High Protein Breakfast Can Help with Fat Loss

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Here’s a great reason to eat a high protein breakfast: you may eat fewer calories for the rest of the day and lose body fat, too.

While most people do manage to eat something in the morning, there are still about 31 million Americans (about 10% of the population) who routinely skip breakfast. Not surprisingly, the numbers are highest among teens and young adults. Many of them say they simply don’t have time to eat breakfast in the morning. But even for those who do eat breakfast, it’s hardly protein-packed. The top three breakfast foods in America are cold cereal, toast and bananas.

Even though breakfast is often called “the most important meal of the day”—and a healthy habit that has been linked to a reduced risk of weight gain—much of the benefit may depend on what that meal actually consists of.

The Benefits of a Protein Breakfast

In a recent study conducted at the University of Missouri1, researchers recruited 28 overweight students who routinely skipped breakfast at least five days a week. The aim of the study was to compare the effects of two different 350-calorie breakfasts on hunger, food intake and body weight over a period of twelve weeks. The two breakfasts consisted of a “standard” protein meal with 13 grams of protein vs. a high protein breakfast with 35 grams of protein.

The students were randomly divided into two groups and were provided a daily breakfast meal. One group got and milk (the standard protein group); The others received a breakfast of eggs, dairy products and lean meat (the high protein group). A third group of breakfast-skippers served as a control: they were asked to simply continue skipping breakfast as they usually did.

Those in the high protein group had more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day, and the students reported that the breakfast helped them to feel more full during the day as well. In fact, those who ate the high protein breakfast every morning ended up eating less food over the course of the day. This was about 400 calories less than their usual intake, which led to a loss of body fat.

Those who ate the lower protein breakfast, or skipped the meal altogether, gained body fat over the 12 weeks. This is worth noting, since many breakfast-skippers defend their habit in the belief it will save them calories and lead to weight loss.

The study was small and only included young adults, so it’s yet to be seen if the same effects would be seen in a larger group of people. The study does, however, provide additional evidence that protein helps with appetite control. Also, eating a relatively high protein breakfast may help to set the stage for more calorie-controlled choices for the rest of the day.

The key to eating 35 grams of protein within a 350-calorie limit is to choose high-quality proteins. These include eggs and egg whites, nonfat and low-fat dairy products (milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt) and lean meats, as well as protein powders that can be added to shakes or stirred into scrambled eggs for a protein boost.

High protein breakfast ideas with less than 350 calories

  • Protein shake with protein powder and 1 cup (240mL) low-fat milk, ½ cup vanilla Greek-style yogurt and fruit. (36g protein, 280 calories)
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1 diced hard-boiled egg and chopped mixed vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumber), sprinkled with salt and pepper. (34g protein, 265 calories)
  • 5 ounces (150g) canned salmon mixed with a dab of mustard. Spread on 5 whole grain crackers and top with sliced tomato. (33g protein, 300 calories)
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain toast topped with 4 ounces (120g) sliced turkey breast and ¼ sliced avocado. (37g protein, 320 calories)
  • Protein breakfast pudding: whip 1 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt (any flavor) in the blender with protein powder, 1 TBSP chia seeds and 1 cup diced fresh fruit. (34g protein, 300 calories)

1 Bauer LB et al. Int J Obesity. June 1, 2015.

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