Why you need to prioritize protein in your breakfast

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private dietitian, is Medcan’s Director of Food and Nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @tweet

You probably know the benefits of eating enough protein. The required nutrient supports muscle building, immune health and wound healing, to name a few of its vital functions.

However, you may not think much when you are consuming this protein. Turns out, there are good reasons why you should.

Even if you meet your daily protein allotment, you likely won’t get the maximum benefit if you consume most of it at dinner.

Evidence suggests that skipping protein in your morning meal can hinder weight loss, muscle health, and possibly even blood sugar control.

Here’s what the research says, plus delicious ways to get your morning dose of protein.

The protein at breakfast supports muscle function

A 2017 study from McGill University in Montreal revealed that spreading protein intake evenly over three meals, rather than shifting it to the evening meal, was associated with greater muscle strength in older adults.

In healthy, younger adults, consuming 30g of protein at each meal (versus 10g at breakfast, 15g at lunch and 65g at dinner) has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis by 25%.

Balancing your protein intake over three meals makes sense since there is a limit to the rate at which the building blocks of protein (amino acids) can be synthesized in muscle tissue. But mornings also seem to be an important time to get your protein intake.

Research from Waseda University in Tokyo, published in 2021, found that among healthy older adults, those who ate more protein at breakfast than at dinner had better strength and muscle mass compared to people who did the opposite.

Because of the body’s internal biological clock, or circadian rhythms, it is thought that our muscle cells may be better equipped to synthesize protein in the morning rather than later in the day.

Eating protein at breakfast reduces appetite

Eating breakfast – versus skipping it – has been shown to reduce appetite and food cravings. However, eating a high-protein breakfast may enhance those benefits.

Studies have found that compared to breakfasts with 13 grams of protein, those with more (30 to 35 grams) do a better job of increasing daily fullness, decreasing appetite, and reducing evening snacks of foods high in fat, sugar, or both.

Eating a high-protein breakfast is believed to inhibit the release of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, and increase the release of satiety hormones. According to research, the perfect appetite control spot is 30g of protein at breakfast.

Protein at breakfast helps control blood sugar

A 2017 study found that, compared to eating a high-carbohydrate or high-fat breakfast, when participants ate a high-protein breakfast (30 percent of calories), they had smaller spikes in blood glucose and insulin after eating white bread for four hours. after the morning meal.

Eating a high-protein meal is thought to slow stomach emptying, which leads to a slower rise and lower blood sugar.

Add more protein to your morning meal

The following ideas can help you incorporate 30g of protein, along with plenty of other nutrients, into your breakfast.

Make a yogurt parfait with unsweetened Greek or Icelandic yogurt (24 g protein per cup). Layer with berries and 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds (6.5g protein).

Top a sprouted grain bun (8g protein) with three ounces of smoked salmon (21g protein) and light ricotta cheese (3g protein per 2 tablespoons). Garnish with finely chopped red onion and capers.

Try tofu. Crumble 100g of firm tofu (16.5g protein) and sauté it with chopped bell peppers, onions, spinach and spices (eg, turmeric, cumin, chili powder). Add ½ cup of black beans (9g protein). Served with tortilla bread and corn. (total 31g protein)

Make a whole-grain porridge with a protein-rich grain such as teff (10g protein per 1 cup cooked), quinoa (6g) or barley (6g). Cook the cereal in milk for extra protein. Add 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt (8g protein) and 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (5g protein).

Protein boosters at breakfast include nut butters, nuts and seeds (smoothies, overnight oats, and porridge), cottage cheese and ricotta cheese (pancake batter, smoothies, breakfast bowls, and omelets), and leftover cooked fish or chicken (frittatas, breakfast sandwiches).

Protein shakes work, too. But if your goal is to reap the satiating effect of protein, keep in mind that liquid protein meals probably won’t fill you up as long as you eat a solid protein meal.

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