For the majority of the population, what to have for breakfast is a fairly simple choice between very few different products. Cereal, toast, muesli or porridge. The usual suspects are ever present. But should we be re-thinking our options when it comes to the ever-important first meal of the day?
There is a growing body of science that touts the benefits of a high protein breakfast over the more common carbohydrate loaded products on the market.
Protein has been found to be far more satiating than carbohydrates, meaning that individuals who eat protein rich meals tend to feel more satisfied from their meal. Studies have found that people who eat a high protein breakfast tend to self regulate their calorie consumption throughout the day far more effectively than individuals who have eaten a high carbohydrate breakfast. This may be due to the profound impact protein has on the body’s appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin. Another mechanism may be the less dramatic impact protein has on the body’s blood sugar levels than carbohydrates. Typically, regulating your blood sugar levels more effectively will help you regulate your appetite and cravings.
Protein rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs also promote the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that enhances mood, focus and attention among others. It is a neurotransmitter that you want to be promoting the release of in your body after your first meal of the day, as you still have the rest of the day to get through! Conversely, eating a carbohydrate rich meal promotes the release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter, but this one promotes feelings of relaxation, calm and happiness. To get your day off to the best and most productive start possible, try opting for the high protein breakfast over the high carbohydrate one.
Play around with meat, fish and egg dishes for breakfast and find a good 3 or 4 options that you like and rotate between them throughout the week. Have at least one or two of them as cold options for when the alarm clock doesn’t go off on time.
A protein shake/smoothie is another great way of easily increasing your protein intake at breakfast. Keep the sugar quantity low and you will be set for the morning!
Blom W, Lluch A et al. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 2, 211-220, February 2006.
Weigle D, Breen P et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, No. 1, 41-48, July 2005.
Wurtmann RJ, Wurtman JJ. Do carbohydrates affect food intake via neurotransmitter activity? 1988. PubMed.