Consuming protein is essential for building muscle mass and recovery as it helps to bring your body from a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state, to an anabolic (muscle building) state. However, a high-protein diet isn’t just for bodybuilders and athletes, we can all benefit from eating more protein.
While it’s common for people to follow low-fat or low-carb diets, there’s one essential component of any diet that should remain consistent – protein. Because our bodies don’t store excess protein, it’s important to consume it regularly as it’s vital for the basic function of every cell in our bodies. A healthy balanced diet should include a combination of all 3 macronutrients; protein, carbohydrates and fat, however protein is arguably the most important. Whether your goal is weight loss or muscle gain, consuming a high protein diet can help to grow and maintain muscle, trim your waistline, boost your metabolism and keep your body powered with quality fuel to help you take on the day, power through your training and maintain mental performance.
Skipping breakfast won’t just leave you hangry, it can also lead to poorer performance, reduced cognitive function, unwanted weight gain and muscle loss. Breakfast eaters also tend to have lower cholesterol levels than those who skip breakfast, which means a reduced risk of heart disease. Eating breakfast also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, with evidence showing that those who eat breakfast are at a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Often referred to as ‘the most important meal of the day’, breakfast is unique because it breaks a period of fasting (during sleep). If you eat your first meal of the day within 2-3 hours of waking, you are considered a breakfast eater. It’s recommended to eat a breakfast providing you with at least 15% of your total daily calorie requirements, which will be different for everybody. Work out your individual daily calorie requirements using our handy Calorie Calculator.
Here’s just some of the benefits to be gained by eating a high protein breakfast:
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast maintain a healthier body weight and have less body fat than people who skip a meal in the morning. Studies have also shown that establishing a regular routine of eating breakfast can influence you to make healthier choices throughout the day and control calorie intake (6).
Protein helps to boost metabolism because it has a higher thermic effect than fat or carbs, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it. Studies have also shown that protein is more filling than fat and carbs (3). Therefore, a diet high in protein contributes to fewer calories in and a greater calorie output vs a low-protein/high-carb/high-fat diet.
In one study, people on a weight loss programme were given either a high-protein egg breakfast or a high-carbohydrate bagel breakfast, both containing the same number of calories. After 8 weeks, those eating the egg breakfast had lost 65% more weight and reduced their waist measurements by 34% more than those eating the bagel breakfast (13). Vegan? Whip up a tofu scramble instead, with a handful of veggies and pumpkin seeds thrown in you’ll reap the same protein benefits with an additional nutritional boost!
Eating a high protein breakfast has been shown to support weight loss and improve muscle health by increasing muscle mass, energy expenditure (calorie output), satiety ‘fullness’ hormones and reducing the desire to snack at night. A high protein breakfast has also been shown to regulate blood sugar and improve the body’s response to high carbohydrate foods up to 4 hours post-breakfast (9).
Protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, which means you are more likely to consume less calories as a result. In one particular study, overweight women consumed 441 fewer calories each day unintentionally, as a result of increasing their protein intake from 15% to 30% (15). High protein breakfasts have also been shown to promote weight loss by keeping cravings at bay and suppressing hunger hormones (14).
Increasing your protein intake at breakfast may also help you maintain weight loss in the long term. One study in particular found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 18% of total calories made dieters regain 50% less weight (16).
Another study found that high-protein diets reduced obsessive thoughts about food and late-night snacking in overweight men (8). Increasing protein consumption could therefore be the perfect solution for those struggling with cravings, overeating, binge eating and food addictions. So, high-protein diets can not only help you to lose weight, but may also prevent you from gaining weight to begin with.
Maintain Muscle Tissue
When you wake up in the morning, your body is in breakdown mode, particularly when it comes to muscle proteins. It’s important to refresh your muscles with amino acids, known as the building blocks of protein. Try to aim for around 20-25g of high-quality protein along with between 50-100g carbs to replenish the nutrients your muscles need.
Eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your hard-earned muscle mass during weight loss and promotes muscle growth when you strength train. Several studies have shown that having a high protein diet can help to increase muscle size and strength (1, 12). If you exercise regularly, lift weights or are actively trying to gain muscle, you must make sure you’re consuming enough protein in order to adequately replenish your muscles, so they can recover and grow effectively.
Maintaining a high protein intake can also help to prevent muscle loss during weight loss, which can be common for those following restrictive low-cal/low-protein ‘crash’ diets (4, 5, 10).
Reduced risk of disease and lower blood pressure
Breakfast eaters also tend to have lower cholesterol levels than those who skip breakfast, which means a reduced risk of heart disease. Eating breakfast also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, with evidence showing that those who eat breakfast are at a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (2). Those who skip breakfast risk becoming increasingly resistant to insulin (11). Insulin is needed to help your body use glucose to provide energy for basic functions. Insulin resistance is associated with increased risk for diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to serious complications and is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.
Improved overall diet
People who eat breakfast tend to have a better overall diet than those who skip a morning meal. Breakfast eaters also tend to have a greater intake of a wide array of essential nutrients including fibre, iron and calcium. An incredibly simple and highly nutritious breakfast is a high-protein shake, made with a protein powder such as whey or pea protein, both providing around 20-25g protein per scoop.
For a perfectly balanced breakfast, simply add a handful of oats to your protein powder, a tbsp nut butter and a handful of berries/your choice of fruit, top with milk/plant-based milk or water and blend for a delicious and filling breakfast, packed with protein, healthy essential fats, slow release carbohydrates and bursting with vitamins and minerals! Or alternatively, grab one of our High Protein Breakfasts which includes ready made Protein Porridge, Protein Pancakes, and even Superfood Breakfast Bowls!
So, is it ever ok to skip breakfast? What about fasting for weight loss?
Skipping breakfast, as part of a time-restricted eating regime, such as intermittent fasting, is becoming increasingly popular as a weight management strategy and diet. However, research has shown that breakfast skippers have an increased risk of chronic disease and weight gain. (11). One study compared breakfast skippers to breakfast eaters and found that the breakfast eaters not only had a reduction in appetite, but also made improved healthy food choices and improved sleep quality (7, 8).
The Take Home:
Whilst a high-protein breakfast provides a whole host of health benefits, it’s important to choose options that are not high in excess saturated fat. Many popular high-protein breakfast foods such as sausages and full fat dairy can be high in saturated fats. While fine for an occasional treat or weekend ‘cheat meal’, if consumed regularly, the saturated fat content would outweigh the health benefits of their protein content.
It’s instead recommended to opt for lean protein sources such as low-fat dairy, lean meat, eggs, beans, protein powder enriched foods or shakes and heart-healthy oily fish such as salmon or kippers. These options provide the benefits of a high-protein meal without the harmful effects such as increased cholesterol level or weight gain which can come from a diet high in saturated fats.
If you want to lose weight, gain muscle mass and strength, improve your metabolic (and overall) health, then it’s important to ensure you are eating enough protein.
Short of time in the morning? Check out our incredible range of high-protein breakfast products perfect for helping you hit your protein goals with minimal effort and time.