Your alarm goes off in the morning, and it’s time to crack open your eyes and get out of bed. After brushing your teeth and making your coffee, you think about your morning meal. Some people skip breakfast, some love it. If you’re having breakfast, loading it with nutritious foods and plenty of protein can set you up for a powerful day on track with your fitness goals.
Eating a protein-packed breakfast will keep you full through the morning and give you a jumpstart on hitting your macros for the day. Whether you’re aiming to build muscle, promote fat loss, or fuel for endurance, we’ll lay out how to calculate the ideal grams of protein for your breakfast.
Here, we’ll dive into all the best protein-rich breakfast options and give you some ideas on combining them to suit your tastes and goals. Maybe you want to meal prep some hard-boiled eggs in advance to add to an easy breakfast on busy mornings. If you have more time, perhaps you’re into making an elaborate tofu frittata with veggies. Either way, we’ve got you’re high-protein breakfast needs covered.
What Makes a Good High-Protein Breakfast?
First, you’ll need to determine how many grams of protein you want to get in your breakfast. This number may vary slightly depending on your goals and daily intake. If you like to eat a few meals throughout your day, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends aiming for 20 to 40 grams of protein per meal, three to four hours apart. (1)
[Read More: How Much Protein Do You Actually Need Per Day?]
Next, although we’re focusing on protein, you want your healthy breakfast to contain your other macronutrients — healthy carbs and healthy fats. You’ll choose your source of protein, source of carbs, and source of fat.
Finally, decide what type of foods you enjoy and would like to have for breakfast. Savory or sweet? A quick protein shake or something hot? Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Let’s dive in deeper.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
The amount of protein you need may vary depending on your body, activity level, and fitness goal. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 50 grams of protein daily as a minimum amount for bodily function. People who exercise need a bit more. (2)
Try out BarBend’s protein intake calculator to get a personalized suggestion based on your body, age, and fitness goals.
Protein Intake Calculator
Here are some general recommendations for different fitness goals from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the ISSN.
- For Muscle Gain: The ACSM and ISSN suggest 1.4 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (1)(3)
- For Fat Loss: The ISSN suggests 2.3 to 3.1 grams per kilogram of body weight to retain your muscle mass while losing body fat. (1)
- For General Exercise: The ACSM suggests 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for active people. (3)
Once you get your daily target, split it into how many times you’d like to eat during the day, and you’ll get your protein goal for breakfast.
Balance Your Macros
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are the three macronutrients that make up all foods. Depending on your fitness goal, you may want to play around with the percentage of each that you get throughout your day.
Check out BarBend’s macros calculator for tracking muscle gain and fat loss to input your stats and get a personalized recommendation.
If you’re not too particular about tracking macros and just aiming to eat healthier, don’t worry about it. Your high-protein breakfast should still include carbs and fats to help you feel satiated and energized for your day.
High-Protein Breakfast Foods
Ready to cook? Here are the best foods from each of your macronutrients.
All foods on the protein list pack a decent amount of protein. You can also choose to combine a few for extra protein. For protein waffles and protein pancakes, you can buy a pre-made mix or add some of the best-tasting protein powder to your own recipe.
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Scrambled Eggs
- Tofu Scramble
- Smoked Salmon
- Turkey Sausage
- Turkey Bacon
- Feta Cheese
- Ricotta Cheese
- Protein Waffles
- Protein Pancakes
The following list contains healthy carbs and some double as a protein option, which can be helpful for vegans and vegetarians. You can substitute any vegetables or fruits you like with the ones suggested.
- Sweet Potato
- Bell Peppers
- Black Beans (contain protein)
- Quinoa (contains protein)
- Whole Wheat Bagel
- Whole Grain Toast
- Almond Milk
The fats list has some add-ons to complete your meal.
Mix things up with these combos. For sweet cravings, you can make overnight oats or a parfait with high-protein yogurt, fruits, and granola. Go for something more savory by making a breakfast burrito or sandwich. In a pinch, blend up a protein-rich smoothie with some high-quality protein powder.
- Overnight Oats
- Breakfast Bowl
- Breakfast Burrito
- Breakfast Tacos
- Breakfast Sandwich
- Avocado Toast
- Protein Smoothie
High-Protein Breakfast Ideas
Now that you know how much protein you want in your meal and which foods to choose from, we’ll give you some sample high-protein breakfast ideas for each fitness goal.
High-Protein Breakfast for Muscle Gain
If your goal is gaining muscle, you need to be resistance training and potentially eating in a caloric surplus. Then, you want to be sure you’re getting plenty of protein to help your muscles grow after training. Carbs and fat are significant, too.
[Read More: Nutrition for Athletes — How to Eat for Muscle and Performance]
Since you likely have a higher protein intake goal, let’s say you aim to get 40 grams of protein in your breakfast.
Sample High-Protein Breakfast for Muscle Gain
Here is a high-protein breakfast for your goal of packing on muscle mass.
- Protein-Packed Omelet:
- Three scrambled eggs (18 grams of protein)
- Two slices of turkey bacon (12 grams of protein)
- One ounce of feta cheese (four grams of protein)
- Bell peppers and onions
- Two slices of whole-wheat toast with nut butter (8 grams of protein)
This comes to about 42 grams of protein with plenty of healthy, complex carbs from the veggies and toast, and some fat from your nut butter. You can use avocado instead of nut butter on your toast for more calories.
[Read More: The 10 Best Protein Powders for Muscle Gain]
You can also bake these ingredients into a frittata or quiche for meal prep or an easy breakfast.
High-Protein Breakfast for Fat Loss
When your goal is fat loss, you’re likely reducing your calories or using portion control strategies in your meals. You also want to do resistance training and keep your protein intake high so your body retains lean muscle mass as you lose fat.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, and eating plenty of protein also helps keep you fuller for longer, which can help you stay on track. (5)
[Read More: 20 High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods Worth Subbing Into Your Diet]
Let’s say you want 30 grams of protein in your breakfast for fat loss. Maybe you want the calories slightly lower than if you were purely looking to gain muscle. But you’ll still need to eat a complete meal to fuel your body.
Sample High-Protein Breakfast for Fat Loss
Here’s a high-protein breakfast idea for losing body fat but staying satiated.
- Two scrambled eggs (12 grams of protein)
- With spinach, bell peppers, onions
- Greek yogurt parfait (17 grams of protein)
- Chia Seeds (four grams of protein)
- Blueberries, Raspberries
- Drizzle of nut butter
This breakfast will give you 33 grams of protein while keeping the calories relatively low. You’re getting healthy carbs from the fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats and fiber from chia seeds. For more fat, you can add more nut butter if you’re okay with more calories.
High-Protein Breakfast for Improving Endurance
Protein is still necessary for endurance — it helps preserve your muscles when doing more cardio exercise. Let’s say that you’re looking to get 20 to 30 grams of protein from your breakfast.
Sample High-Protein Breakfast for Improving Endurance
Whether fueling up before a long run or re-fueling afterward, this breakfast will have a higher carb count to fill up your glycogen stores.
- Whole-Grain Breakfast Sandwich
- Two slices of whole-grain toast
- Four ounces of smoked salmon (20 grams of protein)
- Cream cheese
*You can also have quinoa instead of oatmeal, to go with the more savory theme of this breakfast. One cup of quinoa yields eight grams of protein.
[Read More: Omega 3 Benefits — More Muscle, Better Recovery, and Enhanced Endurance]
This high-protein breakfast packed with healthy carbs will give you 29 grams of protein. It has plenty of healthy fats in the omega-3s from the smoked salmon and chia seeds.
What About Supplements?
Dietitians and health professionals recommend getting the bulk of your daily nutrients from whole foods. You can reach your protein intake through food alone. However, making a smoothie with high-quality protein powder can be beneficial if you need a protein boost.
If you’re in a rush or prefer a smoothie for breakfast, grab some whey protein powder or soy protein powder if you’re vegan. These are complete sources of high-quality protein — meaning they contain all the essential amino acids necessary for building muscle and are available to be rapidly absorbed. (6)
[Read More: The 11 Best Protein Powders for Men of 2023]
Add other ingredients to make a homemade meal replacement shake, so you’re still getting a good, complete meal for breakfast in smoothie form. You can add fruits and veggies for carbs and nut butter and seeds for fats.
If you’re traveling, grabbing a pre-made meal replacement shake at a store can help you keep your protein intake high when you have less control over what you’re eating. Just check the label to be sure you’re still getting your 20 to 40 grams of protein.
Some say breakfast is the day’s most important meal, and others skip it — do what’s best for you. A healthy morning meal can help you feel fueled, energized, and ready to take on your day. A good high-protein breakfast has the right amount of protein for your goals, along with healthy carbs and healthy fats. It should also include foods you enjoy so you feel satisfied.
Meal-prepping high-protein foods like hard-boiled eggs or protein waffles can help you hit your goals even on busy mornings. If you haven’t been grocery shopping lately, keeping a tub of high-quality protein powder and frozen fruits and veggies in the freezer can help you be ready to blend up a healthy shake.
[Read More: The 9 Best Protein Powders for Women of 2023]
Whether you’re gaining muscle, losing fat, or increasing endurance for a long cycling workout — fuel up with these nutritious food combos and enjoy.
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