Hormones and Weight Loss – 10 Tips to Biohack Grhelin and Leptin to Lose Weight

A very skinny and fit woman measuring her waistline with tape with the title "10 Tips to Biohack Weight Loss".

Losing weight is about choosing the right foods and sticking to a sensible exercise routine. But it is far from that simple if diet and exercise are not working for you. The weight loss options you have tried are doomed to fail if you are not addressing the underlying biochemical reasons you are eating or your body is resistant to weight loss.

Hormones hold the key to weight loss. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that hold the key to your appetite and weight loss. They signal hunger and the feeling of fullness. If these hormones are out of balance, your ability to lose weight is nearly impossible because it is very difficult to fight a strong urge to eat.

You cannot overcome biology. Anyone trying to lose weight must stick to diet and lifestyle habits that optimize these hormones. Otherwise, your appetite will spiral out of control and you’ll gain weight or have resistant weight loss.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for making us hungry. Lowering ghrelin also reduces hunger and cravings, allowing you to naturally eat less. Ghrelin levels play a big role in determining how quickly hunger comes back after we eat.

Normally, ghrelin levels go up dramatically before you eat; this signals hunger. They then go down for about three hours after the meal. Research shows that lowering levels of ghrelin leads to decreased body fat.

The ghrelin hormone not only stimulates the brain giving rise to an increase in appetite, but also favors the accumulation of fat located in the abdominal region – considered to be the most harmful. This is the conclusion of research undertaken at Metabolic Research Laboratory of the University Hospital of Navarra, published recently in the International Journal of Obesity.

Since ghrelin promotes the formation abdominal fat near the liver, it also promotes fatty liver and increases the risk of developing resistance to insulin. This is the recipe for metabolic syndrome. Definitely worth some biohacking to get this hormone under control.

Leptin

Leptin is your appetite suppressor – the hormone that signals your body that you’ve had enough to eat and is a key player in optimizing weight loss. Leptin is made in the fat tissue and plays a key role in regulating energy intake and expenditure, including appetite and hunger, metabolism, and behavior. Many foods can either block or increase leptin. The key is knowing which foods to avoid and which to consume.

Leptin resistance has been hypothesized by researchers as possibly caused by specific nutrients uncommon throughout our evolution. The proposed problematic nutrients include lectins (found in grains and legumes) and fructose found in fruit.

Leptin resistance will also result from a diet high in energy-dense low-nutrient foods including soda, refined flours, candy, or any form of sugar (honey, maple syrup, etc). These foods should be limited in anyone trying to lose weight since they negatively impact all of your hormones.

Although leptin reduces appetite, obese individuals generally exhibit an unusually high circulating concentration of leptin. These people are said to be resistant to the effects of leptin, in much the same way that people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to the effects of insulin. This is called leptin resistance. The pathway of leptin control in obese people is flawed in some way so that the body does not adequately receive a signal of satiety after eating.

Leptin levels are directly proportional to body weight. That being said, the mere fact that leptin resistance is extremely common in obese individuals suggests it may simply be an adaptation to excess body weight. It’s a catch-22. You need to lose weight in order for your body to get the message that you’re full after eating! As you lose weight, your body will become more sensitive to leptin.

Here’s a short video giving more information on ghrelin and leptin.

Biohack Your Hormones

Is your appetite out of control? Biohack your way to weight loss! Here are a few biohacking tips to keep ghrelin at bay and increase leptin:

Avoid MSG

MSG (monosodium glutamate) makes your appetite spiral out of control. Your body loses its ability to tell that it’s full because MSG suppresses leptin. You end up eating more than you normally would and get hungrier sooner. MSG is in ALL fast food and most processed food, even the healthy ones at Whole Foods. For more information, see my blog post Hidden MSG.

Avoid Fructose

Fructose prevents leptin and insulin from elevating to normal levels after a meal, while increasing ghrelin and triglycerides. This can lead to a dramatic increase in calorie consumption. While high-fructose sweeteners in soft drinks and snack foods are the biggest concern, it’s also important to note that fruit, and especially fruit juice, consumption can lead to these shifts as well. Some authors suggest keeping fructose intake under 25 grams per day (about one piece of fruit).

Avoid Very-Low-Calorie Diets (1000 Calories or Less Day)

By eating more food, you’ll avoid the diet hormone surges that trigger uncontrollable hunger and the inevitable weight gain that follows.

Eat Every 4 Hours

Ghrelin is produced and secreted on a four hour schedule. In order to keep ghrelin low you need to eat on a schedule every 3-4 hours. Leptin level is decreased after short-term fasting (24–72 hours). I’m not a big fan of fasting except for intermittent fasting. This entails eating your food within an 8 hour period during the day and not eating for the next 16 hour period. This is a very effective weight loss tool.

Various vegetables including bell peppers, onions, carrots, etc.

Eat High Fiber Foods

Ghrelin levels remain high until food stretches the wall of your stomach, making you feel full. High volume, low calorie, nutrient dense foods reduce ghrelin and increase leptin levels long before you have overeaten. A salad or vegetable soup full of fiber and water stretch your stomach more than processed food.

Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep Every Night

Less than 7 hours of sleep has been associated with higher ghrelin levels, decreased leptin, increased hunger, and higher body weight in research studies. This is why people who sleep less are heavier than those getting adequate sleep.

Eat Animal Protein at Every Meal

Protein takes longer to digest, and studies show it is the most effect food group at lowering ghrelin and losing weight. Research also suggests that protein improves leptin sensitivity.

Reduce Stress

Stress is associated with higher body weight and ghrelin production. Reduce stress with short walks, meditation, taking a bath, yoga and listening to soothing music.

Increase Omega-3

Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to boost leptin. People who are overweight release too much of a group of molecules that the body uses to combat inflammation. These molecules reduce leptin’s ability to communicate with the brain and are the primary cause of leptin resistance.Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of these molecules by reducing inflammation in the body. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include grass fed meats, walnuts, salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, trout, chia seeds, flax seeds, summer squash and kale.

Heal Your Gut

A healthy intestine can help control appetite and body weight. Conversely, leptin and ghrelin imbalances have been observed in gut disorders like colitis. Take probiotics and eat bone broths to heal the gut. Foods containing inulin (garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, sunchokes, bananas) feed good gut bacteria, promoting their replication, and are more effective than supplementing probiotics. Anything that helps intestinal health should be helpful for appetite issues.

Conclusion

Leptin and ghrelin have evolved as a highly effective mechanism to keep us from starving to death in times of famine. Poor diet and lifestyle lead to the ultimate failure of this delicate signaling system, making weight loss an impossible task. Master your appetite hormones by following a naturally evolved diet like the Modern Paleo diet and observe proper meal timing to reap the benefits of restored health and permanent weight loss.

Related Posts

Leave a comment

    • Lemon water alone will not reduce fat directly, especially not with honey in it. But a little honey every once in a while is fine. I would use a sweetener like Stevia if you must have sweetener. However, the water with lemon is wonderful for assisting the liver to cleanse. And aiding cleansing of the liver can indirectly lead to fat loss by helping it work better so that it can process fats and toxins better. This will indirectly help you to lose weight.

  • LOL dear Mandy, you DON’T need to eat ANIMAL protein to lose weight, you just need to protein, period. we’re in 2014, remember? 😀

    • What’s the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan? Vegetarians are annoying. Vegans are really annoying.

    • Mitzie, her name is Wendy, not Mandy. So you know more than the author who has studied this stuff. You must be a vegetarian, therefore you get ta little defensive when meat is mentioned. Perhaps a little red meat would help your memory.

  • Good article. I ended up doing most of them before seeing this by having a scientific approach to nutrition and trial/error, but it’s still helpful as a “eating habits inspection”.

    I’d just like to add, for people who just started: Eat and chew your food, avoid drinking any of it. This includes milk, juices, beer, ANY sweet/sweetened drink. Might be a little challenging at first, but once you get used you don’t miss them. Get better drinking habits: Coffee, tea, dry wines, whiskey, etc. (alcohol is hardly converted into fat btw, so the calories that count are those of the other ingredients).

    IF is def better than constant meals because it allows you to have ~2 big, satisfying meals per day, but I’ve seen some data (and a couple of friends told me too) that the female metabolism isn’t adapted to handle this stress. It also seems to me that carb intake is directly related to this: We all should try cutting carbs and IF, if it doesn’t work there is still no short term (~1 month) permanent damage anyway.

    Another thing: Identify and separate you hunger into 3 categories:
    1. Gluttony cravings: If you still have them, means you still have things to change. With good eating habits they eventually go away.
    2. Phase 1: Higher adrenaline, hgh, etc. You feel more awake and focused. As long as you keep your mind busy (regardless if you like doing it, but you should) your performance will, if anything, increase.
    3. Phase 2: The real hunger, when your body signals that you need food. This is the time to eat.

    Hope it helps. Keep in mind that if you’re reading an article with a scientific approach to weight (fat actually) control, you’re already on the right track. Make it a goal to feel like a god everyday, and have a low bodyfat% all year, every year. It’s >easily< achievable if you do it right. Also remember to use the mirror as reference, not the balance. Balance counts muscle too, and having more muscle helps you maintain low bf on long term, along with a lot of other benefits.

  • We have the opposite problem in our home and so far no doctor can figure out how to help us. Three of us suffer from low appetite, it runs on my side of the family. Our Leptin and Grhelin don’t function properly. The imbalance is too much Leptin and not enough Grhelin. It is causing all sorts of problems. My two children are underweight and two of us are hypoglycemic. Why is there no advise for this problem on the internet?

  • The women in my family have low to no appetite. Since very few people have THIS problem I can not find any information on how to increase appetite. Neither can my practitioners. (I’ve seen a lot for this problem.) It seems that our Leptin and Ghrelin don’t function properly. Reversing the advise in this article does not work. I live in the Seattle area and endocrinologists here don’t seem to know specifically about this particular problem.

  • Can a person be born with high ghrelin levels and/or low leptin levels and can these two hormones also be inherited? Thanks for the great article and anticipated reply!

    • Laura – having high ghrelin is your goal, not lowering it. Becoming leptin sensitive is another goal. Feeling hungry and not satisfying that craving is what you should be doing. It would be great to have high ghrelin levels.

      • Not true. Seems you’ve gotten it backwards. Ghrelin causes hunger. It is the “appetite stimulating” hormone. The goal is to lower your Ghrelin levels. Read the end of the article again. HIIT exercise had been found to lower Ghrelin levels, resulting in the elimination of the sense of hunger. The desired result is to have lower Ghrelin levels, eliminating the sense of hunger, which is what one desires to achieve, and which HIIT exercise has been found to produce.

        • No, I don’t have it backwards. Why would nature give us hunger? It serves a purpose. I don’t want to eliminate Ghrelin or lower it, I want to raise it, and then I want to continue to benefit from it circulating in my system.

          Having an abundance of food and eating 18 hours a day is our problem, as well as discipline to fight hunger pangs. Having a healthy level of Ghrelin is NOT a problem.

          • You have a difficult time grasping concepts. Ghrelin levels rise to signal hunger. But certain bad habits make those levels to abundant. The goal is to lower Ghrelin naturally by getting plenty of sleep, reducing stress, and eating smaller more dense meals with small snacks ,low glycemic with protein, live food and omega 3, in between. Eat most of your food earlier in the day. Smaller dinner and finish early enough, that your body can now rebuild over night.

          • Sounds like a pretty canned response. If you think that not feeling hunger ever and reducing ghrelin levels is the best way to go about it then by all means.

            Good luck with ghrelin withdrawal and leptin insensitivity.

  • Worst advice ever. Eat every 4 hours? To lose weight? Lower ghrelin? The amount of bad advice on the internet is limitless.

  • I believe at the end of the article it should say that HIIT exercise increases Leptin levels, or increases Leptin sensitivity, or even “lowered the need for higher Leptin concentrations”, as it is Lower Leptin levels or “Letptin-resistance” which increases the need for additional Leptin to be produced since the normal amounts of Leptin does not signal satiety has been achieved which results in overeating, and hence weight gain in overweight individuals.

    It is a higher Leptin level (or higher “leptin-sensitivity”) which is desired to signal one to stop eating; that signals the brain that one has eaten enough, as pointed out earlier in the article.

  • >

    Send this to a friend