Regardless of what time you begin eating, starting out with a higher protein meal is crucial to prevent cravings and to ensure sufficient protein is had over the course of the day.
In working with patients and clients over the past 18 years to improve body composition and performance, I have consistently found protein to be the oft neglected but truly fundamental consideration for long term success. Protein protects muscle mass while on a weight loss plan and also facilitates recovery and repair in athletes in all sports. Having worked predominately with endurance athletes, I see protein forgotten in the pursuit of carbohydrate for fueling needs – often to the detriment of the immune system, recovery, performance, and even blood sugar stability. Yet all of us, not just athletes, do better when we pay attention to preserving or increasing muscle mass. Muscle preserves our long-term health by facilitating optimal blood sugars, preventing osteopenia and osteoporosis, and reducing the risk of falls from poor balance as we age.
By starting the day off with a high protein breakfast, one doesn’t have to “chase” this macronutrient for the rest of the day. Cravings for starches and sweets are lower and overall energy and satiety stay high. Here are some of my favorite ways to kick off the morning:
Citrus Rush Smoothie
This smoothie is full of tart creaminess! It reminds me of warm weather to come and sneaks in a serving of greens to boot!
- 10 oz unsweetened almond milk or favorite milk
- Heaping 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (0%, 2% or full fat is fine)
- 1 scoop protein powder with at least 25 grams protein (I love to use Orange Creamsicle flavored Summer Fling from EarthFed Muscle or Vanilla flavored Vega Sport Protein for a dairy-free option)
- 2 cups packed baby spinach
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 orange (or 1 mandarin)
- optional: 1 kiwi for extra flavor, if available
Blend all. Makes 1 serving; apx 35-39 grams protein depending upon yogurt used.
I will often make this if my appetite is low or I’m rushing into the clinic. You can grab a latte at a drive through and mix the beverage at work if you have protein powder at the office! I keep a canister at work at all time in case of emergencies.
- 12 oz latte made with dairy milk or unsweetened soy milk (7-9 grams protein)
- 1 scoop protein powder with at least 25 grams protein
- optional: 1 scoop collagen powder (10 grams protein)*
Mix proteins and slowly whisk latte into mug. Alternatively, if you have a sealing travel mug (such as those sold by Contigo) you can add the proteins to the latte, seal, and shake vigorously to combine.
Easily provides 40 grams of protein per latte.
*Collagen is excellent for hair, skin and nails but lacks sufficient leucine, an amino acid necessary for muscle development and retention. Because it is not a complete protein, it is not useful as a standalone protein supplement for those concerned with muscle mass.
This is great to prep the night before and take to eat at work. The frozen berries will melt into the cottage cheese or yogurt and give it great flavor. This is quick to prep and will leave you satisfied until lunch.
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or high protein greek yogurt such as Fage)
- 1 oz almonds
- 1/2 cup frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, etc)
- 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese (about 125 grams)
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (providing 25-30 grams protein)
- 3 tbsp frozen raspberries, thawed
- Up to 2 tablespoons milk to thin to desired consistency
Blend all in blender until smooth. Provides 35-40g protein.
Sausage, Beans and Greens
This is a hearty breakfast for mornings when you have a little extra time to cook. Chock full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, this gives you more fiber than oats but with loads more protein! Each recipe provides 30-35 grams protein.
- 3 cups chard, beet greens or kale, chopped
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1/2 tbsp avocado or coconut oil
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 precooked spicy Italian chicken sausage, sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and pepper in oil for 2-3 minutes. Add greens and cover pan, allowing steam to wilt them. Stir occasionally until greens wilt down. Add beans and sausage and mix to combine. Season to taste. Serves 1.
If you are not yet regularly getting 30 grams of protein or more at your first meal, be sure to give these a try! Comment below and let me know what you think!