Say “Good Morning!” to Protein

Say “Good Morning!” to Protein

Give your mornings a burst of energy by feeding yourself the true breakfast of champions—protein.

You already know that protein is an essential component of a healthful diet. Ideally, you should aim to include protein in meals and snacks throughout the day. But do you know the reasons protein is so powerful? Let’s take a closer look:

Protein inhabits just about every part of your body; it’s a major component of the skin, muscles, organs, and glands and is found in almost every bodily fluid. Our bodies need plenty of protein to repair cells and make new ones. And protein is important if you’re trying to build muscle.

There’s more: Protein is particularly potent in the morning. Eating protein first thing promotes alertness because it triggers the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates you, says Lauren Slayton, RD, a nutritionist in New York City and the author of The Little Book of Thin. A protein-rich breakfast, she says, is a smarter choice for early energy than carbs alone, which is why a sugary muffin will leave you crashing by 10 a.m., while an egg or a whole grain bagel topped with protein-rich peanut butter or another nut butter revs you up.

Not only that but protein may aid in controlling your appetite, says Slayton. Protein digests slowly, so you’re less hungry later in the morning. Partake in a protein-packed breakfast and you’re less likely to raid the cookie jar—and not just before lunch but throughout the entire day.

Case in point: A study done at the University of Missouri looked at 20 women who usually skipped breakfast. Each morning of the study, participants either skipped breakfast as usual, ate cereal for breakfast, or ate eggs and lean beef. The women who ate the protein-heavy breakfast of eggs and beef felt fuller, ate fewer indulgent snacks after dinner, and had lower levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin in their system all day.

Another bonus? Your body burns more calories when digesting protein than either fat or carbs. “In other words, the body needs to work harder to break it down,” says Slayton.

If you’re heading to Panera Bread® for your morning meal, protein powerhouses—menu items with more than 30 percent of your daily value for protein—await, such as the Turkey Sausage, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich; the Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich; or the Ham, Egg & Cheese Power Breakfast Sandwich. Or you can wake up tomorrow morning to one of these protein-containing breakfast ideas from Panera Bread food team member and chef Mark McDonough:

  • Smoothie made with almond milk, chia seeds, hemp, oats, flax, and strawberries
  • Avocado and tomato on a whole grain bagel
  • Nut butter and sliced banana on a sprouted-grain bagel flat
  • Western omelet with peppers and Monterey Jack topped with salsa and turkey bacon
  • Quinoa with sliced almonds and cherries
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt with raspberries
  • Scrambled eggs with bacon, scallions, and Parmesan in a sourdough bread bowl, with a side of sliced kiwi.