Cortisol is well known as the hormone that helps us handle stress. Which is true! In our society, we definitely overuse and abuse cortisol with our busy schedules, never ending to-do lists and addiction to technology. We are constantly stressed out!
However, most people don’t realize that their cortisol could be affecting everything from their energy, sleep, chronic inflammation, even their stubborn weight. Adjusting your daily activities can help get your cortisol back in balance so that you feel more rested, less achey and improve weight loss efforts.
Here are my tips to getting your cortisol back in balance. The list may seem overwhelming but by trying to implement even just one of them at a time can start to add up and make a difference.
- Scrap the Snooze: Rather than waking up and going back asleep just to wake up in a few minutes, get up right when your alarm goes off or when you naturally wake up. Your body’s cortisol should wake you up in the morning. When you fall back asleep, your sending mixed messages to your body and can actually feel more tired than if you got up right away.
- Move your body in the morning: Even a 5 minutes stretch session or a walk around the block can help get your body ready for the day and improve your morning cortisol. It doesn’t have to be a major workout to be beneficial. The key is to get the blood flowing.
- Lose the carbs at breakfast: Cortisol rises when insulin rises so keeping your breakfast carb free helps to keep your blood sugar from spiking higher than it needs to in the morning. Veggie omelet, turkey bacon with half of an avocado, mixed greens with grilled chicken or avocado mixed with protein powder.
- Drink coffee/caffeinated beverages with or after breakfast not before or on an empty stomach. Caffeine spikes cortisol, which affect blood sugar, especially on an empty stomach which can set you up for an energy dip later in the day along with carb cravings. By drinking it with breakfast or after, you have the nutrients of fat and protein to help buffer its affects and help keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Keep Complex Carbs for Lunch and Dinner: Complex carbs are better to have with lunch and dinner. Add 1 serving of a complex carb such as quinoa, black or wild rice, sweet potato, legumes, lentils, beans, starchy veggies or fruit to a healthy protein and fat source. Going completely carb free or low carb for a long period of time can actually screw up your cortisol as well. It is important to have a balance of macronutrients.
- Ditch the afternoon caffeine hit. Opt for water, sparkling water or if truly needed a small snack made up of lean protein and fat such as a handful of nuts, 2 tbsp hummus with celery or carrots, 1 tbsp peanut butter with celery or guacamole with crudité.
- Rain Check on Happy Hour: Not to say that you can’t enjoy an occasional cocktail or glass of wine but if you are finding it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep and/or wake up in the morning, you may want to reconsider that evening drink. Alcohol can negatively affect cortisol levels while disrupting sleep cycles. Give yourself a week or two without having any drinks during the work week and see how much your sleep improves.
- Prioritize Sleep: Turn off electronics an hour before bed. Don’t eat close to bed time. Keep your bedroom dark and try to get to bed by 10:30 each night as often as you can. This is the most important time of the day for healing and repair.