Whether you eat your breakfast first thing in the morning, a couple hours after you wake up or in the afternoon, I recommend starting with a minimum of 30 grams of protein to break your fast. This can set you up for energy and blood sugar regulation for the rest of the day.
What does 30 grams of protein look like:
- 4 eggs
- 2 scoops of protein in 8 ounces of yogurt (add berries and blend in smoothie),
- 10 tbsp. hemp seed or chia seeds (1 tbsp = 3 grams of protein)
- 10 strips of bacon (3 grams of protein per slice)
- 3 ½ cups quinoa
- 1.5 cups black beans
- 3 oz of beef (size of a deck of cards)
- Chicken (a little bigger than a deck of cards)
- 6 cups of oatmeal (1 cup of oatmeal has 5 grams of protein)
Is it best to eat before or after a workout?
I would say, It depends. If you are hitting the gym at 5:00am or 6:00am before heading to work, I would suggest not eating beforehand because your digestive tract and digestive juices are not ready for a meal at that time. The average cortisol spike or maximum cortisol output shows up about 30 minutes after we wake up.
If you are rolling out of bed throwing on your shoes and going for a run or hitting the gym, cortisol will supply all the caloric energy you need to have a great workout by breaking down glycogen stored in the liver to glucose, to be used as a fuel source to start the day.
If your sleep is not the best or you are under excessive stress, your cortisol may not peak quite as high as you would like, so take special care to managing your sleep patterns. Waiting until after your workout to eat, when you work out first thing in the morning can be valuable on two fronts when fat loss is part of your goal.
First, if you are having trouble with over eating, snacking excessively and general appetite regulation, you are shortening your feeding window by waiting until after the workout to enjoy your first meal.
Second, by waiting to eat after you work out, you permit the natural action of morning cortisol to clear stored glucose, making it more likely that you will use fatty acids to maintain your energy during workout.
Now if you work out 4 hours or more after you wake up, I would suggest eating a meal with the 30 grams of protein present to support your fitness efforts and to minimize the potential of dropping into a hypoglycemic state during or after your workout.
Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can sound great. I mean aren’t we trying to keep our blood sugar from going too high? Isn’t that why we are staying away from sugary foods and flours? This may seem logical but too much or too little blood sugar, like with our hormones, creates an unnecessary stress response and keeps us from reaching our desired health outcomes.
If you drop into a low blood sugar state, the ability to manage your appetite and eat according to your fitness and physique goals, will be way more challenging than it needs to be.
Foods to include with the 30 grams of protein
Besides the 30 grams of protein on your plate or in your smoothie, it’s really up to your palate and what foods makes you feel great and energized. Remember, 30 grams of protein is only 120 calories, so you are going to need more food energy than just that to perform optimally.
However, if you make the 30 grams of protein your starting point, you can count on the rest of your meals during the day being more satisfying and filling. This greatly decreases the opportunity for the munchies to take over in the afternoon and evening, when willpower is gone.
How do you get your 30 grams of protein in each morning? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Thau L, Gandhi J, Sharma S. Physiology, Cortisol. [Updated 2021 Sep 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538239/