The Leptin Phenomenon – The Answer You’ve Been Looking For
Is leptin resistance keeping you from losing weight? If you are currently overweight then…Yes! It Is!
Resistance to this important hormone may, indeed, be keeping you from shedding those extra pounds. Here’s why…
Although only recently discovered, it is becoming increasingly apparent that leptin is an important hormone in the regulation of body weight – maybe even as important as insulin!
But, at first glance, the actions of this hormone can be somewhat confusing.
Leptin is a fat-reducing hormone that acts on the central nervous system by decreasing appetite and increasing your metabolic rate.
Leptin is secreted by fat cells and is and is present in the serum in direct proportion to the amount of fat you have. Because it is secreted by fat cells and acts to reduce fat, leptin should function as a self-regulating weight-control mechanism.
When you gain weight (as fat) your leptin levels rise. Higher levels of leptin, should then reduce your appetite and increase your metabolic rate helping you lose that excess body fat.
Conversely, when you lose body fat, your leptin levels fall. This would be expected to increase your appetite and lower your metabolic rate so that you conserve body fat.
At least not in people who are overweight. In fact, research has shown that lowering leptin levels in overweight people is associated with weight loss. This seeming contradiction is due to a condition known as leptin resistance.
Here’s how it should work…
But, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
Because leptin is secreted by fat cells and is present in the blood in direct proportion to the amount of fat you have, over weight people should have high levels of leptin. And they do!
But it doesn’t help them lose weight as one would expect. This is due to a condition known as leptin resistance.
When you develop resistance to leptin, your body’s tissues become “desensitized” to the hormone. This means that, although leptin levels are high, the brain perceives them as being low – and it responds accordingly.
As a result, rather than increasing your metabolic rate and decreasing your appetite, you brain slows your metabolic rate, stimulates appetite and promotes fat synthesis.
Ironically, research shows that lowering leptin levels in overweight people can restore their malfunctioning leptin system, re-sensitize tissues to leptin and stimulate weight loss. In fact…
Many people consider lowing leptin levels to be the key to successful and permanent weight loss
Here are the the most common FAQs that I receive regarding Leptin
How do I determine if I am leptin resistant? Remember, you can be LR (leptin resistant) if you’re fat or skinny. If you’re overweight by more than 30lbs, it is a lock you have some degree of LR. If you’re underweight by 20 lbs, you are likely LR, too. If you had an eating disorder, you’re likely suffering from a serious leptin issue.
The easiest test is to look in the mirror. The mirror does not lie and it is really cheap. For those people who still can’t be sure after peeking in the mirror, you can order some blood tests. My favorite is the HS CRP (highly sensitive C-Reactive protein) and the reverse T3 tests (but there are others). They are accurate in over 90% of cases.
My next favorite test is the salivary cortisol test, along with at least two of the following: HDL level, serum ferritin, homocysteine, fasting triglycerides, fasting insulin, or post-prandial glucose readings done every 15 minutes for one hour after eating.
How do I restore leptin sensitivity? If you’re overweight, eat a low carb version of the Genetix Program Diet. (Refer your counselor) If you’re really obese, eat a ketogenic version of this diet.
How long does it take to restore leptin sensitivity? This step depends upon how badly damaged your metabolism is. It also depends upon how willing you are to adapt your diet and your exercise routine. My standard answer is 6-8 weeks for most people. “Most people” refers to those within one standard deviation on either side of the mean, and that includes about 68% of people.
How do I know when I am no longer leptin resistant?
Changes in appearance: Your hair and nails will improve in color and presentation. Your pedicurist will notice you have less dead skin on your feet. Your face will look a lot better, with softer skin and better color, especially if you use olive oil or coconut oil on your skin.
Changes in mood, personality, and thoughts: You will become more thoughtful, more mindful, and less explosive in explosive environments. If you decide to add mindfulness to your reset, (you should) you will notice tremendous changes in your thinking and your ability to learn and comprehend things. Your insight, intuition, and mental acuity will be sharper. Also, your sexual desires will change and your libido will awaken. Your spouse will begin to notice things and treat
Changes in appetite: Your carbohydrate cravings will go away. You’ll feel full and not really need to eat three meals a day. You’ll notice your taste and smell change.
Changes in energy and sleep: Over 6-12 months, expect your energy to gradually improve. You will feel warmer and exude body heat, but your body temperature will actually be lower. It will continue to trend lower over the next 18-24 months while you thyroid settles into its new biologic groove. Dramatic improvements will be made in your sleep. Both migraines and muscle soreness from exercise will decrease.
After leptin sensitivity is restored, what practices should I follow? Once you realize things have changed, you need to immediately begin HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise. I am a huge believer in lifting heavy weights at low reps. At this stage, I want most people lifting at 85 – 95% of their maximum weight, 2-3 times a week. The exercise rotation can be simple. You should do this for about three weeks.
Women especially need to regularly lift weights. Women never listen to me about this, but they should! Ladies, you will never get huge muscles doing this, I promise. The reason that weight lifting is so important for women is because their pregnenolone level declines fast after the age of 30. This causes steep declines in the sex steroids (known asperimenopause), in growth hormone secretion, and in vitamin D status. The muscle strain from weight lifting is the best way to stimulate the pituitary gland to say, “We are not aging yet, and we need to continue to make these hormones.” Leptin sensitivity controls that switch. And ladies, your body composition is directly tied to this action! If you lift, your curves will be maintained until you’re ninety or greater.
Both men and women need to consider their HS CRP levels. High levels indicate a person you have entered perimenopause or andropause at a much faster pace than others. This means your time to a total reset and optimization will take longer. It does not mean it is not possible! Do not compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to how bad your own labs were when you began. The worse your labs were, the longer it will take you to get to optimal. Do not forget this biologic fact, you can’t run away from it!
After three weeks of lifting, you should add two days of running sprints. The sprints should be no longer than 40 yards and you should not exceed 20 sprints. If you can’t do twenty, work up slowly and steadily. Walking in the beginning is fine. Do not stress about this. If you do you, will raise your cortisol and the rest will take longer. Your thoughts will drive your cortisol.
As for your diet, you can begin to increase or decrease macronutrients slowly to see if it affects your cravings, weight, and your moods. If your symptoms start to return, return to your original diet.
Why should I avoid aerobic exercise during the reset? This will require some explanation. If you’re LR, you are a sugar burner, not a fat burner. That means you can not do glycolytic exercise until your muscles and lever become completely LS as well. Your brain being LS is not enough. If your muscles are still LR, they can’t properly use the glucose or the fat delivered to them.
Another reason to avoid aerobic exercise at this stage is because the AMPk pathways are not working well yet. (This will be the focus of an upcoming blog post.) AMPk is stimulated by re-teaching your muscles and liver how to deplete glycogen and metabolically respond to hypoxia and cellular stressors. Any time metabolism is stressed, AMPk should respond in kind with big results. In LR, it does not work well at all. This is why body composition is trashed in LR states. If you do aerobic exercise when you are still leptin resistant, you send signals to the mitochondria that conditions are really bad. Instead of making new mitochondria to help out, you wind up killing your cells via apoptosis. New stems cells are recruited to replace the suicidal cells. Sounds good?
The problem is those stem cells were going to help extend your life span, and, well, you just shortened it! This is why NFL players, bodybuilders, and marathoners don’t live long as group, and why they get many disease early, such as heart attacks, Alzheimers, and cancer. Not good. Longevity always mandates we protect our stem cells. We only want to use them when we really need them. If you use them early in life, you’re subtracting years from the end of your life.
Why do you need to eat within 30 minutes of waking? When you’re LR, your diurnal clocks in the brain, the liver, and muscles are all disordered. This is how we will reset those organs to once again act in unison, like an orchestra. If you break this rule, you can still find success, but it will make your reset take longer.
What exercise can I do during the LR Protocol? My personal advice it to do none. If you must, swim, walk, or have a lot of sex right before bed. Yes, timing of sex is important, too, in the reset. Oxytocin is released at climax and it is the best chemical a brain can have prior to sleep. It jump-starts the conversion of serotonin to melatonin without the four hours of complete darkness it usually takes. This is why orgasm can make you sleepy, and why moms and babies fall asleep in a rocking chair after breastfeeding.
Does everybody need 50 grams of protein at breakfast during the LR Protocol, regardless of size or sex? My answer is yes, 50 grams is the minimum for success. If you’re bigger, you can go even past 70 grams. If you can’t eat that much protein, add fat to make up the rest.
If you are obese, add coconut oil to your coffee or tea, or eat a tablespoon of it. I use Nutiva brand and love it. If you’re underweight, eat more hash browns cooked in pastured butter. Eat breakfast until you’re stuffed. If you don’t get to 50 grams of protein, don’t sweat it – I don’t want the stress to raise your cortisol! Just make sure your hunger is killed. If you get hungry before, during, or after lunch, you need to eat more protein or fat at breakfast.
Does breakfast need to be just protein, or can there be vegetables or fruit? What about fat? If you are overweight, avoid fruit. Veggies are fine as long as they are not nightshades and have a low glycemic index. If you are underweight, you can eat fruit, and I suggest blueberrries, blackberries, and grapes over all others.
Fat is great. The obese can use coconut oil as their “number one diesel.” Google “Nutiva Coconut Manna” and then send me a donation for that recommendation – you will soon be addicted! If you don’t like coconut oil or Nutiva coconut manna, you can use heavy cream, but you won’t lose weight as quickly.
For the thinner LR crowd, I recommend pastured raw heavy cream. Get some saturated fat raw cheeses from France. If you must use pasteurized stuff, go ahead, but it’s not my top choice.
What if I can’t eat a big breakfast? Don’t complain about your leptin problems then. To get where you want to be, you must do things you have not done before.
How strict is the 50 grams of carbohydrates per day limit? It is strict for the overweight and not strict for the underweight. How should they be spread out over the day? The most carbs should be eaten when cortisol is the highest, in the morning. Dinner should be the meal with the least amount of carbs. Eat the most food in the morning, with decreasing amounts as the day goes on. As you progress, you will notice yourself naturally falling into this pattern.
Can I use whey as a protein source during the LR Protocol? Can you? Sure, but you should have asked, “Should I?” The answer is no. It is too insulinogenic and raises NPY. (If you are underweight, however, you can do so without any restriction.)
Can I have coffee or tea between meals, with cream? You can have them plain, without cream. But again, should you? Nope. No snacks are allowed at all, just three meals a day. Drinks without calories don’t count as a snack and don’t even ask me about artificial sweeteners because the answer is “no freaking way.” (Stevia is allowed as long as it doesn’t have any fillers such as maltodextrin. Generally the liquid forms are fine.) The really obese or metabolically broken (such as people with fibromyalgia) may need four meals a day, but most people who eat a BAB (Big Ass Breakfast) will do fine with three meals.
Can I skip lunch during the LR Protocol if I’m not hungry? Yes, it is good if you can make it until dinner without being hungry. Then, you can eat more at dinner if need be.
Can you do IF (Intermittent Fasting) in conjunction with the LR Protocol? No way. I love IFing, but don’t try it until you are leptin sensitive again. IFing requires the AMPk pathways to be working optimally.
What if we can’t eat dinner before 7 p.m.? Drink water, have sex, and go to bed early. Turn the lights off early, too.
What if my family isn’t participating in the reset? You’re not here to save them yet. Focus on you. You are worthless to them and the world if you’re not working optimally. Trust me, when they see where you are going, they will all change. Just ask my wife how that road goes.
What should I do about meal timing if I work night shift? This one will piss you off. You will never be optimal until you quit your job and work normal hours. I have no answer for you here. Do your best, but you’re screwed. You can’t fight circadian rhythm biology.
If I fall off the wagon on the LR Protocol do I need to restart the clock? Yes…and kick yourself in the ass. If you’re not ready to change your life, keep doing what you’ve been doing. During the initial reset period, there is a 10-14 day setback each time you fall off the wagon.
Will the Leptin Reset fix insulin resistance? It is designed to eradicate it completely, if you do it correctly.
Will the Leptin Reset fix thyroid problems? If you read the Hormone 101 blog you’d know this answer already. Shame on you! Anyone with a leptin problem has a thyroid problem by definition. So if you fix leptin, you can easily fix the thyroid. If you have an extreme case, you may need a doctor to help guide you back to optimal.
Will the Leptin Reset fix adrenal problems? It depends on the severity of the condition, as most are tied to cortisol issues. High cortisol levels are harder to treat than low cortisol levels. If they are really bad, I treat both the same time. Most often though, with adaptogenic support and some good doctoring, you can fix most adrenal problems.
How do you handle cravings and headaches from the initial carb withdrawal, or the urge to snack? Magnesium is the answer, and lots of it, but avoid supplements with magnesium oxide. Start with doses of 400 mg and then increase the dose.
Your cravings will go away in a few weeks, if you don’t give in. If you read our Facebook, you’ll see that some people who gave in to their cravings had to start the process over. It takes two weeks to regain what you lost from breaking the rules. (If it’s a minor issue like only eating 49 grams of protein or eating 55 grams of carbs, you’re fine.)
If you drink a twelve pack of beer or soda and eat Domino’s, you’re done for. Family gatherings or Chinese dinners should just be handled with beef jerky and nuts in your pocket, and tell them you have a virus. If your spouse rolls their eyes…no happy ending for weeks. And make sure you announce that – the public embarrassment will alter their behavior going forward.
Can I drink alcohol or wine on the reset? Norcal Margaritas? Can you? Sure. Would I? Nope, not even Malbec!
Will this have any affect on my pee or poop? Yes it will. With time, your pee may smell like cat pee. If this occurs, increase your B complex vitamins to 2-4 a day, and your vitamin C intake to 2000 mg a day. Your poop… not so much.