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High Protein Breakfast for Optimal Body Composition

We all know that protein is key when it comes to building muscle, losing fat, and maintaining a healthy weight (Lowery et al., 2012; Phillips et al. 2016)

However, did you know that when you eat your breakfast protein, it maybe just as important as the daily total of protein that you eat?

More specifically let’s touch on the importance of a high protein breakfast whilst getting the body that you want.

A Brief Primer on Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS)

When you eat a meal containing protein, it starts the process of building muscle and preventing breakdown,  a process that is referred to as protein synthesis. This is the key underpinning mechanism for recovery and the growth of new and bigger muscle fibers. If you want to grow, you must optimize Muscle Protein Synthesis.

To get the most effective spike in protein synthesis, most people will want to aim for 25-35 grams of a high quality protein source, or enough protein to get 2-3 grams of the amino acid leucine. This is one reason we add extra Leucine to PRE-KAGED, as studies showy that,  even if your total protein intake is low pre-workout, extra Leucine can significantly increase MPS.

Protein synthesis follows a wave pattern, being elevated when you consume a protein source, and falling when you have not eaten for a while. This is where the whole “eating every 3 hours” concept stems from, since protein synthesis tends to stay elevated for 3 hours post protein consumption and then starts to decline.

Source: Burd, N. A., Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Exercise training and protein metabolism: influences of contraction, protein intake, and sex-based differences. Journal of Applied Physiology106(5), 1692-1701.

In other words, if you want to optimize recovery, muscle growth and protect your body from protein breakdown (i.e. muscle loss),  then stimulating MPS at several points per day is key, especially at breakfast!

Break the Fast and the Typical Dietary Pattern

Breakfast literally means “break the fast”.

After not eating for 8-12 hours, your body is ready for nutrients, especially a protein dose.

By eating breakfast, and making it high protein, you are starting the muscle building process and stopping the overnight catabolic process that may occur during long periods of no food.

Most typical people will either A) Skip breakfast altogether or B) Have a lower than normal protein intake. Research has shown that breakfast tends to be the lowest protein meal, with meals later in the day being higher, which, considering you’ve had no protein for around 8 - 12 hours, isn’t really a great strategy.

Superiority of a High Protein Breakfast

A large number of studies illustrate strong associations between eating breakfast and markers of healthy weight management, such that the increased frequency of breakfast consumption is associated with lower BMI, reduced weight(gain), and/or lower body fat (Rampersaud et al., 2005; Fiore et al., 2006; Berkey et al., 2003; Brown et al., 2013). 

However, promising new research has been starting to roll out that highlights protein as a key element to power up to your breakfast for a lean and muscular body. 

Protein Synthesis Improved After 7 days of normal patterns

Remember the process your body uses to retain and build muscle?

The evidence suggests that this process is improved by spreading out your protein intake throughout the day, instead of the skewed distribution that misses breakfast (Mamerow et al., 2014). 

In other words, you will get a nice even supply of amino acids to repair and help the muscle grow, while reducing muscle protein breakdown. The bottom line is that eating a high protein breakfast will help you to to burn fat and build muscle. If you don’t already, eating a high protein breakfast should be towards the top of your dietary checklist!

High protein breakfast improves daily fullness 

What is the number one struggle while on a diet? For many people, the resounding answer is hunger, which leads to binge eating and eventually cheat meals and cessation of the diet altogether.

Quite simply, when you are in a calorie deficit, your body signals that it wants more food with greater frequency and intensity. It’s just a basic survival mechanism which is inbuilt in our brain. Years ago, this would of saved us from starvation, illness and death.

While eliminating total hunger may not be possible during strict and hardcore diets, a high protein breakfast will help you reduce it as much as possible, while keeping you fuller and more satiated throughout the day.

Interestingly,  in a 2009 study, researchers found that a high protein breakfast provided the greatest impact on levels of fullness compared to other meals (Leidy et al. 2009). So, this shows a high protein breakfast is likely the most important meal during a diet for reducing hunger.

 This could be significant, as feeling full earlier on in the day could prevent you from eating more as the day goes along.

This phenomenon was actually found in a follow up study by the same lab.

In that study, compared to skipping breakfast or a low protein breakfast, a high protein breakfast curbed daily hunger and desire to eat, decreased evening brain-driven food cravings, and decreased unhealthy evening snacking on high fat/sugar foods by about 200 kcals (Leidy et al., 2013).

Furthermore, a recent study showed that the control on appetite and food cravings transfers over to weight loss and maintenance.

In that study, a high protein breakfast resulted in body fat loss over the 12 week, whereas the other groups either gained fat or stayed the same. This was probably partially due to the observed reductions in calorie intake observed when including a high protein breakfast (Leidy et al., 2015).

If you are trying to build a successful and long-term weight loss diet then ensuring you eat a high protein breakfast everyday is absolutely key.

What About Building Muscle?

We’ve covered how a high protein breakfast can help you to lose fat and or drop weight.

However, when it comes to building muscle, eating a high protein breakfast is also vital.

Think about it, logically, if you reduce the amount of time in a negative protein balance (e.g. catabolism), the more time you can be building muscle.

In a famous review on nutrient timing, leading researchers Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld noted that when the goal is muscle gain, or when someone is training fasted, protein timing is an important consideration, especially at breakfast.

If you train in the morning, a high protein breakfast is almost as essential as going to the gym itself. Performing weight training fasted in the AM is one of the worst ideas around, unless your goal is to lose muscle!

Summary

Having a high protein breakfast is a key element in losing fat, building muscle, and reaching the ultimate body composition.

Making sure that you get 25-35 grams of protein at breakfast will give a significant boost to your efforts for a number of reasons:

Signals the body to protect and build muscle

Reduces hunger and cravings throughout the day

Decreases over calorie intake

Costs the body more energy to digest

One of my go-to strategies when training early is mixing 2 scoops of RE

KAGED with a serving of PRE-KAGED. If like me, you don’t have time to fit in a whole protein based meal, or, if you simply struggle to train on a full stomach, then this can ensure you are maximizing performance, reducing protein breakdown and, of course, stimulating muscle protein synthesis and new muscle growth.

If you train later in the day or wish to eat a full meal, make sure it contains at least 30g of high quality protein, ideally from eggs, fish or meat, which are full of Leucine and other key essential amino acids.

References:

Mamerow, M. M., Mettler, J. A., English, K. L., Casperson, S. L., Arentson-Lantz, E., Sheffield-Moore, M., … & Paddon-Jones, D. (2014). Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. The Journal of nutrition144(6), 876-880.

Leidy, H. J., Bossingham, M. J., Mattes, R. D., & Campbell, W. W. (2009). Increased dietary protein consumed at breakfast leads to an initial and sustained feeling of fullness during energy restriction compared to other meal times. British Journal of Nutrition101(06), 798-803.

Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American journal of clinical nutrition,97(4), 677-688.

Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. The American journal of clinical nutrition,97(4), 677-688.

Lowery, L. M., Antonio, J., Cotter, J. A., & Barr, D. (2012). Dietary Protein Efficacy. In Dietary Protein and Resistance Exercise (pp. 69-94). CRC Press.

Phillips, S. M., Chevalier, S., & Leidy, H. J. (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health 1. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism41(5), 565-572.

Rampersaud, G. C., Pereira, M. A., Girard, B. L., Adams, J., & Metzl, J. D. (2005). Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(5), 743-760.

Fiore, H., Travis, S., Whalen, A., Auinger, P., & Ryan, S. (2006). Potentially protective factors associated with healthful body mass index in adolescents with obese and nonobese parents: a secondary data analysis of the third national health and nutrition examination survey, 1988-1994. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(1), 55-64.

Berkey, C. S., Rockett, H. R. H., Gillman, M. W., Field, A. E., & Colditz, G. A. (2003). Longitudinal study of skipping breakfast and weight change in adolescents. International journal of obesity, 27(10), 1258-1266.

Brown, A. W., Brown, M. M. B., & Allison, D. B. (2013). Belief beyond the evidence: using the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity to show 2 practices that distort scientific evidence. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(5), 1298-1308.

Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 10(1), 5.

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