Leptin: The Key to Weight Control
Getting a decent night’s sleep is vital to our mental and physical health. But did you know that sleep may also be the key to unlocking your body’s fat burning mechanism? Getting a good night’s sleep determines how balanced certain key weight-regulating hormones are in the body. The most important of these is Leptin.
Leptin can be seen as the conductor of your body’s orchestra. When all the instruments are harmonious and synchronized, beautiful music results. Similarly, when your Leptin levels are healthy, your body is humming along, you feel great and you are able to effectively control your eating. Leptin is a master hormone that regulates the hundred of trillions of cells in your body. It does it by synchronizing the functions in your body.
Leptin has as one of it’s regulatory actions, control of hormones that set the tone for a good night’s sleep. It controls the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, regulates growth hormone and thyroid. It also synchronizes sex hormone release. All of these things combine to produce a good night’s sleep.
In 1995, researchers at Rockefeller University in the United States discovered a gene in fat cells (the body cells where fat-triglycerides are stored) that direct the production of Leptin (the word is Greek and means thin).
The Hunger Controller
Among all of its other duties of oversight, Leptin has the critical job of controlling hunger and feelings of fullness. It does this by telling your body how much fat you have stored and, therefore, how much more food you need to provide the energy to fuel your day. But Leptin also reduces the hypothalamus’s secretion of NPY, the hormone that signals hunger. When the Rockefeller researchers injected Leptin into specially bred fat mice, the mice ate less, burned food faster and lost significant amounts of weight.
From studies like this, researchers have determined that Leptin is the gate-keeper of fat metabolism and the regulator of hunger. There are three ways that it does so:
- It counteracts the effects of NPY.
- It counteracts the effects of anandamide, which is another hunger stimulator.
- It promotes the production of a-MSH, which is an appetite suppressant.
If your body’s fat cells are producing a healthy amount of leptin, the hormone will signal your body to eat less and you will be more able to control your weight.
Many people who are overweight are producing enough Leptin because Leptin is produced in fat cells. The problem, however, is that the hypothalamus in the brain is not getting the message from the Leptin hormones to burn fat for energy. This will force the body to burn sugar rather than fat for energy. Without this appetite regulator working optimally, we will also be very likely to eat more.
The Dreaded Starvation Response
Leptin resistance in the body is taken by our system as a sign of starvation. In turn, certain mechanisms in the body swing into action to increase your fat stores. The upshot of all of this is that a less than optimum level of Leptin release will make us eat more and, at the same time make our body think that we are starving, thus telling us to eat even more.
Now, there are a number of factors that contribute to Leptin resistance. They include such things as:
- eating too many simple carbohydrates
- high-stress level
- high fructose
- over-consumption of grain
- lack of sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, your Leptin levels are negatively affected. The result is that you don’t feel as full as you should after you eat, which leads to binge eating and snacking – two major fat gain culprits.
How Sleep Affects Leptin Levels
The impact of lack of sleep on Leptin and weight gain was clearly shown in a couple of studies, one conducted at the University of Chicago in Illinois and the other at Stanford University in California. In the first study, 12 men were deprived of sleep for two days, followed by two days of extra sleep. Leptin levels were taken before and after each sleep period. During the restricted sleep period, the men’s Leptin levels dropped significantly. In concert with this, their desire for high carbohydrate, high calories foods increased by a whopping 45% over their desire after the extended sleep period.
The second study involved 1,000 volunteers who recorded their sleeping patterns before having their Leptin levels recorded. The results showed that respondents who got less than an average of 8 hours of sleep per night had elevated lower of Leptin and higher body fat levels. What’s more, the people who slept the least had the highest levels of Leptin – and the highest body fat levels.
Leptin resistance – that is your brain’s inability to read the messages that Leptin is sending it – coupled with diminished levels of Leptin in your body, leads to weight loss resistance. That means that you will have an inability to lose weight despite how cleanly you eat and how much you exercise. It is this inability to burn fat that is keeping millions of people fat.
3 Keys to Overcoming Leptin Resistance
A major key to overcoming Leptin resistance is to get a good night’s sleep. Here are 6 tips for enjoying a more peaceful slumber:
- Establish a sleep routine.
- Get up at the same time each day.
- Limit daytime napping.
- Get a handle on stress.
- Ditch the coffee and alcohol.
- Keep all technology out of your bedroom, including your smartphone.
While all forms of exercise will help to balance out your Leptin resistance, it is high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that do it most effectively. HIIT involves performing quick periods of hard and fast cardio followed by even shorter rest periods for repeat cycles. Perform 20 minutes of HIIT training 3 times per week.
- Reduce your intake of sugar, processed carbohydrates, fructose and grain foods.
- Eat a protein with every meal.
- Eat more healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, and fish oil.
- Don’t eat after 7 pm.
Grehlin: The Hunger Hormone
Hormonal Balancing Act
The human body is designed to maintain a level of homeostasis, or balance. When it comes to eating it does this by emitting feelings of either hunger or satiation. This requires communication between two different bodily systems – the digestive system and the brain. We become hungry when the brain tells us that we are hungry. The part of the brain responsible for delivering that message is the hypothalamus. But what is it that signals the hypothalamus?
Hormones are responsible for long-range signaling in our bodies. Hormones are molecules that are created in bodily tissue and which travel in the blood to areas of the body. When they reach their destination they bind to a receptor cell. Then their effect is realized.
There are a number of hormones that act upon the hypothalamus to affect hunger. The two key hormones, however, are Grehlin and leptin. Grehlin produces feelings of hunger while leptin makes us feel full. Our focus is on Grehlin.
Grehlin Makes You Hungry
Grehlin is the main hormone that tells the hypothalamus that we are hungry. It is a hormone that is made in the top area of the stomach, known as the fundus. It is secreted into the blood and transported to the brain by way of the circulatory system.
When Grehlin is made in our stomach and pumped into our system, we tend to eat more. Grehlin is responsible for all those times that we reach for a snack or junk food when we know that we’re not really hungry. That’s because Grehlin is one of the hormones in our body that tells us that we are hungry. Sleep deprivation increases the levels of Grehlin. In fact, in order to control your Grehlin levels, it is absolutely vital that you sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours each night.
Enhanced Grehlin levels in your body don’t just make you hungry. They also slow down your metabolism as well as decreasing the body’s ability to burn fat.
Grehlin and leptin are like the Ying and Yang of our hunger center. When one is high the other is low, and vice versa. Of course, when we haven’t eaten for a while, our Grehlin levels will build up. It’s interesting to note, though, that just looking at images of food can enhance the levels of Grehlin in the blood.
Grehlin Makes You Smart
As well as acting on the hypothalamus, Grehlin also acts upon the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. Grehlin causes the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus. It also strengthens the connections between neurons. Grehlin then helps us become better at making new memories and learning.
If we put the two functions of Grehlin together, we see that hunger goes hand-in-hand with learning potential. Increased levels of Grehlin, then, will make us eat more, gain body weight AND give us a better memory.
Lose Fat or Get Smarter: Your Choice
The dual role of Grehlin in the human body leads to a trade-off for most of us. We all know that the key to weight loss is a reduction in calories. We can achieve this by eating less and exercising more. And, when we are not hungry we will eat less. So, are we going to choose the healthy weight loss benefits of less Grehlin, or the memory enhancing effects of more Grehlin?
My bet is that you’ve opted for the less Grehlin as the better option. After all, how good is a sharp memory inside of a body that is unhealthy, overweight and sluggish? And besides, feeling hungry all day long just isn’t much fun!
4 Ways to Lower your Grehlin Levels
Eat every 3 hours – by getting out of the 3 meal per day habit, you’ll be able to regulate the release of Grehlin. Six smaller meals that are protein and healthy fat based, with a small serving of vegetable carbs every three hours will have you feeling satisfied right throughout the day.
Eat more high fiber foods – High fiber foods that contain a lot of water stretch the wall of your stomach much more than low-calorie convenience foods. When your stomach is stretched, you get a feeling of fullness and your Grehlin levels decrease.
Eat protein at every meal – Protein is the macronutrient that takes the most time to digest in the stomach, making us feel fuller longer. It is also the best macronutrient at lowering Grehlin levels.
Improve the quality of your sleep – Studies show that sleep deprivation significantly increases Grehlin levels through the night, leading to weight gain and obesity. That’s why most of us have an uncontrollable urge to head for the fridge when we wake in the middle of the night.
- Here are 5 ways to ensure that you’ll sleep soundly to keep Grehlin under control…
- Establish a pattern of sleeping so that your body gets used to going to bed at a certain time.
- Make your sleeping environment as dark as you can, while ensuring that is well ventilated and noise free.
- Make your bedroom technology no-go zone. No texting, no email checking, no YouTubing. The melatonin that your screen emits will rob you of a good night’s sleep every time.
- Don’t eat after 7 pm. Going to bed on a full stomach is an invitation to insomnia.
- Take a soothing bath just before bedtime. Use that time to empty your mind, relax and unwind.