Today we’re going to be looking at the best proteins to have at breakfast.
Leaving aside “somewhat extreme” protocols, such as Intermittent Fasting, Ketogenic Diets, or similar, eating breakfast is an act performed by the majority of the population.
Why is protein important at breakfast?
Demystifying a little the idea held by the most conservative sector of the fitness scene, of the extraordinary need to ingest protein immediately when we get up or else our muscles are going to suffer the catabolic consequences of so many hours without ingesting a simple amino acid, taking protein during breakfast will provide us with a range of benefits, which in the long term we will notice in the improvement of our body composition.
Those who advocate suppressing breakfast and fasting until noon may not be interested in this text, and maintain their position against the fact that hormone regulation will occur with their method… That’s neither completely true nor so far from reality.
What can happen if you do suppress breakfast when working towards a fitness goal – such as “defining” or bringing out the 6-pack – is that in successive meals, we’ll be overcome with gluttony, and instead of opting for less copious meals, a switch in will be flicked in our brain and change our perception, giving us free reign to gobble up everything that’s put in front of us.
You arrive home, the last meal was 7 hours ago, you open the fridge, and you commit the crime…
No one can fight against it, because if you suppress in the morning, and you’re vulnerable, neither calories nor macronutrients nor… you will find a way to be totally satisfied.
As we will see below, hormonal involvement plays a very important role.
Satiety and Ghrelin
Having a protein-rich breakfast will help us to increase our satiety level over the course of the morning.
If we work in offices, or somewhere non fitness friendly, the desire to attack it will be much less. Obviously, if we’re hungry, we’ll continue with our plan, but the reality is that the desire for sweets will have been considerably reduced.
The reason is due to decreases in ghrelin levels1 (commonly called the appetite hormone). This hormone is an accomplice to the attacks of hunger that we often experience, and which are normal in a restricted calorie diet.
It sends a signal – an order to the brain, specifically to the hypothalamus – requiring the rapid intake of food to make us feel satisfied.
The 30g of protein rule
How many of you have heard that we can’t exceed 30g of protein? It’s said that our body simply won’t use it or know what to do with it…
Thanks to Sergio Espinar2, we can clarify this point.
Generally speaking, consuming 30g per meal will be fine, but exceeding this figure will not cause any disaster.
I get up at 7am to get ready and go to work, and my bedtime is usually at 00am, that’s 17 hours active. According to a standard nutritional scheme, I’ll tell you the number of meals I could have, and to make the point, I’m guessing an intake of 30g in each one:
- 7h → 30g
- 10h → 30g
- 14h → 30g
- 17h → 30g
- 20h → 30g
- 22h → 30g
Total protein: 6 meals X 30g/meal = 180g of protein
Ok, and now seeing that we’re athletes, and that we’re looking to increase muscle mass, so guided by the recommendations of amount of protein/kg weight (let’s assume that my weight is 80kg), it turns out that
80kg Body Weight X 2-2.5g/Body Weight = 160-200g of protein (intermediate value = 180g)
Interestingly, the Broscience, wasn’t too far off the mark…
The best protein to have a breakfast
With all of the above, and in my view, we can analyse the best protein for each person, based on the following criteria:
- Time availability: you’re in a hurry and can’t stop to cook, you need to make breakfast for your children…
- Level of motivation: yes, possibly quite a considerable factor. If, despite having time, you don’t feel like cooking…
- Vegetarian/vegan: we’ll have less options for sources, and there’s a need to combine different sources together for complete proteins
- Training on an empty stomach: if you’ve gotten up very early to train, or if you’re too busy…
Proteins for breakfast
Eggs are a food that fall into the category of “superfood” because of their nutritional balance. In its composition, we can find vitamins A, D, K, Vitamin B2, B5, B6, B12, folic acid, minerals: Phosphorus, Selenium, Calcium, Zinc, on top of other traces of nutrients essential for our health. If you have a choice, look for eggs from chickens that have been fed Omega-3.
Eggs provide a large amount of choline, a type of B vitamin, which is involved in the formation of the cell membrane and serves as a neural signalling device in our brain. Although they’re high in cholesterol, this fact should not be assumed to correlate with increased levels in our body.
This source is highly bioavailable, i.e. it is a complete protein. It’s also rich in minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, and this combination results in hydroxyapatite, a type of mineral involved in promoting bone density. Calcium is strongly related to heart muscle functions and to the level of muscle contraction. Phosphorus supports the DNA and RNA structures that play an essential role in cell growth and reproduction.
The main problem restricting tuna consumption is the contamination risk. However, the fact that tuna is rich in the mineral selenium means the risk of contamination is low, as this element tends to bind with mercury at a molecular level and prevents absorption by the body.
These meats are rich in the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B5, which are elements that help raise serotonin levels and alleviate symptoms of stress. They’re also an excellent source of minerals, including zinc, a mineral highly valued for its properties in improving the hormonal environment in terms of endogenous testosterone.
Quinoa is considered a pseudo-cereal, although it’s more like a seed. It’s an excellent choice for those who are vegetarian or vegan, as it contains twice the protein of most cereals, fibre, and good amounts of minerals (Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Potassium), which will help meet the recommended daily value requirements. Another peculiarity is that it does not contain gluten.
Apart from this nutritional value, quinoa is great for the body as it contains certain further healthy nutrients such as quercetin and kaempferol, which are flavonoids, molecules belonging to the group of antioxidants. So the benefits for our health include being anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, support for the cardiovascular system, for the nervous system…
The protein contained in quinoa is complete, i.e. all the amino acids can be found in it, including the essential ones that our body can’t produce, unlike other cereals, which are usually lacking in some of these amino acids (especially l-lysine).
Due to the high fibre content of the quinoa, it’s best not to consume too much. Once you’ve cooked the quinoa and left it to cool, simply mix the protein with a tiny amount water and pour it over the quinoa. You’ll end up with great dish from a combination of proteins suitable for vegetarians/vegans.
I think this option is great for those who are short of time, or as a post-workout shake. The recommended protein is Whey Concentrate, although of course, the Whey Isolate type is totally fine too, and perhaps better for those people with an intolerance to milk.
As Whey Concentrate a protein derived from milk, i.e. of animal origin, it will contain all the amino acids (essential and non-essential), being in turn rich in the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and glutamine precursors (glutamic acid). Thanks to them, the recovery and regeneration of muscle fibres tends to increase.
- Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response.
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