Sure calories in and calories out is important for weight loss, but there’s also a lot of talk about the importance of hormonal health.
In a previous post, I talked about the importance of thyroid health in optimizing your metabolism.
Today, I want to talk about hunger hormones, primarily leptin, and how being leptin resistant can be a big contributor to fat gain.
Leptin is a hormone that is produced in the fat cells.
When functioning properly, leptin tells the brain that we have enough stored fat for survival, therefore we shouldn’t need to eat anymore.
In other words, it tells you when you should feel full.
Since leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells, the more fat cells you have, the more leptin you produce.
This means obese people typically produce a lot of leptin.
This may sound like a good thing, but it’s not.
The problem is, since obese people produce so much leptin, they also become leptin resistant, meaning the leptin signals that should tell you when you’re full, don’t work properly.
But when leptin is optimized and functioning properly, it triggers the brain to reduce hunger cravings and can help with improving your metabolism.
So as you can tell, the more leptin sensitive your body is (which is a good thing), the more potential your body has for fat burn, as well as higher quality sleep.
Well first of all, don’t starve yourself.
Leptin levels can decline, and metabolism slows, when calories are excessively reduced for extended periods of time.
This is one of the many reasons why you should never starve yourself when the goal is weight loss.
Be smart and strategic when you feed your body.
Lower carb diets have been shown to help improve leptin sensitivity, which can lead to reduced hunger and cravings.
When people consistently eat more carbs then their body requires, insulin levels continually remain high, thus making the body’s cells insulin resistant.
This creates more insulin and leptin production, which then sends a message to the brain to also become leptin resistant, therefore not allowing the brain to signal to your body when you’re actually full.
So you continue eating more and more and having more and more cravings.
Just like too many carbs can cause insulin and leptin issues, not eating enough carbs can also negatively affect leptin.
Following a lower carb diet, like I often recommend, DOES NOT mean a zero carb diet.
By massively reducing carbs in your diet, the body won’t release sufficient amounts of insulin, thus the body also won’t release sufficient levels of leptin.
Therefore, you binge eat because the body doesn’t produce enough leptin to tell you when you’re full.
#1. Carb cycling and Cheat Meals
As you know, one way to follow a lower carb diet while still optimizing your hormones, your metabolism, and enjoying life, is via carb cycling.
With carb cycling, you’ll typically have low carb days, medium carb days, and higher carb days.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, the higher carb days typically act as your cheat meal.
Carbs in a cheat meal (more so than fat) are a great way to optimize leptin levels.
Of course this only works when you are in a calorie deficit and following a healthy meal plan throughout the week.
#2. Go to bed earlier
Do you ever notice when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you tend to have a lot of cravings?
This lack of high quality sleep can diminish the production of leptin and boost ghrelin, which is a hormone that tells you when you’re hungry (even when you may not be).
Leptin tells you when you’re full and ghrelin tells you when you’re hungry.
Lack of sleep can negatively affect both of these hunger hormones.
So aim for 7-8 hours of sleep to keep these hunger hormones in check.
#3. Focus on whole foods higher in protein and fat and lower in carbs
Once again, improving insulin sensitivity can also improve leptin sensitivity.
But remember, I said lower in carbs. Not zero carbs.
As mentioned earlier, healthy complex carbs in moderation are also important to optimize insulin and spike leptin sensitivity and your metabolism.
When you have a plan, you won’t fall into the trap of eating the refined and processed carbohydrates that spike your insulin and blood sugar, thus increasing your hunger.
So if you like variety, our Eat Clean Live Lean Cookbook has over 200 of these healthy and delicious recipes.
Or if you prefer simplicity, our Live Lean 20 Diet uses just 20 ingredients, for 20 simple recipes, prepared in 20 minutes or less.
There you go Live Lean Nation.
Improve your leptin sensitivity and spark up your metabolism by following our quick, healthy, easy, affordable, and delicious recipes and meal plans.
It’s all done for you!
Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.