Have you ever wondered, why your efforts are not paying off, if weight loss was only about calorie in and calorie out calculation or exercising hard? Why do some people keep feeling hungry and gaining weight?
The answer is, weight management is a complex science rather than plain mathematics. Our body has a “Stop eating” hormone, known as Leptin or the “starvation” hormone that tells the brain when you are full and have sufficient energy to continue performing daily tasks.
Leptin hormone was first discovered by researchers in the early 1990s and soon shot to popularity when it was linked to have positive effects on weight loss.
A wide variety of leptin supplements are available in the market today, including Biotrust Leptiburn and Leptinal. However, experts have contrasting opinions about the supplements being legit or just another media hype.
What is Leptin and how does it work?
Our fat cells secrete the protein hormone that is vital in regulating the amount of calories we take in and spend. It is also responsible for the amount of fat storage in our body and affects the rate of metabolism.
The leptin produced by the body is directly proportional to the fat cells present in our body. So the more the fat storage, the more the leptin produced. This hormone travels to the brain via the bloodstream and tells it when it needs to stop eating.
If the leptin levels are at the threshold, which is set genetically in a different way for every body, the brain senses it as sufficient energy level reached and no more calorie intake required.
Conversely, if the brain senses low leptin levels, it signals the body of exhausting fat stores and moves it into the starvation mode. We thus feel hungry and lazy as the body metabolism is slowed down in an effort to conserve energy.
Figure 1 - Pic credit authoritynutrition.com
What is Leptin resistance? How does it affect weight?
Trouble starts when the brain does not intercept the leptin signal, is the condition known as Leptin resistance. It is being widely researched and blamed as the major driver for obesity. The leptin levels might be higher than the threshold, resulting from high levels of fat storage, but the brain does not read the leptin levels right.
The brain thinks that the body is in low energy mode and commences the starvation mode process. It makes the individual feeling always hungry, over eating and low metabolism resulting in obesity.
How to make Leptin work for you?
Similar to any other hormonal condition, it’s tough to single out one reason for leptin resistance in any individual.
Common factors include increased fructose intake, anxiety, sleep deprivation, high insulin levels and increased carb intake.
Logic tells us that giving leptin could help treat obesity by increasing levels through supplements and eating leptin-rich foods. This should tell the brain to stop eating and increase metabolism.
However, what human studies suggested was far from this assumption. It showed that obese people have high levels of leptin and taking leptin supplements is not effective in burning fat unless the person does not produce any leptin altogether.
Most obese people are leptin-resistant and do not lack leptin, resulting in their brain not reading the "full" signal and they keep craving.
The good news is that leptin resistance can be reversed and the brain can be re-sensitized to correctly detect the leptin signal. The ideal way to achieve this is through adapting a healthier lifestyle and eating right.
Take a look at some useful tips to improve your leptin response and take control of your weight loss-
• Reduce the intake of any form of sugar including fructose, sucrose (and other foods ending with “ose”) along with carbs. Fructose has been identified through research as the main guy for driving up obesity because not only does it stimulate weight gain by making you feel hungrier and blocking fat burning process, but it also generates more fat for the same amount of energy when compared to other type of sugars.
• Limit the consumption of refined and processed foods. They cause diet-induced inflammation, which is a prime reason for increase in leptin resistance.
• Reduce grains consumption as they are readily converted to glucose and contain lectin that increases leptin resistance.
• Try eating a protein-rich breakfast along with good fats like meat and avocado which helps improve your metabolism and lose weight.
• Eat atleast 3 hours before going to bed and avoid late night snacking. This gives a good break to your liver and hormones. So when you start exercising in the morning after a good night’s sleep, your carbs will have been burnt and you will be burning more fats rather than just carbs.
• Skipping meals and irregular eating habits result in binge eating and cravings. Regular and small meals help stimulate metabolism and helps take food off your mind, reducing the cravings.
• Eat Omega-3 rich food like whole foods, seeds, nuts, fish oil, grass-fed meat and wild salmon. Omega helps fight inflammation and is great at regulating healthy leptin levels.
• Exercising regularly is really important in stimulating energy production in the body. In some cases, if your exercise regime is not helping you lose weight, you should try including weightlifting to switch on your metabolism and reset your leptin levels.
• Sometimes you need to include a re-feed or a cheat day in your health plans because over time you might stop losing weight with just exercising or keeping your body calorie deprived for too long. Eat more carbohydrate and include medium portions of protein but maintain fat intake to low. This will help to stimulate for metabolism and your leptin levels.
However, if you are leptin resistant, talk to your doctor first before changing your lifestyle and starting on an exercise plan. Focus on complete healing of your body rather than just weight loss.
Leptin is one of the most vital hormones that you probably have been neglecting in your journey to burn fat and become lean. If you are unaware and your leptin levels are un-regulated you might be working hard to lose weight but without any result. Furthermore, your energy levels, mental alertness, and efficiency may suffer as well.