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So Leptin says to the brain, “Yo homey, why you always hoggin’ the sugar?” This is a leptin joke that will never catch on but it cracks me up.
Most people are aware of insulin but many people are not as aware of the hormone leptin and its role in the body. Leptin is sort of like insulin’s identical brother. Each is simply a signal for the body, and a hormonal signal at that. Leptin and its receptors are spread throughout your body and even those areas which do not see the light of day! Leptin is also found in your fat tissue. It relays signals to your brain regarding energy balance and the brain relays back whether your body should release fat, keep it or store it. So if you are on a diet, or have ever been on a diet then leptin is something you need to be well versed in. Blood tests resulting in elevated triglycerides may impair your brains ability to process the relay messages between leptin receptors and the brain. This can serve as a sign of leptin resistance. One week of dieting can lower your leptin by 50%.
The role of leptin in the body is affected when insulin levels are too high due to increased inflammation related to excessive carbohydrate consumption. Leptin is a complex topic, so complex that this short primer isn’t going to tell you all you need to know but it is a start.
Leptin excess leads to resistance of signaling, much like insulin in excess leads to downgraded organ signaling. When dieting too long or too strictly, especially when using a low carbohydrate diet as a tool for weight loss, leptin is lowered to an extreme level affecting the body’s ability to mobilize fat and keep hormones at healthy libido levels (this is the opposite of the scenario in the last paragraph). This is where a big helping of sweet potatoes and bananas after a day of low carbohydrate dieting can actually spur fat loss, because you have now opened the door for leptin again and it mobilizes fat as a result (I keep referring to this as the Metabolism Switch and it’s one of the basic premises of the book Carb Back Loading). As it stands, the body can become leptin resistant from excessive signaling but also levels can become too low from excessive restriction- both impair fat loss.
Carbohydrates are the boogie man of nutrition to many, even more so than fats, though there are groups on both sides who disdain both of them with equal fervor. The detonator in the carbohydrate war is over simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates consist of quick acting foods like white bread, cereal, table sugar, soda- very refined foods. On the other side are complex carbohydrates consisting of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes and quinoa. That is a pretty wide spectrum to paint with a very broad brush (but I just did it baby!).
For a lot of people the Paleo Diet can cause Leptin issues but things are fine if they add Paleo starches and some occasional white rice and keep overall calories at maintenance levels. I have no beef with the Paleo Diet if you do it without restricting intake. If you are in a standstill as it relates to weight issues and would rather not count calories Paleo can be useful. I can assure you it is more difficult to become obese eating in such a way. That said, if you eat coconut fried sweet potatoes in all of your meals each day it’s not the diet that is the problem ….. Such a diet would clearly be nutrient deficient and you are likely well aware of that fact.
So now that we have cleared that up let’s move on.
Solving leptin goes a long way to having a healthy metabolism and one of the best ways to do that is to keep a moderate amount of starchy carbs in your diet. Certainly fruits are advantageous and even the occasional sugary treat can actually serve a purpose as the joke at the top suggests.