Breakfast Affects Hormones, Hunger, After Dinner Cravings

By December 15, 2015 November 29th, 2017 Nutrition Information


As I work on the Nourishing Foods Winter Cleanse coming up in January, I realize the powerful role food plays in supporting our adrenals. What we eat and when we eat it actually makes a huge difference in our hormonal health.

In today’s blog, I explain how the foods you choose for breakfast affect your hunger for the entire day. In addition, you will see how the hormonal effect of breakfast actually has an effect on your late night cravings.

Food is information Every time you eat your body releases hormone signaling molecules that determine whether you are satisfied or hungry.

In fact, what you eat for breakfast has a direct effect on your hunger levels throughout the day.

Choosing a low-fat muffin or a high protein green smoothie is going to make a big difference in your hormones and your hunger.

Let me explain….There are several hormones that are cyclical in your body and one of them is leptin.

Leptin – Your Satiety Hormone

Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Leptin is the “satiety hormone”.  It’s made by adipose cells to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger. When your hormones are in balance any extra fat produces leptin reducing your hunger.

If you eat carbohydrate-dense foods too early in the day, like at breakfast, the normal leptin cycle is disrupted. Your leptin cycle will peak too early in the day and will begin to decline too soon. As a result, leptin will be low in the evening after dinner, and your appetite will increase rather than decrease, leading to after dinner snacking.

In 1994 researchers were studying a genetic line of mice that ate food continuously until they became morbidly obese.

The scientists discovered these mice were missing a hormone that signaled their brain they were full.

Once they injected this hormone into the mice it curbed their appetite, stimulated their fat-burning metabolism and restored them to a normal body weight.

They called the hormone leptin, derived from the Greek word for “thin.”

They discovered that leptin is a powerful messenger that is directly related to hunger and body fat.

  • Leptin is the hormone that’s secreted by your fat cells and gives your brain the signal when your stomach is full. As a result, your appetite turns off and you go into a phase of fat burning to keep yourself fueled instead of needing to eat for fuel.
  • Leptin tells your brain how much energy you have and how to use it. When your energy is low, leptin tells your brain to increase your appetite so you’ll start eating. When you have enough energy leptin tells your brain to stop eating and start burning fat.

When leptin is high you feel full.

Normally, leptin levels rise in the evening and peak around midnight.

This increase in leptin ensures that your appetite is turned off and would typically put you into the fat burning and repair mode during the night that you need to maintain a natural body weight.

When leptin is working properly you feel full after dinner. You shouldn’t have the munchies and yet many people do. This is a common complaint I hear from my clients.

What happens is after dinner your leptin levels are low instead of high and you get hungry even though you have just eaten a big meal.

When your leptin signals are working properly you
feel full longer.
You don’t have uncontrollable cravings for sweets, your fat
is burned for fuel, helping you to stay slim.

There are 2 ways to get leptin to function properly:

  1. Avoid high carbohydrate foods early in the day. Instead of cereal, oatmeal, toast, bagels and other more common breakfast choices, choose a breakfast that emphasizes healthy fats, whole-plant fiber, and protein.
  2. Never go to bed on a full stomach. You want to have 3 hours between dinner and bed. Night time is prime fat burning time. The only way to take advantage of it is to go 11-12 hours without food. According to Byron Richards, author of Mastering Leptin, nine hours after finishing dinner your readily available sources of fat and fuel are depleted and fat burning is at its peak.

My breakfast favorites include a green smoothie with hemp, chia or flax seeds, vegan protein powder and coconut oil or coconut milk. I also like chia porridge or soft cooked eggs with vegetables. Occasionally I will have a lamb sausage patty with avocado and vegetables.   I precede my breakfast with 16-32 ounces of room temperature water to flush toxins and wake up my digestive system.

My morning meal has evolved over the years as I have increased my understanding of what types of foods keep me optimally healthy. The breakfast I currently enjoy is designed to improve the health of our mitochondria, the main power generators of energy in our cells.   

Blueberry Coconut Green SmoothieBlueberry Coconut Green Smoothie

1 serving
2 Tb organic ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canned full fat coconut milk
2 large handfuls of romaine or other green
leafy vegetables  (4 cups)
2 stalks of celery
1/2 cup frozen wild or organic blueberries
¼ tsp cinnamon
12 ounces filtered water
  • Place all ingredients into a blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Add more water to get desired consistency
  • Enjoy immediately

In conclusion, fight the urge to binge on sugar first thing in the morning and instead eat protein. You will be more likely to feel full and energized throughout the day. This means less grazing between meals and fewer cravings after dinner.

Please leave me a comment telling me what you eat for breakfast and what you think about this information. 


  • Anjali Peters says:

    Hello Ingrid,
    The timing of this article is perfect and so helpful! I have been slowly chipping away at changing my eating habits and life to reduce stress, manage my hormonal issues naturally (I am 54),and regain a life of balance. I just left a high stress demanding job to give me time to focus on food preparation and planning, and exercise. My new job is three 12 hour days in a row but then four days off per week.

    This focus on the Leptin hormone and other tips like flax to reduce unhealthy estrogen is helping to get my hormonal issues under control. I recently eliminated wine and coffee from my diet. Not easy as I love them both; however, it has made a huge difference in my energy level and reduced hot flashes. I give myself permission to enjoy the odd glass of wine or cappuccino so that I don’t total fall off the wagon!

    Would love to see more on the connection between food and hormones! You have a gift of presenting information in a very easy to understand way and motivating to make changes.

    Thank you!

    • Ingrid says:

      Hi Anjali,
      Thank you for sharing your progress. I am glad you found the newsletter helpful. It sounds like you are on the right track and feeling better. Be sure to get enough protein and fat especially on those 12 hour work days. I am a huge fan of having an occasional indulgence. It is best to plan it and savor it completely. You make the choice, enjoy your treats with love. When you do this it is much easier to stay on track.


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