on a group of women distinguished that those who increased their protein intake to 30% ate 441 fewer calories per day and lost approximately 5kg (10). In addition, consuming protein can increase the number of calories you burn by boosting your metabolic rate (7). Recieving 25–30% of your net calories from protein has been found to boost metabolism by up to 80–100 calories per day, in comparison to lower protein diets (8).
Boost your mood
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is crucial in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin (the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness) and melatonin (the key hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle). Tryptophan is readily available in almost all protein-rich foods. Foods containing high amounts of tryptophan include milk, canned tuna, turkey and chicken, oats, cheese, and nuts and seeds (4).
Signs You Are Not Consuming Enough Protein
Sings of protein deficiency include:
- Mood fluctuations
- Issues with hair, nail and skin
- Weakness and fatigue
- Slow-healing injuries
- Getting sick often and for prolonged periods
High Protein Breakfast Ideas
Greek Yoghurt with Fruit and Cinnamon = 36g of protein
2 cups of Greek yogurt
1 cup mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Nutella Overnight Oats = 30g of protein
1 cup oats
200ml hazelnut milk
1 scoop chocolate whey protein
10g cacao powder
1 tbsp cacao nibs
(mix ingredients together and leave to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight, add cacao nibs on top)
Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Vegetables = 31g protein
4 egg whites
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup mixed vegetables (spinach, tomatoes, onions)
1 slice of sourdough toast
Turmeric and Ginger Smoothie = 30g of protein
1 scoop vanilla whey protein
1 cup oats
1 frozen banana
¼ tsp turmeric latte blend
1 cup water (or to suit your desired consistency)
1 tsp desiccated coconut
Optional: Add in some ice if you would like it cooler/thicker
(blend all the ingredients in a blender, sprinkle desiccated coconut on top)
- Wu, G., 2016. Dietary protein intake and human health.Food & Function, 7(3), pp.1251-1265.
- Avita Health System. 2020.Macronutrients: A Simple Guide To Macros | Avita Health System. [online] Available at: <https://avitahealth.org/health-library/macronutrients-a-simple-guide-to-macros/> [Accessed 20 December 2020].
- Pendick, D., 2020.How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day? - Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096> [Accessed 20 December 2020].
- Justin Sonnenburg, E., 2020.Gut Feelings–The "Second Brain" In Our Gastrointestinal Systems [Excerpt]. [online] Scientific American. Available at: <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain-in-our-gastrointestinal-systems-excerpt/> [Accessed 20 December 2020].
- Astbury, N., Piernas, C., Hartmann-Boyce, J., Lapworth, S., Aveyard, P. and Jebb, S., 2019. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of meal replacements for weight loss.Obesity Reviews, 20(4), pp.569-587.
- Johnstone AM, Stubbs RJ, Harbron CG. Effect of overfeeding macronutrients on day-to-day food intake in man. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Jul;50(7):418-30. PMID: 8862477.
- Pesta, D. and Samuel, V., 2014. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats.Nutrition & Metabolism, 11(1), p.53.
- Veldhorst, M., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. and Westerterp, K., 2009. Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high protein, carbohydrate-free diet.Appetite, 52(3), p.862.
- Leidy, H., Tang, M., Armstrong, C., Martin, C. and Campbell, W., 2011. The Effects of Consuming Frequent, Higher Protein Meals on Appetite and Satiety During Weight Loss in Overweight/Obese Men.Obesity, 19(4), pp.818-824.
- Weigle, D., Breen, P., Matthys, C., Callahan, H., Meeuws, K., Burden, V. and Purnell, J., 2005. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), pp.41-48.
- Batterham, R., Heffron, H., Kapoor, S., Chivers, J., Chandarana, K., Herzog, H., Le Roux, C., Thomas, E., Bell, J. and Withers, D., 2006. Critical role for peptide YY in protein-mediated satiation and body-weight regulation.Cell Metabolism, 4(3), pp.223-233.