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Eating This Much Protein in the Morning Can Boost Weight Loss, According to Experts

Top pros reveal how the key to waking up your metabolism starts with your first meal of the day

Sometimes it feels as though the harder we work at losing weight, the fewer results we actually see. So we were thrilled to learn that a simple step at the start of the day, can unleash a waterfall of positive health changes including weight loss. That simple start involves getting around 30 grams of protein in the morning. “This approach uses your body fat as the energy source to fuel your metabolism instead of your muscles,” explains Paul Arciero, PhD, a researcher and professor in the department of sports medicine and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. He assures, “It’s a great fat burning strategy.” Keep reading to learn how to make the 30-grams-of-protein-in-the-morning trick work for you. And don’t miss the end with an amazing success story of how Cheri Jackson lost 84 pounds!

How a protein-rich morning helps the body

People are using this trick because it’s backed by solid research showing the benefits of eating a high quality serving of protein for breakfast, followed by exercise. Arciero, author of the protein pacing book The PRISE Life, explains, “The reason why my research has shown this to be effective is: following an overnight fast, your body begins to breakdown your muscles as an energy source.” If you wake up and skip eating or go straight to exercise, you won’t prevent this muscle breakdown. Instead, if you eat protein — made of amino acids that strengthen and protect lean muscle tissue — you get a different effect. “You shut down the muscle breakdown process and begin the muscle building process.” That means: “The energy your body uses to fuel your metabolism after you consume protein first upon waking is from your body fat.”

The popularity behind eating 30 grams of morning protein

A TikTok trend has helped spread the message of eating 30 grams of protein for breakfast. It’s called the 30-30-30 plan, and all you do is eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning, followed by 30 minutes of movement. “I wish I could have patented it,” said biologist and biohacker Gary Brecka in a TikTok post on the subject that has been “favorited” by 2 million people. He reports, “I’ve never seen anything in my life strip fat off a human being faster than this.” He adds, “Do that for a month and watch [body fat] eviscerate.”

It turns out, this TikTok health trend is based on a 2010 book written by health guru Tim Ferriss called The 4-Hour Body. “The 30-30-30 plan is so incredibly effective precisely because it is dead simple and hard to fail,” he asserts. “It allows you to practically leave 99% of your life just as it is.”

How something so simple can work so effectively

The 30-grams-of-protein trick seems too simple to be life changing. Yet, health experts now point to a principle known as the Minimum Effective Dose (MED), which means doing the least necessary to trigger a desired outcome. It turns out that overworking our MED can stall weight-loss progress.

More good news: Setting the wheels in motion for us to remove stored fat and add muscle “takes surprisingly little,” according to Ferriss. By zeroing in on the bare minimum, people are able to trigger a complex cascade of fat-loss hormones and other positive health changes inside their body. “It’s a small domino that tips over very large dominos,” Ferriss says. The best part? It really works!

What weight loss experts say about the protein-first plan

“I like it. The basic elements of this plan are quite good,” says Ted Naiman, MD, a leading authority on eating protein for weight loss and author of The P.E. Diet, a book all about protein and energy. And Arciero says, “This takes all the guesswork out of how best to start your day to jumpstart fat burning.” He adds, “I outline all of this in detail in The PRISE Life protein pacing book that is based on my 35 years of peer-reviewed research studies.”

Why we seriously need more protein as we age

This protein-forward eating trend is coming at a much-needed time, as the Alliance for Aging Research confirms that sarcopenia — or age-related muscle loss — is on the rise. Arciero says, “Sarcopenia is much more a concern for women than men because they become more susceptible to frailty issues due to loss of muscle mass and the reduction of bone mineral density.”

In fact, in our post-pandemic world, scientists are stunned to find how quickly adults can lose muscle. According to research published in JAMA, healthy older Americans can lose 6.3% of their leg muscle (a 15% decline in strength) after just 10 days of bed rest. But rest assured: Eating protein and getting more exercise can serve as the antidote. (Click through to learn more about age-related muscle loss.)

Try this morning protein plan for yourself

Yellow clock laid on a plate surrounded by a fork and knife

To give it a whirl, follow these three steps. Here, how each facet primes the body to reach its ultimate weight loss goals…

1. The Food: Eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast

Protein-rich foods outperform carb-laden foods in multiple ways, according to research published in Nutrition Journal. In the study of overweight women, participants either ate a protein-rich breakfast of eggs and sausage (with 30 or 39 grams of protein), compared with groups who ate low-protein pancakes or skipped breakfast altogether. The results: High-protein breakfasts increased satiety, reduced glucose and insulin levels and decreased calorie consumption at lunch. In fact, hunger dropped by 75% and calorie intake later in the day fell 15% (or 119 calories). What’s more, insulin levels were 46% to 57% lower among the protein eaters, compared to the non-protein eaters.

The 30-30-30 plan calls for eating 30 grams of protein in the morning. But how much protein do we need throughout the day? That’s up for debate. The current government recommendation is to eat 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of your body weight to prevent deficiencies. (That’s 65 grams daily for a 180-pound woman.) But for optimal health and weight loss, many experts advise eating closer to 80 to 120 grams daily. (Click to read how the carnivore diet is helping women lose menopause weight.)

2. The Timing: Eat your protein early

What you eat in the first 30 minutes of your day can drive weight loss. Dr. Naiman confirms, “Eating more protein at breakfast does seem to assist with eating fewer calories throughout the day.” One study found that consuming a high-protein breakfast prevented people from gaining body fat and also decreased hunger, compared to skipping breakfast or consuming a normal-protein breakfast.

The early morning focus of this plan also sets a healthy tone for the day. Dr. Naiman says, “This is known as ‘behavioral momentum’—making healthy choices earlier in the day makes it easier to make healthy choices the rest of the day.” Indeed, Dr. Naiman has proven his “protein leveraging” hypothesis, which states that the body will continue to crave food all day until it reaches a crucial protein-intake threshold. The bottom line: Get adequate protein early and feel more in control later. (Click to read how morning protein helps with weight loss.)

3. The Exercise: Move in the morning

Aim to get a half hour of steady-state cardiovascular activity, like brisk walking, biking or dancing after breakfast. (If you’re using a heart rate tracker, strive for 95 to 130 beats per minute.) Beyond the 30-30-30 plan, many women, especially those over 50, will also benefit from doing strength training three times per week to protect and build lean muscle tissue.

Research suggests this plan is particularly powerful for women. Dr. Naiman says, “We do have some evidence that morning exercise is specifically better for fat loss in women as compared to men.”

Arciero says, “My protocol has shown that resistance training and high intensity interval training are actually more effective to burn fat than cardio.” He adds, “Flexibility/mobility training like yoga, pilates, tai chi is also very good.” (Click to read how foam roller fascia exercises can help.)

What results are people seeing from 30 grams of protein?

In Ferriss’ study of 3,500 people, he found that 86% increased fat burning and lost an average 8.6 pounds in four weeks by following a version of the 30-30-30 plan. One online adopter, Linda M., shed 23 pounds of body fat in four weeks. And with more time, Ferriss says the approach has helped many women over 40 lose 100+ pounds and feel better, including Briana Christine, who dropped 36 pounds in the first eight weeks and 100 pounds total. The busy mom found the approach worked better than hardcore fitness training.

Other health benefits of this morning protein plan

Fans of 30-30-30 love that it speeds fat loss and improves mental focus. Dianna Teasdale, 39, tried it and shed 5 stubborn pounds in a month. And she immediately noticed she was no longer suffering energy crashes in the afternoon. “It was very beneficial,” she shares. “Those 30 grams of protein curbed cravings so I ate better all day.”

Ella Waterworth lost 12 pounds in two months and has kept the weight off for a year simply by eating more protein at breakfast. The Smoothies N Cookies recipe creator says, “I didn’t count calories, I just incorporated more protein in the morning, which kept me full for hours, naturally resulting in me eating less.”

To maximize success, try these bonus tips…

  • Cut carbs at other meals. In tests, the best results came from people who avoided processed carbs and dairy food. So strive for whole, unprocessed foods like lean protein, healthy fats and veggies during your remaining meals and snacks.
  • Enjoy one cheat day per week. Ferriss says, “Cheat day eating habits didn’t have any effect on success rate, so keep eating whatever you’d like on your day off.”
  • Skip alcohol for a stretch. Ferriss says that consuming heavy alcohol was one thing that slowed weight-loss progress among 30-30-30 followers. If you’re looking to power your results, opt for low sugar mocktails for the month.
  • Consider a cold plunge. As a bonus tip, try taking a cold shower daily. It helped early adopters of the plan lose more weight. In fact, standing in a cold shower (between 50°F and 68°F) for 45 seconds is shown to lower stress hormones and inflammation, which can improve pain, brain fog, blue moods and even diabetes risk.

Sample meals to get 30 grams of protein in the morning

Banana protein smoothie as part of plan to get 30 grams of protein in the morning.
  • Smoothie: Blend 1 scoop of protein powder (like Almased), 8 oz. of water, 1 Tbs. of nut butter and 1 frozen banana nut butter and 1 frozen banana
  • Eggs: Whip up a hearty 3-egg omelet, plus 4 strips of bacon
  • Pudding: Scoop up 1 cup of Greek yogurt topped with 2 Tbs. of chia seeds and cashews
  • Tofu: Heat 1 cup of chopped tofu with 12 cup of diced sweet potato and black beans
  • Protein pancakes: Mix 1 scoop of protein powder into batter
  • Chicken: Got leftovers? Enjoy 4 oz. of reheated chicken breast from last night’s dinner

Protein weight loss success story: Cheri Jackson lost 84 lbs

Before and after photos of Cheri Jackson who lost 84 lbs with 30 grams of protein in the morning.

Marooned on the couch with a sore back, Cheri Jackson felt stuck. There has to be more to the rest of my life than this, she thought. I’m still young. I can’t sit here forever.

Cheri never struggled with her weight until she hit her 40s. And no matter what she tried; she couldn’t get results. Then a friend encouraged, “If you hit a plateau, do something different. Eat something different.” So Cheri took it to heart.

Cheri had never been a breakfast person…

But she started waking up and having a protein-rich meal like Jimmy Dean Delights sandwiches made with turkey sausage, egg and cheese. She says, “I learned you need to eat breakfast.”

For gentle movement, Cheri began walking with friends from her support group. Her husband also set up a stationary bike for her to use in front of the TV. Those simple changes moved the needle big time.

Cheri lost 6 pounds in one week

That’s not all. Cheri lost 113 pounds in a year and a half. Her chronic discomfort lifted too. “No more back pain!” And while a recent knee injury caused Cheri to gain a few pounds back, she’s already melting them off again by focusing on eating more morning protein.

Now Cheri no longer lives on the couch. ” The woman who could barely stand long enough to peel a carrot now shares, “I can do anything.” Cheri adds, “For me to be able to run around and have fun with my grandson and do things outside at the park and beach means everything. I could not have done that before!”

For more delicious ideas on how to work more protein into your diet:

Proffee: The Delicious Breakfast Helping Women Over 60 Lose Weight Effortlessly

Top Doc Shares the Cottage Cheese Protein Thats Helping Women over 50 Lose Weight

Your Guide to Protein Powders (Plus: The One That Won’t Make You Bloat)

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