Leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure, and it may be one of the most important hormones in determining your health.
Leptin is a powerful hormone produced by your fat cells. Leptin, tells your brain whether you should be hungry, whether you should eat and tells the body if it should make more fat. In short, leptin is the way that your fat stores speak to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, importantly, what to do with it.
If your leptin signaling is working properly, when your fat stores are “full,” extra calories will cause a surge in your leptin level, which signals your brain to stop feeling hungry, to stop eating and stop storing fat.
Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin from overeating, it will become resistant, just as your body can become resistant to insulin.
The only known way to re-establish proper leptin (and insulin) signaling is to prevent those surges, and the only known way to do that is via diet.
Insulin and leptin work together to control your metabolism, and, to an extent, your rate of metabolism.
Controlling hunger is a major way that leptin controls energy storage. Hunger is a very powerful, drive that, if stimulated long enough, will make you eat and store more energy. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry, and the only way to do this is to control the hormones that regulate hunger, the primary one being leptin.
You become leptin-resistant by the same general mechanism that you become insulin-resistant which is by continuous exposure to high levels of the hormone. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and processed foods your body will release surges of leptin. You can avoid this by eating a diet of lean protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and TMRzoo.com and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.