In part I, I explained what Leptin is and it’s critical role in affecting your weight. We understood how, and when Leptin is released into the bloodstream and ultimately transported to the brain via Leptin receptors. As mentioned, this serves the purpose of delivering the message of satiety to the brain. In turn, initiating metabolic reactions (to up-regulate metabolism) as well as other metabolism influencing reactions in the body.
I also outlined the issues of Leptin Resistance and how no diet will work if you are resistant as well as other factors that override Leptin’s message.
In this article I will cover ways in which you can manage your Leptin levels and how you can avoid being Leptin resistant.
A decrease of Leptin levels has been proven to be directly linked with the reduction in calories. The latter means that as you reduce your calories (which is the case in any diet) the lower your Leptin levels get.
The reduction in the amount of Leptin reaching your brain makes you constantly hungry and causes your body to work against your goals.
Now you’re probably wondering how you can lose weight without cutting calories.
So, lets first cover the caloric-intake side of things;
- Avoid Drastic Reduction In Calories
Leptin levels are expected to drop as you diet. Its how the body works. Our body is a machine with the sole purpose of survival. When it senses a reduction in caloric intake, it will adjust accordingly to preserve energy.
This is done by slowing down functions in the body such as heart rate, blood pressure, hormonal release etc.
Study Shows: After a week of dieting, Leptin drops 30-50%
While this is expected, our aim is to slow down the rate at which this happens. This slow down is accelerated when calories are cut too low and too fast.
If your maintenance caloric level is at 2400 cals, and you decide to start a diet at 1500 cals, your body will automatically thinks its in danger of starving, switching to survival mode. You may lose weight for a week or two but I guarantee the weight loss will stop. Not to mention, at that caloric level your body will sacrifice your hard earned muscles before ever touching your fat stores; leaving you looking worse than you did before you gained the weight.
Another thing to note is that Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, requiring a great deal of caloric energy just to maintain it. Meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. In turn, the more muscle you lose, the lower your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) gets.
To prevent this from happening, try to figure out your maintenance calories which I outlined how in this article and start by reducing your intake by 500 cals from your BMR (not RMR).
- Caloric Cycling
Another approach is to keep your body guessing. Instead of having a constant daily deficit, cycle your calories daily. With this tactic, you will cycle through high and low days ultimately maintaining a 3500 caloric deficit (500 cals x 7).
One perk of this approach is the psychological and physiological alleviation. Since you have high days, you lessen the feeling of being deprived when on a diet while simultaneously serving to keep your body guessing. This makes it harder for your body to adapt thus slowing down the rate at which your Leptin levels drop.
Below you’ll find an example of a Caloric cycling approach for 2 individuals with maintenance rates of 2000, 2500 cals:
- G Flux
Now while this term may be new to you as it was to me a few years back, it has been around for quite some time now. This theory was brought forward by Dr. John Berardi; a renowned nutritionist who is highly respected in the field. His theory advocates, “eating more to lose more”. That’s right! You eat above your maintenance level but can still see your weight decrease.
However, it’s not that simple. If you merely do that, you will grow another chin and we don’t want that, now do we? This theory emphasizes creating a caloric deficit solely through exercise versus the common diet approach. So, instead of having a maintenance level of 2500 cals and eating at 2000 to lose (500 cals deficit), you use exercise to burn an additional 500 cals and thereby raising your maintenance to 3000 cals and eating 2500 to lose.
Although it seems to be the same thing, it’s not.
The deficit achieved through the added exercise has a different effect on your body versus the same deficit coming from caloric restriction. Not to mention the psychological benefit of being able to eat more which further decreases the feeling of deprivation often felt while on a diet.
Follow this approach with caution, as there is a thin line between adding exercise to benefit from G-flux and running the risk of over-training.
Using this tactic will help keep food volume (I.E. calories) the same if not more, thereby regulating Leptin levels and avoiding the defensive reactions of the body from calorie restriction
- Avoid high GI Foods
In Part I, we spoke about how Insulin and Insulin resistance overrides Leptin’s function to regulate appetite and fat burning. Food that is high in GI Rating causes an insulin spike interfering with Leptin’s function.
If your diet is high in simple carb foods such as sugary, processed meals you put yourself at a risk of becoming insulin resistant if not also, Leptin resistant.
Avoid those foods and focus on maintaining a diet with an emphasis on low GI foods like complex carbs.
Refer to this article to learn more about carbs as well as an exhaustive list of different foods and their corresponding GI Rating.
- Incorporate Cheat Meals / Days
If you’d rather follow a constant daily deficit, incorporating a cheat meal / day will have benefits, both; psychologically and physiologically. Factoring in a cheat day will allow you to refuel your body and mental strength for another bout of dieting.
Now this is a double-edged sword as some people take this too far, hindering their progress and derailing their efforts.
If you are already lean, cheat days are great to shed that last bit of fat. However if you still have a long way to go in terms of fat loss, then a weekly cheat “MEAL” will suffice or maybe even a cheat meal every 10 days.
Don’t make this a Gluttonous no-holds barred feast!!!
Don’t panic if you gain 1 or 2 lbs. the next day. It will subside as this gain will mainly be due to water retention and replenished glycogen stores. Especially if your cheat meal / day was carb rich.
Note that Letpin levels are solely influenced by carb intake. Having said that, focus on carb rich foods. Overeating on protein / fats will not reap the same effect on Leptin levels.
- Managing Leptin and insulin resistance through exercise
Countless research has shown that exercising has significantly helped individuals with the aforementioned conditions. The two conditions are intimately dependent upon one another. Leptin and insulin sensitivity can be significantly improved through exercise. Mainly through intense / vigorous exercise.
In other words, BREAK A SWEAT!!
Exercise, coupled with a restricted low carb diet has been proven to show great improvements specifically resistance training and HIIT (high intensity interval training)
Sufficient sleep is one of the most important factors in controlling Leptin levels. When we sleep, our body produces Melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in our Pineal gland in the brain. Think of it as our body’s biological clock (regulator). It’s responsible for regulating our sleep and wake cycles amongst other things.
People who suffer from insomnia or are sleep deprived showed lower levels of Leptin as well as some being Leptin resistant in extreme cases.
So ensure to get adequate sleep daily to ensure optimal hormonal profiles.
And that’s a wrap on Leptin :)
To conclude, a few cliff notes;
- Leptin equates to a level of “available energy” for your body
- Leptin basically tells your body:
- How much fat you are carrying
- How much you are eating
- Secreted by your fat cells
- Leptin is basically a safeguard from starving. With not enough “energy” body slows itself down
- Lower levels of Leptin could also impact dopamine signaling (aka increased resistance)
- Low lepton levels also make it hard to feel satiated
- In the short-term, Leptin tells your body it is full
- Refeeds should be high carb, moderate protein, low-fat
- E.g., Mark Sisson recommends 250-300g. Martin Birchen targets 100-150g.
- Post workout is optimal time
- Intermittent fasting (IF) is possibly positive – during fasting it falls, but breaking fast/reefed elevates it
- In one study, mean Leptin levels are increased. In a Ramadan study, the mean was the same
- High amounts of fructose increases Leptin resistance
- Responds to both over and under-feeding
- After a week of dieting, Leptin drops 30-50%
- Leptin seems to respond directly with carbohydrate metabolism in fat cells
- Short-term carb overfeeding can bring Leptin levels up (faster than fat is gained)
- Only responds to carb-intake. Overfeeding on fat does not produce a similar response
- Best way to raise Leptin is a high carb/high calorie refeed of at least two meals (e.g. lunch + snack).
- The leaner you are, the more refeeds are important in restoring Leptin levels
- Exercise and fish oil also can improve Leptin transport (aka sensitivity)