Protein isn’t just important in helping you #getswole at the gym. It’s crucial for your day-to-day functions beyond building muscle. And if you’ve been wondering which meal it’s best to load up on it, a registered dietitian says the answer is very clear: breakfast.
When you wake up and start your day with some protein, Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, says you’re basically setting yourself up for success. “Having protein throughout the day is important in order to help you feel full and satisfied. However, starting off your day with a protein-rich breakfast may have the biggest impact, since it can help to stabilize blood sugar levels all day long—meaning less hunger and cravings and more consistent energy,” she says.
According to Palinski-Wade, the best way to reap that all-day energy is to eat a good source of protein within an hour of waking up, which not only curbs hunger, but also revs up your metabolism.
“For on-the-go breakfast options, I love to recommend eggs because they’re such an easy, versatile complete protein option. You can take a hard-boiled egg with you on the go or make ‘egg muffins’ with eggs and vegetables that can easily be prepped in advance and last all week long,” she says. “Protein-rich smoothies can also make an easy breakfast or on-the-go snack. A good recipe template for a smoothie includes 1 cup frozen or fresh fruit, 1/2 cup vegetables, and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt for a creamy and filling option.”
Don’t just stop at breakfast, though. While it may be the most important time of the day to up your protein, making sure you’re including it in the rest of your meals will do your body good, too.
“Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so eating protein every few hours throughout the day is key to curbing hunger and cravings while helping to keep blood sugar levels steady for consistent energy all day long,” she says. “Most of us fall short on getting in enough plant-based proteins, but adding these to your diet can boost protein along with fiber and antioxidants to not only help you stay full longer, but to improve health as well.”
To get started, Palinski-Wade recommends adding 1/2 cup beans or legumes to your salad, topping your morning oatmeal with 1 to 2 tablespoons of nuts and seeds, or snacking on some edamame for a plant-based protein boost. Breakfast of champions indeed.