Why Protein Is So Important In The Morning

Protein Smoothie Bowl

If you’re like most people, you’re spending a lot of time rushing in the morning.

Up to 60% of young people in the US report not eating breakfast consistently, and If we’re polling our commonwealth brothers and sisters in the UK, it’s even worse. Most folks aren’t eating breakfast. When asked why, there are generally three responses:

  1. I don’t have time.
  2. I don’t have an appetite for it.
  3. I’m on a diet.

In fact, I’d say I’m almost always in one of those camps every morning. But none of these excuses are sufficient reason to miss breakfast -- especially if you’re wanting to diet. Some fascinating work published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shed new light on the importance of breakfast; and in particular, how getting more protein in the morning can improve health. 

The Study

A study out of the University of Missouri measured the metabolic and behavioural responses of 20 girls based on one criteria: how much protein they had for breakfast. The 20 were grouped according to their body composition and age, and outside of what they ate for breakfast, they had no restrictions on diet.

Researchers performed a number of neurological studies as well as conducted interviews with the girls at the conclusion of the study.

This is how their breakfasts were segmented:

Group 1: No protein consumed
Group 2: 16g of protein consumed.
Group 3: 35g of protein consumed.

The results were fascinating.

Curbing Cravings

Of the total 20, subjects who ate 35g of protein exhibited significantly decreased food cravings throughout the day: measured by participants themselves, as well as through “magnetic resonance imaging brain scans”.

Less Salty + Fatty Food

What’s more, the same test subjects who ate a higher protein breakfast consumed less fatty and salty snacks later in the day. Their dinner portions were smaller, and in aggregate, the group who ate high protein breakfast ate less throughout the day. It’s been no secret that protein keeps you feeling fuller, longer, but it’s relationship to cravings for unhealthy food has been less resolute.

What it Means for You

     "The group of teens who ate high-protein breakfasts reduced their daily food intake by 400 calories and reduced body fat mass, while the groups who ate normal-protein breakfast or continued to skip breakfast gained additional body fat," Leidy said. "These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day. In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups."

                                                                                                                                                  - Dr. Ledy

Dr. Heather Ledy, chief researcher of the study, acknowledges that 36 grams a day can be daunting for the average consumer. But don’t get stuck on the “36” part.

A high protein breakfast can be anywhere from 22g-40g based on your own body composition. The insight to be parsed out from this study is that building a morning routine around protein focused breakfasts can help make eating decisions later in the day a lot easier.

Looking for a few ideas? I wrote about 4 breakfasts that help me win the mornings in April. Check them out here.