Leptin- the fat burning hormone

Derived from the Greek word leptos, leptin translates to meaning “thin” and is one of the most important hormones when it comes to controlling hunger and losing body fat.

 

Produced primarily in fat cells, the main function of leptin is to protect your body from starvation. Here is how your body sees things- the less body fat you have, the more food you need. Conversely, the more body fat you have, the less food is required. Leptin is secreted to reduce feeding and the accumulation of excess fat. The more fat you have the more leptin is produced. Because of this, leptin likes for you to keep your fat cells and couldn’t care less if those fat cells look good on you or not.

 

When you go through a period of calorie restriction (which is required in order to lose fat), leptin levels fall precipitously as calories are reduced and rebound very quickly when calories are dramatically increased. When leptin is low, feelings of hunger are relentless. It should be noted that leptin isn’t the only hormone that decreases with calorie restriction. Growth hormone, thyroid and testosterone also fall as your body slows your metabolism in response to the decrease in energy intake.

 

It is interesting to note that a decrease in leptin can also cause a decrease in immune system function and this may be the reason why people are more susceptible to colds and flu’s during extended periods of dieting.

 

In a nutshell, the amount of leptin your body is producing is a direct reflection of the amount of body fat you are carrying and how much you are eating. Overweight people have higher circulating levels of leptin than their leaner counterparts. Remember too that your body perceives stored body fat as an energy reserve and not as a detriment to your aesthetic ideal. I am sure you have noticed with your own body how it is VERY easy to gain fat and much harder to lose it. This just plain sucks I know but it is the case for the vast majority of human beings. There is a simple evolutionary reason for this- as humans evolved there was a risk with being too lean and having extra pounds meant you could survive longer during periods when there was no food available.

 

Your body couldn’t care less about losing those last few pounds that are driving you crazy and in fact wants to hold on to them as a means of survival if a famine should suddenly occur. Leptin helps your body to do this by increasing hunger and decreasing metabolism as calories decrease.

 

How to increase leptin

To a person following a low calorie diet for an extended period the answer to increasing leptin is quite simple (and enjoyable) – eat more. Pretty much all of the negative adaptations that happen when you diet for a prolonged period can be reversed with a good old fashioned cheat meal (or two).

Once again I must be clear on something- you MUST have been following a low calorie/low carb diet for several days (4-6) in order for this to work to your benefit. One day of dieting isn’t enough- your body does not react that fast. There needs to be several days of dieting (together with exercise) in order to cause leptin to drop. I talk about this more in my how to cheat on your diet post.

 

 

Leptin resistance

As stated, leptin levels decrease with dieting and this can be by as much as 50% in only one week’s time.  This is one of the reasons why very low calorie diets should never be followed for an extended period. However, there is another issue that can impact leptin- leptin resistance.

 

Like insulin resistance, your body can also become resistant to the action of leptin. This is generally caused by years of having high body fat levels and eating a diet too high in processed foods.

 

Leptin resistance occurs when your body no longer utilizes leptin efficiently even when high levels of the hormone are present. At this point, leptin can no longer do its job properly and loses much of its fat loss benefits. People who develop leptin resistance have a very difficult time losing body fat and maintaining a healthy weight. This is commonly seen in overweight people who cannot control their appetite and food intake.

 

Preventing leptin resistance

The following are five ways that you can maintain adequate leptin without growing resistant to its effects;

 

Cut back on fructose. Excess fructose increases blood triglycerides that block the passage of leptin to the brain. Consuming small amounts of berries are fine but stay away from gorging on bananas, apples, peaches etc.

 

Reduce intake of grains. Grains such as wheat, rye and barley contain lectins that can bind to the leptin receptors and cause leptin resistance. I always recommend that people start any diet by eliminating high allergen foods such as dairy and wheat and this provides another reason as to why this is important.

 

Ensure adequate rest. Being sleep deprived has been linked to lowered leptin levels. Be sure to get at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night.

 

Eat sufficient protein. People who struggle with losing fat will always benefit from a dramatic increase in dietary protein. I have found that eating large amounts of protein for breakfast blunts hunger for many hours and provides excellent energy and focus. Leptin sensitivity will improve simply by substituting the typical North American breakfast staples (such as breakfast cereals and breads) for meat, eggs, nuts and other protein foods. People who are leptin resistant should try to consume 50 grams of protein at breakfast alone. I do this each day by using a combination of my coffee protein smoothie and a serving of eggs (usually a spinach omelette) together with some raw nuts.

 

Take regular diet breaks. As discussed, eating low calories for too long will reduce leptin levels and send hunger soaring and fat burning hormones plummeting. I recommend scheduling in weekly “re-feed” days to help prevent this from happening.

 

Preventing leptin resistance while maintaining adequate levels is possible while on a calorie restricted diet. Put these strategies to use in your daily life and you too can reap the benefits of this incredible fat burning hormone.

 

 

This post was written by

Bruce – who has written posts on Cutting edge muscle building and fat loss secrets.
bruce krahn is a best-selling author, writer, researcher, personal trainer and professional speaker. he has coached people for two decades both in person and online. he created this site to be an honest source of useful, practical information you can use to improve your health, build muscle, lose fat and get the lean body look.

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About

bruce krahn is a best-selling author, writer, researcher, personal trainer and professional speaker. he has coached people for two decades both in person and online. he created this site to be an honest source of useful, practical information you can use to improve your health, build muscle, lose fat and get the lean body look.

4 Responses to “Leptin- the fat burning hormone”

  1. VERY GOOD ADVISE BRUCE… NEVER KNEW PROTIEN WAS A GOOD SOURCE.. TO HELP LOSE WEIGHT..

    I DECREASE MY INTAKE OF PROTIEN… AND I GUESS ONE OF THE REASONS I PUT ON WEIGHT..

    I HAVE ADDED SUPPLEMENT OF PROTIEN.. BUT NOT ENOUGH, TO MY SURPRISE.. I NEED MORE PROTIEN.. INSTEAD OF WHOLE WHEAT.. AND FIBRE.. DOESNT HELP WHY I AM NOT HAVING ENOUGH PROTIEN.. SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT..
    REGARDS ANNETTE DEGRUCHY

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comment Annette- make sure your breakfast is always high in protein and low in simple sugars and refined carbs.

  2. jane says:

    great info. i will definitley increase my protein intake. Interesting about the affects of fructose.

  3. jane says:

    great information on Leptin. thank you!

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