Why Is Breakfast Making Me Hungry?

Post-breakfast hunger is not uncommon and in this article we explain the science behind it.

We have all heard that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  But do you ever find that eating breakfast makes you hungry?   Needing to eat again so close after your first meal is not going to help you lose or maintain your weight. But do not worry, post-breakfast hunger is very common and here’s why.


I eat breakfast at 7:30 am, only to become ravenous by 9. I can eat a big plate of eggs and avocados, and still hear my stomach growling violently by 9 o’clock, as though I’ve never even eaten. Let’s be honest. Only 90 minutes of satiety between meals doesn’t make much sense. Especially if I can then go from noon to 7 pm without a slight feeling of hunger. So how can I possibly be hungry?

I decided to do my own research to get to the bottom of this. Surprisingly I found I was not alone. I came across endless forums swamped by people experiencing the same problem. So what is the culprit, you ask?



Your adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. This is a stress hormone and its level is at its peak upon waking. It then gradually declines throughout the day until it reaches a low plateau at around 6 pm onwards.

Somewhere in the range of 30-90 minutes before waking your body begins to secrete cortisol, in order to wake you up. About 20-30 minutes after you wake up in the morning, your blood cortisol levels increase by about 50%. This morning peak in cortisol is termed the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). It happens in anticipation of the demands of your upcoming day. In other words, this response is designed to jump-start your cellular activity from a state of rest to a state of alertness and rapid response. Cortisol increases your sensory perception, wakefulness, pain tolerance and improves muscle and glucose metabolism. It gets you up and going.


This peak in cortisol probably coincides with your breakfast. What is significant about the morning cortisol peak is that has an impact on your insulin levels as well.  So, when cortisol levels are high, insulin levels tend to be high too. This is the key because insulin controls your blood sugar levels which in turn affects your hunger patterns.

When you eat breakfast at the same time as your daily cortisol peak, your insulin levels go up ( even further as it does in response to any other meal). The high level of insulin then causes your blood sugar to go down which leaves you feeling hungry.

This is especially true for the fitter individuals because exercise makes you more sensitive to the effects of insulin. So the fitter you are, the more sensitive to insulin you are. As a result, your morning cortisol peak and subsequent insulin levels increase.

post-breakfast hunger

A high amount of cortisol is only present after you awaken. Later in the day, cortisol levels are lower, which means insulin levels are lower.  That is why eating during this time causes less hunger than eating when cortisol and insulin levels are higher (in the morning). This explains why I can happily do things 5+ hours without eating in the afternoon, but can barely function less than 2 hours after eating breakfast. It all makes sense now!


This is not to say that you should skip breakfast altogether, although that can work very well for certain people. But if you are like me, and enjoy eating breakfast there’s one key thing you can do to feel satisfied for longer. A bagel and cream cheese or a bowl of cereal — these are pretty popular breakfast choices, but they aren’t the best for satiating your hunger. Loading up on sugary foods will leave you hungry as they offer a quick burst of energy that will soon come crashing down. Fiber, fat, and protein are the three magic nutrients.

Breakfast rules

If you’re unsure about what to eat for breakfast, here are some great choices:

  • Eggs with toast and fruit: Two scrambled eggs, a slice of whole-wheat toast smeared with a small scoop of avocado, and half a cup of fruit.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal alone won’t offer enough protein. Instead of water, cook your oatmeal with milk. Stir in some protein powder, nut butter, or yogurt to up the protein. Top with fresh fruit and nuts.
  • Yoghurt:  Mix your natural yogurt with fresh fruits and chopped walnuts.

Do you get hungry after eating breakfast too? What are your ways to stop the hunger? Let us know in the comments below.

Want to read more on our blog? Here are 5 unhealthy habits killing your diet.

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Wiktoria Banda

Wiktoria is a content writer and illustrator at Shape.
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