For most people, including protein as a part of the lunch or dinner meal is second nature. However, at breakfast about 19% of Americans skip breakfast altogether1 and the rest reach for just a cup of coffee or lower protein choices like cereal or a muffin. New research points to the importance of protein throughout the day, which for many makes breakfast a missed opportunity.
You probably know that protein is important for growth and for a healthy body but may not know about new recommendations for adults that outline how much and when to eat protein. As you age, it is normal to lose anywhere from 3%-8% of your total muscle mass per decade while staying the same body weight. It is estimated that gradual loss of lean muscle mass, called sarcopenia, affects 30% of individuals over 60 years of age and 50% of individuals over 80 years old2 .This is especially a concern for older adults because maintaining muscle can improve outcomes during illness or surgery3.
In order to prevent muscle loss it’s important to eat protein throughout the day and not just at dinner. Adding protein to breakfast helps you strengthen muscle during the day and is key to both building and maintaining muscle 4.
How much protein do I need in a day?
You can use this guideline to help figure out your individual needs. A normal range for protein is 10-35% of daily calories5. For example, 25% of a 2,000 calorie diet would include 125 grams of protein. This 125 gram protein day might look like:
Breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts, fruit, 8 oz milk
Lunch: salad, turkey sandwich with cheese
Snack: yogurt with nuts and fruit
Dinner: 1 chicken breast over pasta served with vegetables and 8 oz milk
Are all sources of protein the same?
All food is broken down into “building blocks” after we eat it. Protein has “building blocks” called amino acids. Some of these “building blocks” are essential to growth in the same way a foundation is to building a house. Animal sources of protein like meat and dairy contain all of the essential building blocks for muscle growth. These sources include meats, eggs, cheese milk, yogurt, and whey protein powder. Eating protein from these sources ensures that your body has all it needs to function at its best7. The body also has limited ability to store these protein building blocks for future use. For example, eating 12 ounces of meat had no benefit for muscle growth compared with eating 4 ounces at one meal 6.
When should I have my protein? Americans are eating 3 times more protein at dinner than at breakfast. A 2013 study showed that eating protein at each meal was more beneficial than having most of your protein at dinner. People who ate closer to 30 grams of protein at every meal had a 25% increase in muscle growth 6. Most research in this area shows that muscle building is the greatest when you eat around 30 grams at each meal8, which translates to a change in routine: more protein earlier and less in the later part of the day.
Need more information? Everyone is an individual and your protein needs may not be the same as your partner’s or friend’s. I can give you personalized nutrition advice and protein recommendations specifically for your needs. Schedule today by connecting with me on Nutrimedy, an online telehealth company designed for dietitians. Schedule with Sarah
30 gram protein breakfasts
3 eggs, scrambled with ½ cup mushrooms, 1 slice whole grain toast , 1 cup 1% milk , 1 orange 10
2 eggs, toast, coffee with low-fat steamed dairy milk, ½ cup Greek yogurt 10
Blend 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup skim milk, choice of sweetner, and 1-scoop chocolate whey protein. Top with 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt. 11
1 cup high-protein cereal with 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt, toasted chopped walnuts and 1 cup fresh fruit 12
“Breakfast Bento Box” Pack one large hard-boiled egg, 1/4 cup almonds, 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1/2 cup berries, and 4 whole-grain crackers in a bento box or other re-sealable container 13
Protein Boosters: ways to add about 10-12 grams of protein to your meal 10
½ scoop whey protein powder
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 slices cheese
1 high-protein snack bar
10 oz low-fat milk
¼ cup tuna salad on crackers
Sarah Glasser, RD
Nutrition is an important aspect of our lives. We need food every day and healthy nutrition habits will help you thrive. My goal is to help you achieve YOUR goal, whether that be to lose weight, lower cholesterol, treat digestive issues, manage diabetes, or to adopt healthier habits. Why nutrition counseling? With any endeavor in our lives, we need help and support from others. Nutrition is no different. In fact, for weight loss, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 14 counseling sessions over a 6 month period for successful outcomes. Habits are hard to break and having someone in your corner is the key. I hope I get the privilege of being that person for you. Nutrition counseling from a registered dietitian (the ONLY professional credential for nutrition) can also give you answers to questions that are specific to your body without relying on questionable internet sources. My practice philosophy is balance, variety, and moderation in all things, including moderation itself! We will work together to establish lifelong healthy habits that are tailored to you and your life. Good health is worth the commitment! Let me now tell you a little about my history. I’m a registered dietitian living in the state of Oregon. I received my bachelors in dietetics from Oregon State University and attended Oregon Health & Science University's dietetic internship program. I have a previous bachelors degree in Fine Art from Skidmore College, upstate NY. After I graduated from Skidmore in 2008 I moved out west to discover the landscape and paint. When the recession hit, my plans changed. In Portland, Oregon, the food culture and focus on nutrition was vividly evident and pervasive. Experiencing life in this city was a stark contrast to living in upstate NY. Living in Portland inspired me to be involved in food and nutrition and is what set me on this career path. I am now passionate about nutrition's role in preventative health.