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Why Eating a High-Protein Breakfast Is Key for Fat Loss

A high-protein breakfast is crucial to helping clients at Ultimate Performance achieve their body transformation goals.

Whether your goals revolve around fat loss, muscle growth or physique transformation, a high-protein diet, and specifically a high-protein breakfast, is a fundamental habit you need to adopt.

The research proving the importance of a high protein breakfast for optimum body composition is overwhelming.

Firstly, it stimulates muscle protein synthesis after a night fast to feed your muscle, while also helping to decrease your total daily calorie intake when dieting.

Here’s an overview of the benefits and the science supporting the use of a high protein breakfast:

A high-protein breakfast improves fullness during the day and can help you lose weight 

If you’ve ever been on a diet, then you will know that hunger and cravings can be a limiting factor in staying consistent and achieving long-term weight maintenance.

If constant hunger continues, it can cause many people to stray from the plan, especially if they are less dedicated to their goals or not a ‘hardcore’ trainer or bodybuilder.

This increased hunger we all experience is a natural process when dieting; however, by using a few clever techniques such as eating a high-protein breakfast, we can reduce the severity of the cravings and help improve our chances of long-term success.

It is well known that protein is very satisfying; in other words, it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Several studies have highlighted this, showing that those who eat a high-protein diet can decrease calorie consumption, even when they are not specifically tracking food or even trying to diet.

For breakfast specifically, follow-up research has shown a high-protein breakfast is the best way to start your day. In 2009, one study found that a high-protein breakfast provided greater feelings of fullness when compared to a high protein lunch or dinner.

In other words, it sets you up for the day and places you in a strong position to reduce your total daily calorie intake.

Breakfast graph

A follow-up from this compared a high-protein breakfast to a typical meal lower in protein, or completely skipping breakfast altogether.  As you can see from the graph below, they too found:

  • A decrease in hunger
  • A decreased desire to eat,
  • Reduced cravings in the evening
  • Decreased intake of unhealthy snacks by around 200 calories

(Leidy et al., 2013).

Breakfast graph

But who cares, right? What does this actually mean for your long-term physique and fat loss?

Well, the next study tested this; investigating a high protein breakfast over a 12-week period (Leidy et al., 2015).

As shown in the graph below, on the left side there was a large decrease in total calorie consumption, amounting to around a 500-800 calorie difference for the high protein group.

Most interestingly, this big drop in food consumption occurred in an ab-libitum setting, which means participants were allowed to eat what they liked and were not closely monitored or forced to eat a certain diet.

This reduction in calorie intake and appetite led to significant fat loss, as shown on the left side of the graph.

Remember, this was conducted without exercise in a normal population; these results would obviously be far more pronounced when on an advanced training plan or an Ultimate Performance 12-week body transformation programme.

Breakfast graph

Finally, if you need any more convincing then, over 100 further studies have now shown that a higher protein intake is superior for fat loss.

High-protein breakfasts help you add muscle 

When it comes to adding muscle, everyone should appreciate the importance of a high daily protein intake and, just as importantly, a high protein intake at every meal. Breakfast or not, eating a high-protein meal, full of essential amino acids, is going to be a key factor in your muscle building success.

To understand why this is so crucial, you must first understand the basics of laying down muscle, which occurs inside the body through a process known as muscle protein synthesis.

In short, when we eat protein, our body gets signalled to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which helps lay down new muscle and recover from exercise.

This spike in muscle protein synthesis tends to last three to four hours after a high protein meal, which is one of the reasons many bodybuilders eat four or five times per day.

When our body goes several hours without protein, such as overnight or when there are large gaps between meals, our body goes into a state of negative protein balance, which can result in muscle breakdown.

This graph below demonstrates this, showing you the change in muscle protein synthesis.

Breakfast graph

Source: Burd et al (2009)

When it comes to breakfast, the answer is in the word… ‘break fast’. In other words, breakfast is breaking the fast.

Compared to any other part of the day, the six to 10-hour overnight fast is probably the longest you will go without food or protein. Therefore, it is clearly very important to get in some protein when you wake up, which takes you out of that negative/catabolic state and re-stimulates muscle protein synthesis (Mamerow et al., 2014).

Example high-protein breakfasts 

  • Omelette with low-fat sausages and mixed veg.
  • Scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms.
  • High protein yoghurt and berries.
  • Red meat with nuts,
  • Cottage cheese with mixed fruit,
  • Lean cuts of meat and low-fat cheese,
  • Eggs fried in coconut oil served with lean bacon and vegetables,
  • Fish with vegetables and nuts.



You can now hopefully see how consuming a high-protein breakfast plays a key role in shredding body fat, building muscle and general health.

Aim for around 25-45g of protein at breakfast, depending on bodyweight. For example, smaller females weighing 50kg (110lb) may only need 25g, however, larger males weighing over 100kg may need to consume the upper end, around 40-50g per meal.

If you train in the morning, struggle for time, or like many people, struggle to stomach any form of food before training, make sure you have at least 25g of whey protein.

Regardless of your breakfast preferences, ensure protein plays a key part.



Source: Burd, N. A., Tang, J. E., Moore, D. R., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Exercise training and protein metabolism: influences of contraction, protein intake, and sex-based differences.Journal of Applied Physiology,106(5), 1692-1701.

Mamerow, M. M., Mettler, J. A., English, K. L., Casperson, S. L., Arentson-Lantz, E., Sheffield-Moore, M., … & Paddon-Jones, D. (2014). Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.The Journal of Nutrition,144(6), 876-880.

Leidy, H. J., Bossingham, M. J., Mattes, R. D., & Campbell, W. W. (2009). Increased dietary protein consumed at breakfast leads to an initial and sustained feeling of fullness during energy restriction compared to other meal times.British Journal of Nutrition,101(06), 798-803.

Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls.The American journal of clinical nutrition,97(4), 677-688.

Leidy, H. J., Ortinau, L. C., Douglas, S. M., & Hoertel, H. A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese,“breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls.The American journal of clinical nutrition,97(4), 677-688.

Leidy, H. J., Hoertel, H. A., Douglas, S. M., Higgins, K. A., & Shafer, R. S. (2015). A highprotein breakfast prevents body fat gain, through reductions in daily intake and hunger, in “Breakfast skipping” adolescents. Obesity23(9), 1761-1764.

Lowery, L. M., Antonio, J., Cotter, J. A., & Barr, D. (2012). Dietary Protein Efficacy. InDietary Protein and Resistance Exercise(pp. 69-94). CRC Press.

Phillips, S. M., Chevalier, S., & Leidy, H. J. (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimising health 1.Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism,41(5), 565-572.

Rampersaud, G. C., Pereira, M. A., Girard, B. L., Adams, J., & Metzl, J. D. (2005). Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(5), 743-760.

Fiore, H., Travis, S., Whalen, A., Auinger, P., & Ryan, S. (2006). Potentially protective factors associated with healthful body mass index in adolescents with obese and nonobese parents: a secondary data analysis of the third national health and nutrition examination survey, 1988-1994. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(1), 55-64.

Berkey, C. S., Rockett, H. R. H., Gillman, M. W., Field, A. E., & Colditz, G. A. (2003). Longitudinal study of skipping breakfast and weight change in adolescents. International journal of obesity, 27(10), 1258-1266.

Brown, A. W., Brown, M. M. B., & Allison, D. B. (2013). Belief beyond the evidence: using the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity to show two practices that distort scientific evidence. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(5), 1298-1308.

Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 10(1), 5.

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