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If you’re looking to lose fat or build muscle (or both — it’s possible to achieve both simultaneously), keeping your protein intake up is really important.
Losing fat comes down to being in a calorie deficit (taking in less energy than you’re expending), and eating enough protein helps your body hold on to muscle in the process, which is something I found when I cut my body fat percentage in half.
Protein is also great for keeping you full as it’s so satiating, and it’s important for helping your muscles repair after a workout.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve lost a little more fat and built muscle, a journey that’s been helped by keeping my protein intake high.
“The majority of people in the western world eat a sufficient amount of protein on a daily basis (i.e. at least 0.8g per kg of body weight a day), however, some people do struggle to consume adequate amounts, particularly if they are exceptionally active or follow a plant-based or vegan diet,” registered dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine told Insider.
If you’re into your fitness, experts generally recommend consuming 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.
While in an ideal world we’d all get sufficient protein from whole foods, I personally find this tricky at breakfast, so sometimes add protein powder to my first meal of the day.
Here are seven of my go-to high protein breakfasts, approved by Ludlam-Raine — whether you lose or gain weight comes down to your overall energy intake over the course of the day, so vary portion size to suit your lifestyle, body, and goals.
1. Cakey baked apple oats
I love baking my oatmeal in winter — it’s so warming and basically tastes like cake. You can go for whatever flavors you like, but I love this combination.
- 1/2 banana, mashed
- 40g oats
- 1 scoop vanilla protein
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 apple, chopped small
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- Peanut butter for drizzling
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an ovenproof dish.
2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, saving some of the chopped apple to sprinkle on top.
3. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden on top (bear in mind it will firm up more once you remove it).
4. Drizzle with peanut butter and dig in!
Ludlam-Raine said: “I’m a fan of any breakfast that includes one or more types of fruit (diversity is key for gut health!), and this breakfast provides one of your five a day (one portion being 80g). Oats provide additional fiber, and together with the protein powder, help to reduce the overall glycemic index of the dish, which helps to increase satiety.”
2. Fluffy protein pancakes
It’s hard to make protein pancakes that actually taste good (I find they very often come out with a rubbery texture), but this twist on Ludlam-Raine’s own recipe is a winner for me, and it doesn’t even use protein powder.
- 20g plain flour
- 20g oats
- 2 eggs
- 100g Greek yogurt
- 1/2 mashed banana
- Vanilla extract
- Toppings of your choice
1. Whisk all the pancake ingredients together then pour large spoonfuls into a frying pan on a medium heat (add a little oil, butter, or cooking spray first).
2. Cook each pancake for a few minutes until bubbles form, flip and cook the other side, stack up, add toppings, and serve.
Ludlam-Raine said: “This breakfast recipe is naturally high in protein thanks to the eggs and Greek yogurt and provides fiber, nutrients (including potassium), as well as slow-release energy thanks to the flour, oats, and banana. Adding fresh, frozen, or canned fruit for a topping is a great way to get in one of your five a day.”
3. Creamy overnight oats
I absolutely love overnight oats because you can adjust the flavors for whatever you’re craving, not to mention it’s highly nutritious and convenient. My base is always oats, Greek yogurt, protein powder, and almond milk, and then I mix up the add-ins and toppings. Try mixing in grated apple, mashed banana, sultanas, poached plums, peaches, chia seeds, or cinnamon. For toppings, try nut butter, banana, berries, or nuts.
- 40g oats
- 100g Greek yogurt
- 1 scoop protein powder
- Almond milk
- Grated apple, mashed banana, or fruit of choice
- Nut butter, nuts, or toppings of choice
1. Mix everything together apart from your toppings, adding enough almond milk for it to thicken overnight (especially if you’ve added chia seeds).
2. Cover and chill overnight.
3. In the morning, remove from the fridge, add your toppings, and dig in.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Overnight oats make a great base for a healthy breakfast and they’re quick and easy to make too. If you’re really short of time, you can make the base 2-3 days in advance and portion in separate jars. Add a handful of fresh fruit or 30g of dried fruit for one of your five a day, as well as a source of healthy fats such as flaked almonds, nut butter, or chia seeds, for a truly balanced start to the day.”
4. Eggs, turkey bacon, and avocado toast
More an idea than a recipe, I love this meal for both breakfast and lunch, and I sometimes add halloumi if I’m extra hungry.
- 2 eggs
- 3 turkey rashers
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 slice bread
1. Toast your bread and top with the avocado, grill the turkey, and scramble your eggs. Simple as that!
Ludlam-Raine said: “This breakfast provides a higher proportion of healthy unsaturated fats thanks to the avocado, and turkey rashers are a great alternative to bacon as they’re low in total and saturated fat.”
“Eggs are a cost-effective way to increase your protein in the morning and the sourdough provides extra nutrients (including B vitamins), and gut-friendly fiber too, she added. “If you follow a plant-based diet, swap the turkey for some low sugar/salt baked beans and a tofu scramble for a complete source of protein.”
5. Chocolatey protein oatmeal
Much like overnight oats, you can make oatmeal in whatever flavor you prefer — one of my favorites is chocolate banana. I add protein to my oats to make it a more nutritionally balanced meal, but the trick is to make the protein powder into a paste by mixing with a little water, then stirring in at the end — this prevents it from going powdery and lumpy.
- 40-50g oats
- Almond milk or water
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, made into a paste
- 1/2 banana, mashed
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- Fruit, dark chocolate, and chocolate sauce or nut butter to top
1. Cook your oats with the almond milk, banana, and cocoa powder in the microwave or on the stove, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until thickened.
2. Stir in your protein paste, add your toppings, and enjoy.
Ludlam-Raine said: “Protein oatmeal is ideal to have after a workout as it provides both amino acids to help with muscle repair, and carbohydrates to replenish muscle and liver glycogen (energy) stores. If you don’t have protein powder, then using dairy milk instead of almond milk and adding some Greek yogurt will provide a similar amount of protein.”
6. Thick, refreshing smoothies
Smoothies made with just fruit and/or vegetables never keep me full, so I like to make mine into big, balanced meals by adding fats and protein. Most of my shakes start with a frozen banana (peel and freeze them when they’re brown and speckly — they make smoothies as thick and creamy as a milkshake), almond milk, and a scoop of protein powder, then I add in whatever I’m in the mood for. Here are a few that I like:
- Strawberry and cinnamon torte: Frozen banana, strawberries (fresh or frozen), almond milk, cinnamon protein (or vanilla protein and added cinnamon), almond butter (optional)
- Black Forest gateau: Frozen cherries, chocolate protein, almond milk (go for chocolate almond milk for extra yumminess)
- Breakfast boost: Banana, peanut butter, vanilla protein, oats, honey, almond milk, pinch of cinnamon
Ludlam-Raine said: “These smoothie combinations sound delicious as well as being nutritious — I would add a handful of greens such as spinach for a healthy dose of vitamin A, C, and K as well as folate too. If you don’t have protein powder, using dairy milk instead of almond milk and a little nut butter together provide a tasty source of protein.”
7. Easy Greek yogurt parfait
This is a really easy and speedy breakfast that always hits the spot. I love Greek yogurt (consider getting fat-free if you’re aiming to lose fat — it’s high in volume and protein, but low in calories), and if I know I’m likely to struggle to get much protein in for the rest of the day, sometimes I whip some protein powder into the yogurt too for an extra boost.
- 200g Greek yogurt
- 30-50g granola
- Fruit, nuts, and/or nut butter of choice
1. Put it all in a bowl. Eat.
Ludlam-Raine said: “This is such a simple and easy breakfast idea. Watch out for high sugar granolas though, or even better, have a go at making a big batch of it yourself.”