Ending Leptin Resistance – The Key to Lasting Fat Loss and Avoiding Plateaus?

Leptin Resistance is one thing that many people have never heard of, but may be the key to why some people yo-yo diet and can’t lose weight. There’s research to show that calorie restriction isn’t the problem on weight loss plateaus, but rather leptin resistance.

Leptin resistance is a double-edged sword.  Obese people produce too much leptin (especially on high carb diets) and become resistant to its effects.  Therefore, they no longer respond to it properly and their ability to burn fat is severely diminished. (hence – Obesity)

On the other hand, people that cut calories too hard (especially carbohydrates) become resistant to leptin for a similar reason such as not producing enough leptin. These people also become resistant to insulin for the same reason.  By not eating enough carbs, the body forgets how to process insulin and the body becomes resistant. (this is most common in low carb dieters that go under 50 grams a day)

The solution is to produce enough leptin (by eating enough carbohydrates) to remain sensitive to its effects.  This will allow dieters to maintain fat burning and keep their sex drive (leptin has a profound effect on reproductive hormones).  Leptin is very closely tied with insulin production and carbs influence leptin the most.  Insulin is released the most with starch/glucose based carbs.  The body actually up regulates thermogenesis, fat burning and body temperature after eating a meal that has enough carbs/glucose in it.

For the obese, the solution would be to reduce the high carbs back down to moderate levels, so leptin isn’t produced in such high amounts and the person once again becomes sensitive to its effects.

The best amount to produce leptin and remain sensitive to its effects is between 120-200 grams a day.  120 grams allows the central nervous system and brain plenty of glucose without relying on glucose; it also keeps cortisol from becoming way too high and causing hormonal resistance. Up to 200 grams is more for people who workout frequently to recover their energy stores and lower cortisol. A good rule of thumb it to do one gram per pound of bodyweight (if you lean) and 1 gram per pound of lean body mass or goal bodyweight (if you overweight). Many people on hard core low carb diets think they are doing the body a service by starving if of all carbs. This is a mistake as your brain and body needs at least 120 grams of glucose on any given day. (you could eat a ton of protein to cover your needs, but the conversion of protein to carbs is a stressful process on the body and this also results in problems. Not to mention protein doesn’t effect leptin and insulin nearly as much as carbs do.)

If people would simply eat a balanced diet with moderate carbs their results would be twice as good and they wouldn’t have to deal with the negative effects that many extreme diets bring.  As you can see going to far below and above this amount can have negative effects.  This is the sweet spot for just about everyone, except hardcore athletes.

The way I recommend implementing this is to eat a large amount of carbs all at night.  A giant sweet potato, two cups of rice or 4 white potatoes would achieve this. There is some evidence to show the larger the spike in glucose, the higher the amount of leptin that gets produced.  Since everyone wakes up in a fat burning state after not eating all night, the leptin released from the carbs at dinner will help you burn fat more efficiently for the entire next day.  Just when leptin and insulin hit rock bottom right around dinner time, you spike your insulin and leptin again for its incredible fat burning benefits. You could also spread you carbs out over the course of the day, but since carbs induce sleep and prevent fat burning, eating a giant meal of carbs at dinner is likely to be more effective and yield better results.

Again, many people try to be “hardcore” and eat next to no carbs to enhance fat burning.  It doesn’t work long term and will come back to ruin you in a very short period of time.  If you don’t accept carbs and starches back into your diet, then be ready for a massive plateau that you many never get over until you start eating a more balanced diet.

PS – if your eating enough starches or carbs already (especially in the 120-200 gram range) and can’t lose fat, then leptin resistance is probably not your problem. A few things you can try is to make sure calories are reduced enough to burn fat, eat more of your carbs at night for the reason I listed above, eat healthier sources of carbs (potatoes and white rice) and make sure you getting enough vitamins and minerals from food.

But if you have been dieting a long time (especially on low carb or Paleo types of diets) and have been cutting calories and can’t lose weight, then leptin resistance is most likely the problem.  Implement the info I provided above and the weight should start coming off again.

2 thoughts on “Ending Leptin Resistance – The Key to Lasting Fat Loss and Avoiding Plateaus?

  1. Irena

    Thanks for this post. It’s well-written and clear and incorporates information I found controversial so far. Do I have to stay away from fat and protein intake at the time I have the carbs?


    • Michael Cocchiola


      Thanks. You would ideally want to have some protein and fat, but not in high amounts. Protein would be 20-30 grams and fat would be roughly 10 grams or so, but not much more than that on fat. Protein may even increase leptin output due to its effects on insulin.

      Also one thing to keep in mind is one day of high carbs isnt enough to offset the negative effects of low leptin. Leptin is too transient for that. That’s why its better to keep some carbs in your diet every day if possible. Or at least every other day.


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