Protein: Are You Getting Enough & How to Get More at Breakfast
You’ve finished your workout and it’s time to get some food in you to recover those tired muscles. If you know a few things about exercise nutrition, you are likely aware that your post-meal fuel should always include a serving of protein. But do you know why protein is important, and are you making sure you are getting enough?
As an active individual, getting enough protein is crucial to ensure you are meeting your health and performance goals.
Especially for those trying to lose or maintain weight, and/or build or preserve lean muscle mass, protein intake plays a HUGE role. Do not skimp on the protein! Some ways getting enough protein helps with these goals include:
Stable energy levels throughout the day; giving us energy for workouts and preventing drops in blood sugar that often lead to cravings
Improved recovery after exercise (helps make lean muscle tissue)
Keep you satiated after a meal which can help to reduce cravings for less healthy foods and regulate our appetite
Protein is used to make hormones, enzymes and other chemicals, supporting a healthy digestive system and metabolism
But are you getting enough?
The average healthy adult needs about 0.8 g per kg of body weight per day.
However, individuals who exercise intensely and/or strength train multiple times a week have higher protein needs, closer to about 1.2- 2 g/ kg body weight.
Of course, whether you are male or female, and depending on your age, height, weight and goals, your needs may be at the higher or lower end.
High protein foods include: chicken, beef, pork, turkey, cheese, fish, eggs, chickpeas, beans, lentils, and soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh).
If you follow a strictly plant-based diet (vegan or vegetarian), then make sure you include high quality protein options like soy milk, tempeh / tofu, pulses, nuts, seeds (like pumpkin, sunflower), every day. If you are very active, you may even need a protein supplement for an extra boost.
Spread it out..
In order to make sure we are getting enough protein but also absorbing it efficiently, we want to have protein spaced out throughout the day, rather than all at once.
For this reason, it is crucial to include a source of protein (or several) at every meal; we want to aim to get about 20-30 grams at a time.
Breakfast: 5 ways to add protein
Is your first meal setting the stage for the rest of the day? Despite the benefits of having protein at every meal, the reality is that most of us skimp on protein, specifically at our breakfast meals. Often people will have a more carb heavy breakfast (cereal, toast, porridge, pancakes) with little protein.
Although we need carbs for energy, if our first meal of the day contains mostly carbs but lacks in protein, this can cause a blood sugar spike. This means our energy levels will rise and dip, causing us to be less productive than we would like and set us up for cravings for later on. In turn, this can negatively impact our weight loss and performance goals.
No fear, here are some simple tips to incorporate more protein into your breakfast meals.
1) Choose GREEK yogurt
Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt. Make sure to buy plain to avoid added sugars, and flavour it yourself!
Try adding cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, stevia, and fresh or frozen fruit such as berries, sliced banana, apple sauce or pumpkin puree. Add some peanut/nut butter or chopped nuts for crunch if you require a serving of fat.
Per ¾ cup serving: ~18 g protein
2) Swap eggs for cereal
Boiled, poached, scrambled… Eggs are an easy way to boost protein at your breakfast. Add some healthy fats such as avocado and 1-2 slices of whole grain toast. If you like cereal, keep the eggs and make sure to choose a lower sugar, higher fibre cereal.
1 egg = 6 g
3) Add hemp hearts
Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of hemp hearts to your cereal, oatmeal, or on your toast. Hemp hearts are both an awesome source of plant-based protein as well as omega-3 healthy fats.
2 Tbsp = 7 g
4) Play with protein powder
Add 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder to oatmeal, yogurt, chia pudding, pancake mix, smoothie… (the list goes on) to boost the protein content of your breakfast.
5) Throw out the food rules!
There is no need to box ourselves into only choosing “conventional” foods like cereal, toast and eggs for breakfast time. Leftovers like chicken and veggies, or a bean stew, can make awesome breakfast foods too!