At some point, you may have heard that eating a high-protein breakfast is key to staying full all day and losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight). But is eating a certain type of protein in the morning more beneficial than another, or is it really just about the total amount you're eating?
While some studies show that the type of protein doesn't really matter, there is evidence that certain proteins are digested and absorbed better than others. Certain types of proteins are also classified as "complete," which means they contain all of the essential amino acids, while others are "incomplete" or missing some of the amino acids. Because of this, the type of protein you choose actually does make a difference.
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Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins
One of the things you have to consider when discussing proteins is their amino acid profile. Some proteins contain all of the essential amino acids — or the amino acids that your body can't make. These are called complete proteins. Others contain some of the essential amino acids, but are missing others. These are classified as incomplete. Eating complete proteins ensures that you get all of the amino acids you need to stay healthy. Cleveland Clinic lists the complete proteins as:
- Whole sources of soy, like tofu, edamame, tempeh, miso
All other plant proteins, with the exception of whole soy, are incomplete proteins. These proteins include:
- Legumes, like beans, peas and lentils
- Whole grains
While you can get all of the amino acids you need by combining plant proteins, sometimes it's easier to start your day off with a complete protein to make sure you're getting everything you need.
Benefits of High-Protein Breakfasts
It's not just about the amino acids, though; there may be other benefits of choosing animal-based proteins, too. A study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in January 2016 looked at how protein-rich meals affected appetite and blood sugar levels.
The research team had both normal weight and overweight females eat a high-protein breakfast of either plant proteins or animal proteins. They found that there was no significant difference in appetite with either of the meals. Both of the high-protein breakfasts contributed to satiety and decreased hunger.
However, they did notice differences in blood sugar levels. While glucose levels were similar for the 120 minutes following the meal, overall, the women who ate animal protein in the morning had more stable blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day.
But no matter what type of protein you choose, choosing a high-protein breakfast over a high-carbohydrate meal may help keep you full for longer. Researchers from a report that was published in Nutrients in February 2017 compared the effects of eating two eggs in the morning versus eating oatmeal. They found that the two eggs helped keep participants' hunger at bay for longer than the oatmeal, with no negative effects to cholesterol levels.
Getting Enough Protein
While choosing certain proteins over others has its benefits, it's also important to make sure you're getting enough protein each day. The current protein recommendation is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
This means if you weigh 150 pounds, you need about 55 grams of protein each day. If you're 200 pounds, that number jumps to 72 grams. Eating high-protein foods for breakfast is a good way to set yourself on the right track for the day.
But while it's important to make sure you're getting enough protein, it's also a good idea to make sure you're not overdoing it. A lot of people think when it comes to protein, more is better, but that's not necessarily true. Harvard Health Publishing recommends limiting your intake to no more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you're 150 pounds, that means no more than 136 grams daily.
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Breakfast Protein Source Does Not Influence Postprandial Appetite Response and Food Intake in Normal Weight and Overweight Young Women"
- Nutrients: "Consuming Two Eggs per Day, as Compared to an Oatmeal Breakfast, Decreases Plasma Ghrelin While Maintaining the LDL/HDL Ratio"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "When It Comes to Protein, How Much Is Too Much?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Do I Need to Worry About Eating ‘Complete’ Proteins?"
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