How A Personal Trainer Gets 30 Grams Of Protein In The Morning

Consuming sufficient protein, especially for your first meal of the day, is a hot topic of conversation. In previous decades, bodybuilders and athletes were the ones primarily concerned with their protein intake. And while it is true that getting adequate amounts is linked to building muscle, it is increasingly encouraged due to its positive effects on longevity, immunity, maintaining muscle mass, heart health, and metabolism.

So when I asked my friend and personal trainer Frances Sacripanti about her morning routine during a Healthified Podcast conversation, her breakfast caught my attention. After a very uncomplicated start to her day, which mostly revolves getting her kids fed and ready for school, she says she comes inside from the bus stop and turns her attention towards herself: “I need to get 30 grams of protein stat because I have [personal training] clients coming in 45 minutes and I want to be ready to go.” She says she typically puts on some energizing music and makes herself an equally energizing morning meal.

If you are someone who struggles with getting enough protein in first thing, know you are not alone. “It is hard…breakfast is tricky depending on what you are eating,” says Sacripanti. On that particular day, here is what she put on her plate:

  • A piece of Ezekiel toast (5 grams of protein) with Kerrygold butter and a fried egg (6 grams of protein) on top (eaten like an open-faced piece of toast).
  • A protein shake (19-20 grams of protein)

She didn’t disclose what went into her protein shake, but with the higher quality protein powders on the market that come with at least 20 grams of protein per scoop, you can create a basic concoction and hit your protein goals (I always recommend Be Well by Kelly brand or Truvani for plant-based).

The bonus? Sacripanti noted that this meal kept her full until lunch, providing her with enough fuel for her training sessions. I don’t know about you, but whenever I sit down to a meal, my main agenda is to feel satiated and satisfied. Protein is the macronutrient that supports both. Not only does eating protein boost dopamine production in the brain (leading you to feel more satisfied), but it also increases leptin, which is the satiety hormone. Protein-induced satiety is a complicated process that involves various hormonal and brain signaling pathways, and numerous studies have supported the notion.

Why protein in the morning is important

Eating enough protein in the morning for satiety and energy comes back to blood sugar balance. When you think about the food on your plate, each item primarily falls into one of three macronutrient categories: protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat. Usually a food will have a combination of two or three (for example, chicken contains mostly protein, some fat, and no carbs; avocado contains protein, carbs and fat); but sometimes a food has only one (coconut oil is pure fat). Given that the building block of carbohydrate is glucose (sugar in its most simplest form), it is the macronutrient that elicits the biggest spike in blood sugar. As a result, insulin is released from the pancreas to shuttle the glucose into our cells for energy. Protein and fat trigger insulin to be released as well (those nutrients also need to be stored), but the amount is very minimal, if not negligible depending on how much you eat.

When you wake up in the morning, after an overnight fast, your blood sugar is at its most sensitive point. Therefore, the blood sugar spike that occurs first thing in the morning will be proportionally greater than if you were to consume the same food later in the day. Eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal in the morning will lead to a greater spike in blood sugar, thus a greater subsequent crash. Fueling yourself with protein and some healthy fat first thing however, will put your best food forward, not only for the following three to four hours, but for the rest of the day. For optimal hormonal balance, you want your morning meal to create a sustainable release of energy, rather than put you on the spike and crash cycle.

How much protein do you need in the morning?

Regardless of age, the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for daily protein intake is 0.8 per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound). If you weigh 150 pounds, this means you need a minimum of 54 grams of protein per day. Age aside, there are so many other variables to consider: gender, activity level, other lifestyle factors such as hormonal environment, health status, pregnancy). From where I am sitting, the conversation around protein intake is evolving. Research is saying the RDA is too low, especially for active individuals. I have heard functional medicine doctors, fitness professionals, and dietitians claim that for optimal metabolism and lean muscle mass, we should be consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Again, this means if you weight 150 pounds, you should be eating 150 grams of protein per day. It is a wide range between 0.36 grams and 1 gram per pound, so the concept of bio-individuality must come in to play. An individual must take into account those other aforementioned variables. Once you figure out your target number, factor in how many times per day you are eating, and then the amount of protein you should eat per meal. If your target is 100 grams of protein per day, and you eat three meals and one snack per day (typically), then perhaps you are eating 30 grams of protein per meal, with 10 grams of protein per snack. If you have four square meals per day, aim for 25 grams of protein per meal.

This begs the question – can you consume too much protein in one sitting? Research has explored that question too, and certain studies conclude that 20 to 30 grams of protein is optimal per meal based on our body’s ability to adequately break it down. In our society, it is common for someone to under-eat protein during the day, and then ingest a larger amount at dinner alone. So if you are left wondering whether you can consume most, if not all, of your protein requirement at one meal, science suggests spacing it out through the day is optimal.

Bringing it back to blood sugar balance, starting your day with an adequate amount of protein will set you up for hormonal success. Aim for around 20 to 30 grams of protein in your first meal, and you should be good to go. If you have more of an active lifestyle, and/or incorporate strength training into your workout routine, you might want to hit the higher end (and even eat more) of that range.