While we all probably know that eating breakfast is good for your fitness, your workouts and your overall health, did you know that eating a protein-packed morning meal will set you on the path to

        • maintaining a lower body weight
        • building stronger muscles
        • packing in nutrients
        • lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels
        • limiting daily calories?

Obviously we’re not talking about eating pounds of sausage and bacon for breakfast here, but according to the Dairy Council of California, foods like eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt can pump up your protein while filling you up enough to avoid snacks and other junk foods throughout the day.

In fact, increasing your protein intake goes beyond simply killing cravings and will actually help decrease body fat and maintain muscle mass.  This will help your overall fitness.  According to bodybuilding.com, “Increasing protein intake will increase your metabolism and help to maintain your muscle mass, all of which helps with fat-burning. In fact, your body burns more calories when you eat protein than when you digest either fats or carbs.”  So increasing protein helps your fitness and gives you the fuel you need for your workouts.

So why protein specifically at breakfast?  According to the Healthy Eating column on SFGate.com, “Having protein with breakfast can optimize your brain’s ability to send messages to the rest of your body, helping you wake up. If you combine protein with carbohydrates, your body will gradually digest your breakfast, staving off hunger and keeping you energized until lunch.”  And naturally, having more daily energy will translate into more energy at the gym.

According to Jeffrey Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition and exercise researcher at the University of Connecticut as quoted in MensHealth.com,  “When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein…and you have a window of opportunity to promote muscle growth.”

So how do we increase our protein intake, especially in the morning hours?  Nutritionist and author Lori Rice lays out some great tips for incorporating more protein into your breakfast.  Here is an excerpt from her post on fitstar.com:

These are a few ways to transition to a high protein breakfast:

• Keep the smoothie, but decrease the fruit and any sweeteners. Add nut butter, low-fat cottage cheese, almond meal or peanut flour to increase the protein.

• Eat more eggs. An egg a day is okay for most healthy people, as long you keep other sources of cholesterol in check. Bulk up the protein and the serving size by adding in some egg whites.

• Add beans. Black, pinto, refried, chickpeas, hummus – beans add both lean protein and fiber. An egg alone may not fill you up, but eggs and beans are a great high protein breakfast combination.

• Add vegetables. Replace your grain-based complex carbs like toast and bagels with sautéed spinach, roasted cauliflower or stir-fried peppers and onions. They make the perfect partner for eggs or beans, and raw leafy greens can be blended into smoothies.

  • Eat dinner for breakfast. Forget what has been engrained in your head about what breakfast should be. Lean meats like fish or chicken are just as good when eaten in the morning. Serve them up in an omelet or with a side of beans and vegetables.

Take these steps to maximize your fitness and make your time at the gym and during your workouts really count.