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Kick Caffeine to Bed, Rise & Grind with These Instead!

Feeling tired when we wake up, even after a good night’s sleep, is something we all know a little too well. A lot of us rely on caffeine and sugar to get through the day, only to repeat the cycle day after day. Functional medicine practitioner Dr. Will Cole (2020) wrote that more than 1 million Americans struggle with chronic fatigue, while millions more have varying degrees of lethargy. Our adrenal glands are the culprit here. They produce a stress hormone, cortisol, which produces adrenal fatigue when out of balance. When the body is unable to regulate cortisol properly, the ability to control blood sugar is damaged (Campbell, 2017). The cause of cortisol imbalance could be emotional stress, food intolerances, excessive exercise, and irregular sleep schedule, among others. The old adage about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is true. Eating a breakfast that includes protein and healthy fats within an hour of waking up will aid in metabolism and cortisol balance. In this post we will discuss the best things to eat to balance your cortisol levels and to start the day on the right foot, along with recipes.

Fat Focusing on healthy fats in the morning will account for steady energy all day long. This will help shift your body from relying on sugar for fuel to relying on fat. Sugar is like the hare- a quick burst of energy with an even quicker burn out, known as the sugar crash. Fat is like the tortoise- low, slow, and long lasting.

Avocado Sweet Potato “Toast” From Dr. Will Cole

Ingredients 1 large sweet potato 2 large eggs 1/2 of an avocado Sea salt

Preparation Slice the sweet potato lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. You’ll be using two slices – reserve the rest for another use (or keep them wrapped in the freezer for future “toast”)

Place the two sweet potato slices in the toaster on the highest setting. Toast for about 5 minutes or until cooked entirely. Toast a couple times if needed.

While the sweet potato is toasting, cook the eggs to your preference.

Cut the avocado into slices.

Top the sweet potato toast with egg and avocado. Sprinkle with sea salt (and a dash of hot sauce if you’d like!)

Protein Protein is essential for balancing energy levels without a blood sugar spike, as well as avoiding sugar and caffeine cravings. A morning meal high in protein raises the brain’s tyrosine levels. This means can improve your brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of your body, helping you wake up by producing neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin which give us energy and help us feel alert (Appleby, 2018). However, make sure your protein intake isn’t too high. An overdose of protein will cause the body to convert protein into sugar, which will be stored as excess fat (Pick, 2017).

Baked Vegan Breakfast Sausage Patties From Karissa Besaw Makes 3 servings

Ingredients 1 can pinto beans, drained (reserve liquid) 2 Tbsp. reserved can liquid 3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs or oat flour 2 tsp. soy sauce or tamari 2 tsp. garlic powder 2 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. dried sage 1 tsp. paprika 1 tsp. dried rosemary 1/4 tsp. dried thyme Pinch of red pepper flakes Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation Preheat the oven to 475F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse together the pinto beans and reserved can liquid in a food processor or blender. Don't blend into total mush, keep a little texture.  Mix the rest of the ingredients into a bowl. Add the pinto beans and mix until everything to incorporated. Form into patties. This recipe will make 6 patties, if each patty is 2 tbsp worth of mixture. Place onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 16 minutes, flipping the patties over after 8 minutes.

Raw Cacao

Yes, chocolate! But not just any chocolate. Unprocessed, pure cacao. This type of chocolate has caffeine in the form of theobromine. It is a heart stimulant, dilates blood vessels, and reduces blood pressure (Pure Kakaw, 2020). Theobromine gives a longer and softer energy without the peak and crash that many people experience with caffeine. Cacao also contains mood regulator phenylethylamine which increases focus and energy.

Healthy Chocolate Chia Pudding

From Angela Liddon

Makes 2 servings


1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup chia seeds

3 Tbsp. cacao powder

1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup


In a large bowl whisk together all ingredients until the clumps are gone. Place in fridge overnight.

When ready to eat, stir well and add more milk if desired to achieve the thickness you like. Serve chilled. It’s nice with some sliced strawberries on top.

Maca Maca has been around for centuries, used as both a food and traditional medicine in Peru for over 2,000 years (Wang et al., 2007). Its many benefits include supporting adrenal function, helping mental focus, increasing stamina, and combatting fatigue (Thomas, 2020). It is said that Inca soldiers ate maca to increase their vitality and fortitude (Ley, 2003). Its malty flavor lends itself beautifully to smoothies, hot chocolate, and baked goods.

Hormone Balancing Smoothie From Aimee Ryan

Serves 1

Ingredients 2 Tbsp. almond butter

2 Tbsp. ground flax seed

1-2 tsp. maca powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 serving collagen or unflavored protein powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups almond milk (or milk of choice)

10 ice cubes

2 medjool dates, pitted


Add everything to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust flavors, if necessary.


Appleby, M (2018, Dec. 27). What are the benefits of lots of protein in the morning? SF Gate.

Besaw, K. (2017, July 10). Baked vegan breakfast sausage patties. Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen.

Campbell, B. (2017, July 19). Exactly what to eat (and what to avoid) to eliminate stress and support your adrenals. Mind Body Green.

Cole, W. (2020). How to boost your energy & stay energized throughout the day. Dr. Will Cole.

Ley, B.M. (2003). Native food & medicine of peru maca adaptogen and hormonal regulator. BL Publications.

Liddon, A. (2012, Jan. 11). Healthy chocolate chia pudding. Oh She Glows.

Pick, M. (2017, April 4). Foods for adrenal fatigue - Eating to support your adrenal glands. Marcelle Pick.

Pure Kakaw (2020). Health benefits & effects cacao brings health & happiness. Pure Kakaw.,dip%20that%20many%20people%20experience.

Ryan, A. (2016, July 18). Hormone balancing almond, mace & cinnamon smoothie. Wallflower Kitchen.

Thomas, C. (2020, May 5). These 11 caffeine alternatives will give you a natural energy boost. Mind Body Green.

Wang, Y., Wang, Y., McNeil, B., & Harvey, L.M. (2007). Maca: An andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Food Research International, 40(7), 738-792.

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