Let's Rethink Eating & Food Timing

Aug 03, 2023
A woman with brown hair and a woman with blond hair are standing in a kitchen and clinking their forks together.

Are you ready to rethink what you know about meal timing?

Did you know that if your body has poor blood sugar control it can trigger anxiety or panic attacks? Note: this is even more common with diabetes.

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in blood. The body gets glucose from the food we eat. This sugar is an important source of energy and provides nutrients to your body's organs, muscles and nervous system.

When you're under stress, your body releases hormones that can make your blood sugar rise, the main hormone being cortisol. Cortisol often gets bad rap - most people associate it with weight gain or poor sleep, but it’s so much more than that. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone, often called the stress hormone, that plays a key role in your body’s stress response, commonly called your flight-or-flight response.

BUT my friend, please know this, it is actually a helpful hormone. Bringing it back to its natural rhythm changes everything.

When you wake up, cortisol shoots up. And it’s not JUST because life is stressful (although lately…). We were designed this way. Cortisol helps you get alert and ready for the day. So when you wake up, your hormone levels jump by 50-75 percent in just half an hour. You NEED this spike to be alert & happy! BUT, what is not common knowledge is that you don’t want it to STAY this elevated. This elevation is actually really common in our modern society due to all the demands, which lead to skipping meals & sleep.

Here's the thing, when cortisol stays elevated it can cause problems with your health such as: 

·      Anxiety, depression, or irritability.

·       Increased belly fat which is associated with a greater amount of health problems.

·       Impaired cognitive performance.

·       Suppressed thyroid function.

·       Blood sugar imbalances like hyperglycemia.

·       Decreased bone density.

·       Decreased muscle tissue.

·       High blood pressure.

·       A lowered immune system

·       Higher levels of cholesterol.

However, remember, cortisol is also helpful and essential for you! Look at all the needed functions cortisol provides for your body: 

·      Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward. (GOOD STRESS)

·       Proper glucose metabolism.

·       Regulation of blood pressure.

·       Insulin release for blood sugar  maintenance.

·       Immune function.

·       Inflammatory response.

·       Heightened memory functions.

·       Boosts the immune system.

·       Lowers sensitivity to pain.

·       Helps maintain homeostasis in the body.

You might be wondering why we are currently focusing on cortisol, instead of blood sugar. It's because cortisol & blood sugar go hand in hand!

In order to have stable blood sugar (which means lowered stress, anxiety, & irritability, but also improved mood, lowered inflammation and increased energy), we need to get cortisol back on the helpful team & not the negative team.

We do that by bringing it down in the appropriate window of time! Because, remember, we need this cortisol spike…just not all day!  If your cortisol stays elevated, this increases the likelihood that your body will be going in & out of high/low blood sugar levels all day – potentially causing anxiety, sugar cravings, & irritability. 

So what is the magic switch?


Yes, really.

I'm sure you're stunned I wrote that in the days of intermittent fasting!  (But that's a topic for another day!)

Breakfast has a positive effect on cortisol according to research. It’s one of the reasons it has been called the “most important meal of the day.”  Normally, cortisol levels are highest about 7 a.m., so this is when it’s important to eat something to bring them back down. But, just any breakfast eaten at any time will not have a positive affect on cortisol. You ideally need to eat within one hour of waking up or at least before 10 a.m.

The longer you go without giving your body what it needs - glycogen (aka food) - then your body instead needs to release more cortisol to signal fuel to be released from your liver.

To prevent this cascade, simply eat breakfast! If you love starting your day with coffee, I’d still advise you switch to drinking your coffee with food & eating within 1 hour of rising.

This alone can change everything for the rest of your day!

Psst…bulletproof coffee will not bring your cortisol down. 

Need more convincing to eat breakfast? Research has found that people who eat a lower weekly breakfast consumption or skip it all together is associated with:

  • Higher risk of insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes – aka poor blood sugar control (Seeing the trend here?)

  • Being overly hungry throughout the day, cranky, and fatigued.

  • A slowing metabolism.

    • When you fast for too long, your body goes into protection mode, and begins to store as many calories as possible (think “bears preparing for hibernation”). As a negative double whammy, when your metabolism slows, it can turn to the glucose stored in your muscles as a backup fuel source, effectively wasting away your muscles.

  • Your health takes a hit.

    • Research has shown that regularly skipping breakfast can make you more susceptible to weight gain and increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

This is one of the biggest game-changing conversations I have with clients.

Blood sugar control and cortisol balance are also impacted when a woman's hormones change throughout the month. This includes during menopause, when the hormone shifts may make blood sugar even harder to control. But there is a simple solution to this in any season of life.

Building an eating rhythm!

So, besides breakfast, it is also important to eat every 3-4 hours to maintain blood sugar balance and help prevent any stress and anxiety from cortisol and blood sugar spikes or crashes!

So, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did you eat within hour of waking up? What do you need to change in order to make this happen?

  2. Do you eat every 3-4 hours or are there times when you go longer without fueling your body? What prevented you from fueling yourself sooner? Tune in to how you felt.

  3. What do you need to change in order to make a better rhythm to happen?

Really tune in and see how different you feel with employing these tips. Over the next few days, set an alarm to remind you to eat breakfast and to eat by no later than 4 hours. I promise you will feel different!

Cheering for you!


Need extra inspiration to start a better breakfast routine? Join me in the Breakfast Club! Learn more here