Weight Loss, Breakfast & Protein: What You Need To Know

2. Should You Eat Breakfast?

In the past, skipping breakfast has been associated with weight gain.

We now have good evidence showing that recommendations to eat or skip breakfast have no effect on weight gain or loss. You can read more about that in this article (1).

However, eating breakfast may be a good idea for other reasons. For example, it may improve mental performance in school children, teenagers and certain patient groups (2, 3).

This may also depend on the quality of the breakfast. Even if the stereotypical breakfast (like high-sugar breakfast cereal) has no effect on weight, a breakfast that is high in weight loss friendly protein may have different effects.

Bottom Line: Recommendations to eat or skip breakfast have no effect on weight. However, the same may not apply to a high-protein breakfast.

 

How Protein Helps You Lose Weight

Protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss.

This is because the body uses more calories to metabolize protein, compared to fat or carbs. Protein also keeps you feeling fuller for longer (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

One study in women showed that increasing protein intake from 15 to 30% of total calories helped them eat 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost 11 pounds (5 kg) in just 12 weeks (9).

Another study found that increasing protein to 25% of total calories reduced late-night snacking by half and obsessive thoughts about food by 60% (10).

In yet another study, two groups of women were put on weight loss diets for 10 weeks. The groups ate the same amount of calories, but different amounts of protein.

All the women in the study lost weight. However, the high-protein group lost about half a kg (1.1 lbs) more, and a larger percentage of body fat (11).

Protein may also help you maintain weight loss in the long term. A study found that increasing protein from 15 to 18% of calories made dieters regain 50% less weight (12, 13, 14).

Bottom Line: Adding protein to your diet is a very effective way to lose weight. It may also help dieters sustain long-term weight loss.

High-Protein Breakfasts Help You Eat Less Later

Egg and Measuring Tape

Many studies are examining how protein at breakfast affects eating behavior.

Some of them have shown that high-protein breakfasts reduce hunger and help people eat up to 135 fewer calories later in the day (15, 16, 17).

In fact, MRI scans have shown that eating a protein-rich breakfast reduces the signals in the brain that control food motivation and reward-driven behavior (18).

Protein also helps you feel full. This is because it activates the body’s signals that curb appetite, which reduces cravings and overeating.

This is mostly due to a drop in the hunger hormone ghrelin and a rise in the fullness hormones peptide YY, GLP-1 and cholecystokinin (19, 20, 21).

Several studies have now demonstrated that eating a high-protein breakfast changes these hormones throughout the day (4, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25).

Bottom Line: High-protein breakfasts reduce calorie intake later in the day. They improve the levels of your appetite-regulating hormones, leading to reduced hunger and cravings.