Insulin is the best known as the hormone responsible for fat and weight gain. We
have also previously looked at the role of cortisol too in getting rid of that last bit of
stubborn fat. However, there is another hormone that is just as influential when it
comes to your body’s ability to control weight and burn fat. If you haven’t heard of the
“fat burning” hormone, then FFA is here to shed some light on the implications that
this lesser known hormone has.
What is Leptin?
Leptin, as it is officially known, is produced by your fat cells. It is a protein that your
fat cells release into your blood and is actually the hormone that allows your body to
use the energy you have stored as fat. Leptin is also known as the “I am full”
hormone. If your body doesn’t get the “I am full” signal from Leptin, you will just want
to eat, and eat, until you can’t eat any more. Even though you might have high levels
of Leptin in your bloodstream, it may not be getting to your brain. There tends to be
more “signalling problems and delays” as we get older when our body tends to slow
down it’s metabolism (rate of calorie burn). It is a bit like a brake mechanism which is
not as effective at braking i.e stopping us from eating and/or drinking.
Leptin is intricately linked to insulin. In fact, Leptin works in the opposite way to insulin
- insulin stores fat and Leptin burns fat. Interestingly though, what influences Leptin is
the amount of fat you have within your body. The more fat you have, the more Leptin
will be available so you can burn off the fat. But here’s the catch - there had to be
The Leptin Problem
Essentially as you lose more weight and get leaner, your Leptin level gets lower,
which makes burning fat and losing weight more difficult. Lower Leptin levels also
tends to decrease your energy level, making you feel less like getting active. Our
bodies are smart - try to listen to it, act upon it’s signals as it is trying to, among many
things, to regulate, to heal, to improve and merely looking out for us believe it or not!
Lack of fat storage is seen as potential energy loss and therefore a threat to your
body’s survival. So your body goes into survival mode and conserves energy; which
also means keeping your fat intact.
However, modern living and access to food 24/7 has caused an over indulgence of
unhealthy and sometimes unrecognisable foods for our bodies, foods leading to
hormonal problems - namely Insulin and Leptin - and resulting in excessive weight
and fat gain. The good news is that cleaning up your diet by eating whole foods,
eliminating refined foods, consuming proper ratios of macronutrients (protein, carbs
and fat as well as essential micronutrients), total calorie control and including
exercise on a regular basis will fix the majority of your hormonal problems and
enable you to effectively lose weight and burn off unwanted fat.
However, if you have been working out and following the proper diet plan and have
stopped seeing results, it may be because your Leptin levels are too low. In most
cases Leptin issues appear when your weight loss and fat reduction stalls after fixing
your diet and you have been exercising on a regular basis for a while. If you are for
example on a very low-carb diet for a long time, you may have lowered your Leptin to
a point that your body is not able to effectively burn fat any longer in which case it is
advised to re-visit your diet and to possibly increase your carb intake for a while to kick-start
Leptin production naturally. More general pointers below.
How to Boost Your Leptin Levels
One of the best ways to boost your Leptin levels is to get more active, get into action, so it
can start to burn off fat again and slowly increase your carbohydrate intake for one to
two days out of the week. Some people call this a cheat day, but I like to think of it as
more of a carb reload day and remember, general guideline is to consume a
minimum of 150 grams of carbs for a healthy brain alone on a daily basis. You will
still be eating high quality foods (not junk food) with good sources of nutrients, just
foods that are higher in carbohydrate content. There is always a delicate balance of
science and art behind every diet and this is no different. It will more than likely take
a few trial and errors to find out what works best for you.
So if you have stopped progressing, even though your diet is really good and
your fitness routine is solid, you may be suffering from low Leptin levels. A boost in
your calories by increasing your carbohydrate intake may just be what you need to
kick-start your fat burning and weight loss again. A healthy diet is a well balanced
diet which should be sustainable for life.
Please always let me know if you require any further guidance.