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By Lori Rice — FitStar Contributor

My journey through the ups and downs of healthy eating has led me to a lot of high carbohydrate breakfasts. It’s always been complex carbs like oatmeal, whole wheat toast and fruit, but insignificant amounts of protein only made an appearance in a dollop of yogurt or a splash of milk.

Most of us know that we should include protein at breakfast, but there is a big difference between including protein and making it the focus of the meal. For me, a high protein breakfast has done wonders for appetite control and research shows that it can help you, too.

What the Research Tells Us
Studies show that, in general, those who eat breakfast maintain a lower weight than those who skip it. So by simply taking the time to eat something in the morning, you are already ahead in the game. But research suggests that when the protein content of the meal increases so does appetite control throughout the rest of the day.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) last year analyzed a small group of 18 to 20 year old obese females. When the subjects ate a high protein breakfast (35 grams) versus skipping the meal or eating a low protein breakfast (13 grams), not only did they have increased fullness later in the day, but brain scans showed reduced activity in the area that controls food cravings. This resulted in a reduced intake of high-fat and high-sugar evening snacks.

The satiety that results from a high protein breakfast may have something to do with ghrelin, the appetite hormone that stimulates hunger. A second study in the AJCN, analyzed the effect of a high protein breakfast (58.1 percent) versus a high carbohydrate breakfast (19.3 percent) on ghrelin production in 15 healthy adult men. It found that after the meal the high protein breakfast decreased ghrelin secretion more than the high carbohydrate breakfast. They also found that the high protein breakfast reduced gastric emptying which may result in feeling fuller longer.

How to Make the Switch
I will admit that making protein the focus of your morning meal takes more time than slathering nut butter on toast or microwaving oatmeal. It is worth the effort, but it is wise to have a plan so that lack of time doesn’t become the reason you fall back into a granola bar rut. You can easily overcome this by making up extra beans, vegetables or hard boiled eggs early in the week so that you have foods ready to go when you are pressed for time.

I also have a serious morning sweet tooth which was well satisfied by past carbohydrate-rich breakfasts. You may find that when you make a high protein switch, you miss something sweet. This can easily be solved by adding a little fruit or using nut butters. Even the no-sugar varieties are surprisingly sweet.

These are a few ways to transition to a high protein breakfast:
• Keep the smoothie, but decrease the fruit and any sweeteners. Add nut butter, low-fat cottage cheese, almond meal or peanut flour to increase the protein.

• Eat more eggs. An egg a day is okay for most healthy people, as long you keep other sources of cholesterol in check. Bulk up the protein and the serving size by adding in some egg whites.

• Add beans. Black, pinto, refried, chickpeas, hummus – beans add both lean protein and fiber. An egg alone may not fill you up, but eggs and beans are a great high protein breakfast combination.

• Add vegetables. Replace your grain-based complex carbs like toast and bagels with sautéed spinach, roasted cauliflower or stir-fried peppers and onions. They make the perfect partner for eggs or beans, and raw leafy greens can be blended into smoothies.

• Eat dinner for breakfast. Forget what has been engrained in your head about what breakfast should be. Lean meats like fish or chicken are just as good when eaten in the morning. Serve them up in an omelet or with a side of beans and vegetables.

FitStar Contributor Profile

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Lori Rice

Lori is a nutritionist and freelance writer, and author of the book The Everything Guide to Food Remedies (Adams Media, 2011). She holds a MS in Nutritional Sciences with a focus in Wellness and Sports Nutrition and a BS in Nutrition, Fitness and Health. Lori shares her recipes, food photos, and travel adventures on her blog, www.fakefoodfree.com.

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  • GJ

    Lori. I am happily on 4HB and it works for me. I tend to fast until lunch time. I have done this for a decade and am happy not eating until then. If I do want something before (maybe once a week), I do. Tim Ferris and others extol the virtues of this protein first thing however, as with your post, this seems to be about controlling cravings etc. Conversely, I have read about mixing up 4HB with intermittent fasting which I guess is what I am unintentionally doing. Given I am experiencing no cravings and am “happy” should I still consider eating protein first thing? Secondly, do you know anything about the Forever Lean Ultra Lite shakes? I have considered one of these in the morning (mixed with water) as they have high vitamins / minerals as well as protein. I am not sure about how well they interact with 4HB at all. I look forward to hearing your thoughts… GJ

  • Trent Tueller

    I love this article. Validates some of the key components to GetFit21 program.

    I have found this true for myself with appetite control and sugar cravings. Wonderful article Lori!