Energize Your Day With a Protein-Packed Breakfast

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Whether you eat breakfast on the go or are able to sit down and enjoy a meal before your day begins, including protein in your morning meal comes with a variety of benefits. Aside from the fact that when combined with high fiber carbohydrates and fat, a protein-inclusive meal can help keep you feeling full longer, with more stable blood sugar, it also assists with several vital bodily functions, including cell repair and cell maintenance.

Your body uses protein to build all tissues such as hair, skin, muscles, organs, and the hemoglobin in your blood. A diet that contains enough protein in conjunction with high fiber carbohydrates and fats has many benefits, including sustained energy levels and stable blood sugar levels. Adequate protein also supports retaining muscle mass.

Read on for more on the benefits of including protein at breakfast. Plus, find out great sources of protein as well as recipes to try.

Protein Basics

Protein is one of three macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fats. There are different recommendations for how much protein you should consume. Some guidelines recommend between 10% to 35% of your total calories come from protein, while others recommend 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for more active individuals.

Further research on muscle building suggests optimal protein intake at a minimum of 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, spread across four meals, and up to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight as the upper limit.

Current dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend 10% to 30% of your total calories come from protein. However, endurance athletes and those trying to build or maintain muscle may require more. Plus, protein needs can also vary depending on age.

Protein is made up of amino acids, nine of which are considered essential meaning your body cannot make them on its own and needs to obtain them from food. Animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids while plant-based proteins most often do not. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet exclusively, you will need to plan your sources of protein so that you get enough of the essential amino acids.

Benefits of A High Protein Breakfast

A breakfast with adequate protein has several benefits over a breakfast that primarily contains carbohydrates such as a bagel or toast. Protein helps keep you feeling satiated longer so you can make it through that morning meeting. And, when combined with carbohydrates and fat, it helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

If you usually skip breakfast altogether, or just grab a slice of toast, consuming a balanced breakfast that includes protein can help keep your energy levels more stable.

Consuming an optimal amount of protein is more challenging if you do not eat much at breakfast. But getting in a good serving of protein in the morning will improve your chances of consuming enough during the entire day.

The American Society for Nutrition explains that most Americans consume the majority of their protein at dinner and the least amount at breakfast. Instead, split your protein intake more evenly throughout the day, with similar intakes for each meal.

With a more even split of protein intake, you may experience increased meal satisfaction throughout the entire day in addition to steadier energy levels. This recommendation is also supported by other research on optimizing muscle growth.

Research on protein at breakfast showed that consuming 35 grams of protein led to reduced hunger hormones and increased meal satiety hormones than a breakfast containing only 13 grams of protein.

High Protein Breakfast Foods

A breakfast that includes protein can take many forms. Although most people think of meat when considering protein intake, there are many other foods that provide a dose of protein, no matter if you prefer savory, sweet, or plant-based meals for breakfast.

While protein often gets a lot of attention, it is still important to consume the other macronutrients, carbohydrates, and fats, at breakfast as well for balanced nutrition and lasting energy. Carbohydrates provide filling fiber and are your body's preferred fuel source while fats help with micronutrient absorption, slow digestion for greater meal satiety, and help your foods taste better.

Remember to focus on getting a variety of fruits and vegetables with your breakfast as well to boost nutritional quality and ensure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Protein-Rich Breakfast Meats

For those who enjoy a hearty, savory breakfast, eating meat is a very efficient way to pack in protein in the morning. There are a variety of high protein meat-based foods that are normally consumed at breakfast so you have some options. If you're watching your sodium intake, it is important to note that breakfast meats often have high sodium levels.

Breakfast Meat Options

High Protein Dairy and Eggs

Dairy and eggs both provide high-quality protein and are popular breakfast foods. Dairy also contains calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium, which are essential for bone health. Fermented dairy options also provide a dose of gut-loving probiotics which can aid in improving gut microbiota balance.

Eggs also are very nutrient-dense and provide highly bioavailable protein, that is easily digested and used throughout the body. They also pair well with whole-grain toast, meat protein sources, nutritious fats like avocado, and vegetables such as pepper, spinach, and mushrooms. Meanwhile, yogurt and cottage cheese pair well with foods like nuts, apples, berries, and melons.

Cottage cheese can also be dished up as a savory option, seasoned with pepper, paprika, and cucumber slices. It's also excellent tucked into eggs, stirred into high-fiber oatmeal, or served on top of avocado toast.

Dairy Options

  • Skyr: 17 grams of protein in a 150-gram serving
  • Greek yogurt: 16 grams of protein in a 5.5-ounce serving
  • Cottage cheese: 11 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving
  • Regular yogurt: 8.5 grams of protein per cup
  • Eggs: 6 grams of protein per egg

High Protein Grains

While not as high in protein per serving as meat, dairy, or eggs, grains can also pack a protein punch. Pairing high-protein grains with other protein-rich foods is an excellent way to add variety, fiber, and nutrients to your diet.

It is also wise to consume a wide variety of protein-containing grains, beans, and legumes if you do not eat animal sources of protein to ensure you are getting all of the amino acids necessary for health. Remember, plant sources of protein do not typically contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs.

These grains can be used in flour-form to make pancakes, waffles, muffins, or bread, or they can be consumed whole or lightly processed and cooked like breakfast cereal. For instance, quinoa can be served exactly like oatmeal for a higher protein version of your favorite breakfast.

You can also toast grains along with nuts to make high-protein granola. Serve this on top of Greek yogurt with fruit for a balanced breakfast.

Grain Options

  • Amaranth: 9 grams of protein per cup
  • Quinoa: 8 grams protein per cup
  • Oatmeal: 6 grams of protein per cup
  • Spelt: 5 grams of protein in a quarter cup

Other High Protein Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast foods do not have to be traditional. If you like to eat leftovers for breakfast, the previous night's meal can serve as a way to get a balanced breakfast option. There are also ways of serving higher protein foods unconventionally with sources of carbohydrates and fats to boost protein content while mixing up your typical breakfast.

Tofu, customarily eaten at lunch or dinner, can be scrambled similarly to eggs for a plant-based high protein dish and served with a whole grain bagel or toast. Some people like to mix leftover steak, cooked ground meat, or chicken breast into scrambled eggs and wrap it in tortillas as a breakfast burrito. Egg whites or yogurt can be stirred into oatmeal to add protein.

Protein powders, such as whey or plant-based options, can provide a convenient boost of protein to any meal. Try mixing protein powder into foods that might not naturally offer as much protein such as oatmeal or a fruit smoothie.

A Word From Verywell

Adding protein to your morning meal along with high fiber carbs and fat, will provide several benefits including staving off hunger longer, keeping blood sugar more stable, and keeping energy levels stable.

There are many ways to consume protein at breakfast, regardless of whether you prefer savory or sweet. If you eat a plant-based diet, get creative with your protein sources, consuming a variety of them to ensure you obtain all of the essential amino acids.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.