The hormone I’m talking about is leptin. If leptin levels are high, your body readily gets rid of stored belly fat, as it is no longer in starvation mode. Unfortunately, most popular diets do the exact opposite – they trick your body into believing it’s starving, which kills leptin levels. As a result, your metabolism slows down, making you gain fat much easier once you start eating more again. This is exactly what causes the common and frustrating rubber-band effect – you start dieting, lose a bit of weight, hit a plateau and then gain all the weight back, plus some more. Fortunately, a little trick that boosts leptin levels can easily avoid this problem and enable your body to effortlessly get rid of stored body and belly fat.
How ‘Starvation Mode’ Works
When you rapidly decrease your calories, exercise too much or keep your protein intake low (many people trying to lose weight do all three) your body thinks it’s starving. Its reaction is to slow down your metabolism, by halting leptin production. This takes some time to kick in, which is why you can see some weight loss in the first week or two, although a lot of it is water and muscle mass. Losing muscle mass is also a natural consequence of eating less protein. The less lean muscle mass you have, the slower your metabolism and the harder it is for your liver to burn calories. Not only that, but now your leptin levels are low. This also makes you hungry. You hit a plateau and stop losing weight. Sooner or later you start eating more again (sometimes, without even realizing it, as your body can trick you) and beacause now your metabolism is slower, your body puts on much more weight in order to prevent you from dying the next time you starve.
Your body is used to how things were thousands of years ago – eating less then meant that you didn’t have access to food. If your body did not shut down your metabolism and kept burning fat you would starve to death. Your body is very smart, but it doesn’t know you are trying to lose weight. It thinks you are starving.
Then how it is that so many people lose a ton of weight? They are (usually unknowingly) doing things that boost leptin levels and prevent their body from going into starvation mode. The result of such a diet is a fast elimination of body fat, with little regard to how much you go to the gym. As we have said before, exercise is not a very efficient way to burn fat anyway – you burn much more calories through your metabolism, regardless of whether you exercise or watch TV. However, if your metabolism has shut down, this won’t happen.
Which foods boost leptin?
This is the easiest way to keep your metabolism burning, even if you decrease your calories. Meat, eggs and dairy are good sources of protein. Plant sources include beans and nuts. Having a high-protein breakfast is the easiest way to keep your metabolism burning and prevent your body from thinking it’s starving. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein in your breakfast. You can find many recipes for shakes that are high in protein. The meat and nuts breakfast is very popular among athletes and although a bit extreme, it works extremely well if you have the time to prepare it every morning.
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost metabolism in addition to having many more health benefits. Any type of fish will do, but salmon is my favorite. Don’t go overboard with the fish however, as depending on the source it can contain some mercury. Fish is also a good source of protein, which is one more reason why it works so well for boosting your metabolism.
Avoiding foods that shut down your metabolism is just as important. Fructose is a major factor in weight gain. A diet high in fruit tells your body to store more fat and fructose naturally metabolises to fat before it can be used for energy. Historically, people ate a lot of fruit during the summer and autumn, which their body stored as fat for the winter. A moderate amount of fruit is not bad, but try to replace most of your fruit intake with vegetables. Needles to mention, also avoid drinks that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
Foods high in zinc
Zinc is found in nuts, meat and especially in seafood and fish. Deficiency in zinc can cause low leptin levels. Increasing your protein intake automatically fixes zinc deficiencies, as zinc is a always contained in high-protein foods, including plant sources like nuts and legumes.
How to Boost Leptin Effectively to Start Burning Fat?
All good diet programs, including the hot 2-week diet will increase leptin a lot and keep it high, by avoiding habituation to the higher leptin levels and by eliminating foods from your diet that will decrease leptin levels, one of many being sugar. If you don’t have the motivation to stick to a diet strategy, you can still loose a bit of weight initially by manipulating leptin with some simple tricks, including the following:
- Cycling diet: Eat 2 days of high-fat, high-protein and low carb, followed by two high-carb, low-fat days. This is a classic diet strategy, and although it does hit a plateau sooner or later, it will keep you losing weight for at least a month
- Avoiding all fructose and sweet drinks. Just eliminating the leptin-killing fructose will naturally allow your body to boost leptin levels. Anything sweet will also decrease leptin, because the sweetness sends a signal to your brain. So artificial sweeteners are also out.
- Meat-heavy dinner – this is self-explanatory. Make your dinner a big steak. This will boost leptin levels while you sleep
Leptin is Much More Important for Women
Although men can successfully lose some weight on a starvation diet, women’s bodies respond a bit different to the leptin signal and make this much more difficult. That’s why a good and proven diet plan is vital for losing weight if you are a woman. The flip side of this is that women’s fat-burning potential is even higher than men’s and we can burn fat almost four times faster than men. Unfortunately, this fat-burning potential is rarely being utilized by traditional diets. Protein intake is also much more important for women. This may seem paradoxical, as men have more muscle, but in reality, women go into starvation mode much easier than men and this happens very quickly as soon as you restrict your protein intake. Try to keep your protein intake high and you shouldn’t have any problems with this!
Written by Angelina on March 26th 2014