The benefits of protein within one hour of waking
Protein is an essential macronutrient that your body uses for energy. Every single cell in our body is made up of protein and depends on the energy derived from dietary protein for life. Eating protein within one hour of waking is a great way to rev up your metabolism, encourage your body to burn more calories, and prevent hunger cravings from distracting you during the day.
What Is Dietary Protein?
We often talk about getting enough protein in the diet, but it is not always clear why protein is so important. Protein is one of three macronutrients that your body needs to survive (the other two are fats and carbohydrates). These macronutrients are your primary energy sources. Without them, you would not have the energy needed to power your muscles or bodily activities. Each gram of dietary protein contains four calories, referring to the amount of energy it provides you.
When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into its component parts, called amino acids. These amino acids can be used as building blocks to create new protein molecules throughout your body. Your body uses 22 different types of amino acids to perform various functions. Most of these can be synthesized by your cells, but nine of them cannot be made by the body. These “essential” amino acids must be obtained through your diet.
Recommended Daily Intake of Protein
The amount of protein you need depends on a variety of factors, including your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. However, you can get a good estimate by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36. This means that a 150-pound adult should aim to get 54 grams of protein per day, while a 175-pound person needs 63 grams daily. Of course, not all of your daily protein needs to come from breakfast. Aiming to get 20 to 25% of your recommended daily intake of protein within an hour of waking is a good strategy, as you will get the remainder of your protein throughout the day.
Why Protein is an Essential Component of Breakfast
You may have heard a parent say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it many ways science shows that it is true! As the first meal of the day, breakfast sets the tone for what your body can expect for the rest of your waking hours. When you first wake up, your body’s metabolism remains sluggish as it has been a few hours since you have eaten. Eating a healthy breakfast encourages your metabolism to rev up, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy breakfast. Consuming protein in the morning has numerous benefits, including the following:
- Protein stimulates satiety. Have you ever eaten breakfast, only to find yourself craving more food just an hour or two later? This is likely because your breakfast did not contain enough protein. Protein stimulates satiety, or feelings of fullness. This prevents you from experiencing major hunger pangs later in the day.
- Protein revs up your metabolism. Getting protein shortly after waking up stimulates your metabolic activity. Your body begins to metabolize the protein, breaking it down into its component amino acids. This calorie-burning metabolic activity does not just affect for a few minutes. Eating protein shortly after waking actually increases your metabolism for the remainder of the day. This means that you burn more calories as you go about your daily activities without having to do anything special.
- Protein promotes better glycemic control. Glycemic control refers to your body’s ability to maintain a steady blood sugar level. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose that the body uses for energy. For most people, the body keeps blood glucose levels within a certain limit. Eating protein shortly after waking up prevents fluctuations in blood sugar, promoting good glycemic control. This is particularly important for people with diabetes, as they have difficulty properly regulating their blood sugar levels. Eating protein shortly before waking up ensures that your blood sugar remains in a narrower range, preventing episodes of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.
- Protein encourages lean muscle development. Your muscle tissue is made of protein. Thus, you need a constant supply of amino acids to rebuild damage to your muscles. Eating protein in the morning encourages muscle development and ensures that you will maintain lean muscle mass as you age.
Incorporate More Protein into Your Morning
So how should you go about incorporating protein into your diet in the morning? There are numerous sources of protein that can easily be incorporated into your diet. Consider some of the following suggestions:
- Egg whites. The whites of an egg contain all of its protein, making them a good morning meal. Make an egg white omelet with mixed vegetables, or simply eat a hard-boiled egg. Eggs are a healthy choice because they are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential aminos that your body cannot produce itself.
- Chia seeds. Chia seeds are a rich vegan protein source, and they are easily made into a nutritious, stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal breakfast.
- Protein shake. A protein shake or fruit smoothie with protein powder is an easy way to get protein shortly after waking. Plus, a protein drink can be taken on the go as you rush off to start your day.
- Peanut butter. Peanut butter is a healthy, vegan protein source that contains heart healthy fats. Smear peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat toast or a banana for an easy morning protein boost.
- Nonfat Greek yogurt is a great source of protein. Top yours with granola, fresh fruit, or honey.