Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; so it is said. We have always been told to “Eat a big breakfast” and this will start our day off right. It will kick start our metabolism and get our brains and bodies working their best. While this is true in some circumstances, like for those who don’t have fat loss in mind or those who have an exceptionally active metabolism, it may not be the best for most of us, especially those chasing our best look and leanest most muscular physique.
For those whose focus is on fat loss and looking our best, it is not ideal to flood ourselves with fat and/or carbs right when we wake up. While we should eat something in the morning, eating protein only will give us a number of benefits over a complete carb/fat/protein breakfast. Here are several benefits of a protein only breakfast:
Continue to burn fat in the morning – When we are sleeping, we aren’t eating, so after several hours of what is essentially a fast, we exhaust our energy supplies and begin to target our energy stores (body fat and muscle tissue) for energy. The minute we wake up and stuff ourselves with fruit, oatmeal, eggs and bacon, however, we refill this energy deficit and any fat burning we were doing halts immediately. By eating protein only for breakfast, we won’t replenish our fat and glycogen stores so we can continue to pull from body fat for the next 2-3 hours until we eat a full meal.
Stop muscle breakdown – By eating protein only with no carbs or fat for breakfast, we quickly replenish free amino acids in the blood and stop any muscle breakdown that was occurring when we were in a completely depleted state. Protein and protein alone however, isn’t going to replenish glycogen stores and isn’t enough to stop the body from pulling from body fat, so we can continue to burn body fat even after a protein-only meal.
Keeps hunger in check – When we wake up, our insulin levels are already high. By eating a carbohydrate filled breakfast, we raise them even more. This will make us temporarily full, but soon they will come crashing back down and leaving us even hungrier than before. This will essentially set the stage for us to eat even more for the next meal and leave us more likely to put ourselves in a caloric surplus situation. By eating protein only for breakfast, insulin levels will not be compromised and as such hunger levels will not greatly increase.
Set the stage to eat less all day – On a macro level, the way we lose weight is eating less food (energy) then we burn off. Getting up and eating a big breakfast is a bad start to achieving this. Most successful dieters will tell you that you can only “white-knuckle” it for so long. That is, the longer you allow yourself to stay hungry, uncomfortable, or tired from a diet, the more likely you are to crack and stray from your diet. Give your body just the protein it needs in the morning and save the extra calories for later in the day around workouts when you need them more.
Overall this strategy takes advantage of two factors. It allows you to spend more time per week living off of your body fat stores. It also optimizes your insulin levels by not spiking them in the morning. By avoiding eating carbs and protein first in the morning and delaying their intake for approximately 2-3 hours until the next meal, that adds up to 14-21 hours per week that we are pulling from body fat stores instead of directly from glycogen and fat from the food we eat. This adds up quick! Also by keeping insulin levels from spiking in the morning it will leave us less hungry, and also make us more likely to eat less total over the course of the day. Limit your breakfast to only protein and work towards your leanest, most muscular body possible.