A brownie for breakfast? It sounds like the stuff of childhood dreams, but turns out that treating yourself first thing in the a.m. can actually help speed weight loss for women over 50. How’s that possible? By kicking up the protein content of the favorite chocolaty treat to make protein brownies, what was once a humble baked good becomes a weight-loss superstar.
Just ask Debora Tillman, 54, who lost 101 pounds enjoying protein brownies after years of trying all sorts of fads, pills and programs that didn’t work. Debora tells Woman’s World the protein brownies she enjoyed while losing were key for keeping her cravings down, stamina up and helping her lose big. Read on to discover how protein brownies spur weight loss and good health, plus recipes to get you started.
What are protein brownies?
Protein brownies are exactly what they sound like — a nostalgic sweet treat with an extra punch of satiating protein. The easiest way to make them? Using a protein-enriched boxed mix. But some folks are simply mixing protein shakes and powders into their favorite brownie mixes or adding in mashed black beans and other protein-packed add-ins. (Click through to learn why black beans are a great choice to boost protein and enhance health, plus how to make black bean brownies.)
Folks all over TikTok and YouTube are baking up these healthier brownies and say they help reduce hunger, boost energy and speed weight loss. With over 44.7 million views and counting, protein brownies may be just what you need to help enhance your health and speed weight loss. Here’s what you need to know:
The protein pacing secret that increases fat burn
Getting more protein — whether it’s from a protein brownie, a chicken breast, a serving of beans or even protein powder — can help kill hunger, balance blood sugar and build metabolism-boosting muscle. (Click through to discover the best protein powder for women over 40 that won’t make you bloat and our favorite vegan protein powders.)
The secret to getting the most slimming for your efforts: eating small amounts of protein frequently. “Studies show you won’t absorb enough protein unless you eat smaller amounts more often,” says Harvard nutrition expert Caroline Apovian, MD. But when you spread your protein intake throughout the day and boost your protein absorption, magic happens. In a Skidmore College study, subjects using a protein pacing approach lost significantly more weight than those who restricted calories.
One reason that this approach works: Improved protein absorption is proven to “cut levels of the hormone insulin in half,” reports Paul Arciero, PhD, author of The Protein Pacing Diet. “When insulin comes down like that, it means fat burning has gone way up.” And since women over the age of 50 are more likely to have wear-and-tear on our system that leads to fat-packing blood-sugar issues, the older we are, the better this protein pacing approach works.
The power of consuming protein early in the day
When Stephen Perrine, as the special projects editor overseeing health and wellness for AARP publications, decided to poll the 38 million members of AARP about the challenges of losing weight over 50, he discovered something very interesting: “The average American eats about the right amount of protein every day, she just eats it at the wrong time — all during the second half of the day,” he says. After poring over studies and talking to researchers, Perrine found the biggest predictor of weight loss over 50 was how much protein the person ate before lunch. Increase it to 25+ grams for breakfast and 7+ grams for a morning snack and the pounds just fall off. (Click through for a complete plan using morning protein to help lose over-50 belly fat and for the power of morning proffee for weight loss.)
How protein + chocolate speed fat burn
It may sound too good to be true, but chocolate really can help you lose weight! According to a Harvard University study, women who enjoyed 100 grams of milk chocolate in the morning — equal to about ½ cup of chocolate chips — burned 25% more fat. They also lowered their blood sugar and shrunk their waist without dieting. The secret to chocolate’s fat-burning power? It packs a wallop of antioxidants called flavanols that work fat-fighting, sugar-lowering wonders.
“I’m a grandma with a new body!”
Debora Tillman was enjoying a beautiful afternoon on the back of her husband Dale’s motorcycle, soaking in the blue North Carolina sky. The day was perfect, until her knees began to ache. She tried shifting positions as she hung on to Dale — but with both of them pushing 300 pounds, there wasn’t room. We barely fit, she realized, her knees on fire. Back home, Debora climbed off the bike with a groan, her asthma starting to act up. Dale, who had rheumatoid arthritis, stretched out his own kinks. Both knew this did not bode well for their long-time dream of retiring and riding across the country. She felt a familiar sadness creep over her.
Debora’s first steps toward weight loss
For as long as Debora could remember, she’d been a big eater. After a seven-course meal, she’d still want cake. When she got bored or stressed, cookies and candy were comfort. But as pounds packed on and her health tanked — bad knees, asthma, a bum thyroid, prediabetes and more — it meant she was in such lousy shape that she couldn’t keep up with her three girls. She was even too big to take them on rides at the fair. Instead, she sat on the sidelines with an aching sense she was missing all the good stuff.
Did she try to change? Again and again. Pills, fads, group programs, diet centers. She would start strong, then get sucked back into old habits. Before she knew it, her girls were grown and she was a grandmother. Retirement is still a way off, but I bet my weight will ruin that too, she said to herself.
As if he read her mind, Dale took her hand. “Those plans we have aren’t happening if we keep going this way, but it’s not too late,” he said. “Let’s get healthy together.”
How Debora discovered protein brownies
The couple decided to talk to their friend Susan, who’d lost about 100 pounds. It turned out Susan used a program called Optavia. The gist: You got five high-protein mini meals a day plus one bigger meal with protein and veggies. The idea was that it steadied blood sugar and delivered the right nutrients to keep hunger down, metabolism up and muscles strong, making weight disappear more easily. (Click through to learn more about Optavia for weight loss and how to add protein pacing to your weight-loss tool kit.)
Debora and Dale ordered dozens of ready-to-eat mini meals — protein-spiked bars, shakes, mashed potatoes, mac ’n’ cheese. Once it all arrived, they began. Debora soon got used to the rhythm of eating protein every few hours. During the day, she found herself upbeat and raring to go. She also looked forward to their new routine each night, when they’d wind down and eat protein brownies. Debora loved the familiar taste — and she loved how normal healthy living had begun to feel.
Did she hit bumps in the road? Some days, she felt the old tug of emotional eating. Usually she could power through, but one morning was extra tough. Debora saw brownies in the cabinet and hesitated. Nothing’s stopping me from having one for breakfast, she thought. It hit the spot, but she worried it might trigger a binge. As it turned out, protein makes a big difference. “I felt better than usual all morning,” Debora told Dale that night.
She decided she’d eat protein brownies whenever she wanted. And as crazy as it sounds, her body seemed to respond. Her cravings and stamina steadily improved, pounds and inches disappearing quickly. Her doctor even took her off meds for blood sugar and blood pressure!
Debora today: 101 pounds slimmer at age 54
Debora and Dale’s confidence grew, and they moved away from packaged food to home-cooked protein-rich fare like veggie omelets and Hawaiian-style fish. “We make things we love,” says Debora. “We still eat the protein brownies though!”
Dale lost 85 pounds. And Debora, now 54, is down 101 pounds, her asthma gone. Not only can she fit on the back of Dale’s bike, she can handle her own: a Harley Iron 883. “I go for hours!” Her advice: “Our biggest obstacle can be self-doubt, so don’t overthink. Just start making changes so you have the energy to live your dreams. Then get out and do what you love!”
How to make protein brownies
There’s no one right way to make protein brownies. Mixes like Kodiak Protein-Packed Brownie Mix (Buy from Amazon, $32 for pack of 6) come prepacked with protein, but you can also add your favorite protein powder to your favorite brownie mix and experiment with what works best for you. (Click through to discover the best protein powders for women over 50 and the best protein powders for women over 60.)
3-Ingredient Protein Brownies
We love this super-easy version from Zach Coen, RD, that combines three protein-packed ingredients.
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 protein shake
- 1 box protein brownie mix
- In blender, blitz beans and shake until smooth. Stir into brownie mix. Spread in parchment-lined 9″ square pan.
- Bake at 350ºF until pick in center is slightly moist, 22–24 minutes.
12 servings, 185 calories and 11 grams of protein each
For even more yum, this brownie recipe uses protein powder and no added sugar:
And these fudgy protein brownies boast 10g of protein for just 187 calories:
Click through to learn more about the power of morning protein:
Click through to discover other sources of morning protein:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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