Cortisol – Let’s talk about your morning.

Food, Cortisol, & Breakfast timing.


Cortisol is what is often referred to as our Stress Hormone.


When there is a threat, cortisol is one of the hormones released from your adrenal glands.


Its job is to release glucose (sugar) from your liver (via gluconeogenesis) to flood the bloodstream. This makes sugar easily accessible for your muscles and brain to use for fuel – to fight or flee.


Cortisol has a bad reputation as we are often in a chronic state of stress – keeping the cortisol levels elevated higher and for longer than we want – but it is an important hormone for many of our systems.


One of which is with our sleep wake cycle.


Cortisol helps us to wake up and peaks at its highest level about 45 mins or so after waking.


Now let’s break this down. 


Cortisol wakes you up, and starts to send sugar into the bloodstream.


It also limits the release of insulin.


Insulin works to transport sugar from our bloodstream into our cells. Cortisol wants that sugar there for immediate use, not stored away, so insulin release is limited.


Then we head to the kitchen for breakfast.


If we have an easily digestible high carbohydrate breakfast – white bread, jam, fruit bottom yogurt, glass of orange juice.


Our bloodstream becomes saturated with even more sugar at the worst possible time.


We don’t want that. Insulin resistance, inflammation, weight impacts. NO FUN!


So what can we do?


One option is to look to hold off on breakfast for at least an hour or more after waking if possible.


Perhaps look to wake up earlier, practice your visualization & get out your journal (hint hint), have a drink of water & get yourself up and functioning first.


When you do have breakfast – reach for something high in fiber, lower in carbohydrates, and include those good fats!


A smoothie is a great option:

Spinach & Kale – loads of fiber and nutrients; helps to decrease inflammation.

Ground flax – fiber as well as good fats

Avocado – good fats

Berries – antioxidants and fiber

Plain Greek Yogurt: protein, low sugar

Fluid: I use unsweetened almond milk.


If you are going to reach for grains in the morning – choose whole grains, and make sure you have the good fats and protein to go along with it.


Cortisol has huge impacts in weight management as well – which we will get into another time!


Have a great day!


Shawna Cook

Shawna is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, who has been working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. Her years in the health and fitness field however have spanned over the past 2+ decades. As an elite level athlete she fell in love with understanding the human body, and how the choices she made, affected how it performed. This led to a degree from the University of Winnipeg in the stream of Athletic Therapy, and the passion towards helping others recover from injury and "be their best selves" grew.