Tag Archives: 30g protein myth

Will Tim Ferriss’ 30g of protein at breakfast help you lose weight? 

You’ve probably heard that dietary adage about getting 30g of protein at breakfast to help manage your appetite.  Tim Ferriss popularised in his Four Hour Body and recently reiterated in this video.

But does more protein at breakfast actually help you manage your hunger and keep you satisfied?

To understand whether protein at breakfast helps with satiety, we plotted the proportion of daily calories eaten at breakfast versus the % goal calories logged for half a million days of MyFitnessPal data.

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If someone recorded less than 100% it means that they successfully consumed less than their goal calorie intake for the day.  However, if they logged more than 100%, for whatever reason, they overshot their calorie goal.

This plot has a ton of scatter, but we can see towards the top left of the chart that a lower protein intake aligns with overeating.  Towards the lower right of the chart, we see that higher protein intake at breakfast aligns with decrease intake across the day.  Interestingly, foods with more protein tend to correspond to a higher nutrient density (i.e. more vitamins and minerals per calorie).

To help make sense of all the data we broke it up into a number of ‘buckets’ and took the average for each as shown by the dots in the chart below.

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It seems that the people who ate the least protein at breakfast (left-hand side of the chart) ended up eating the most across the entire day.  While the people who ate the most protein at breakfast were more likely to consume less.

Interestingly, there seems to be an inflection point when you consume more than 11% of your daily energy intake as protein at breakfast.   Beyond this level, you don’t seem to get a lot more benefit from loading up on more protein.

That is, you get the “minimum effective dose” of protein with 11% of your daily energy intake as protein at breakfast.

The table below shows what this would look like for a typical female and male consuming 1600 and 2000 calories per day respectively.

calories per day

11% of calories

minimum protein at breakfast (g)

female

1600

176

45

male

2000

220

55

So, it seems that the 30g of protein at breakfast thing is true to an extent, it’s just on the low side if your goal is to manage hunger and control your energy intake with less effort.

The “typical female” would need to consume 45g of protein at breakfast to get the minimum effective dose for satiety while the “typical male” would need to consume 55g of protein for breakfast to reach their minimum effective dose of protein to optimise for maximum satiety.

If you’re not typical and want to refine your calculations, you should target 0.8 g/kg lean body mass (or 0.36 g/lb LBM) of protein at breakfast to optimise satiety. This is about a third of the daily protein requirement to optimise maximise satiety across the day shown determined by our previous analysis shown in the chart below.

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So, in summary:

  • Satiety improves with increased protein at breakfast.
  • A low protein intake at breakfast appears to increase your chance of overeating.
  • The minimum effective dose of protein at breakfast appears to be about 11% of your daily calories, approx 45 g for women and 55 g for men or 0.8 g/kg LBM at breakfast.