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Sara Pindera
Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. A Canadian with a love of food, fitness and health. https://www.youtube.com/c/msmaddhatt/

Cheat Meals And Fat Loss

How cheat meals can help you lose weight

There are many ways to lose weight and create a healthier lifestyle. For most people, eating healthier and exercising are very important starting points for achieving fat loss. In this article we will teach you how cheat meals can help you lose weight. As it turns out, occasional cheat meals can actually be used to push you towards your body goals!

When you eat foods that are high in calories, especially calories from fats and carbohydrates, different kinds of hormones are released in response to the newly consumed fuel.

There have been a few articles focused on the hormone insulin, but this time we’re going to look at a different hormone: leptin.

What is leptin?

Leptin is a hormone mainly produced by adipose (fat) tissue. When you eat, leptin levels rise, and when you’re hungry or low on fuel, leptin levels are low. When it sends signals to the brain leptin controls and affects just as much, if not more body functions than insulin does!

It regulates:

  • Glucose and fat metabolism (The storing and burning of these fuels).
  • Energy balance and body metabolism.
  • Food cravings and food seeking behaviour, satiety (the feeling of fullness) and the reward value of food.
  • ...and much more.

Main leptin production relies on the number and size of fat cells in the body. There are many reasons leptin is released, but one of the largest factors is the consumption of food, more specifically blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels. It does not rise immediately like insulin does, mind you. Leptin release can also alter Insulin levels and sensitivity in return!

Leptin levels can also increase with stress and insulin levels, and decrease with sleep deprivation, increased hormones, exercise.

Leptin levels can also change based on meal timing and your daily routine. As an example, generally leptin levels are increased at night in order to suppress our appetite while we’re sleeping. Normal eating routines can effect when you feel more hungry during the day and night.

Diet and exercise

Leptin is a pro-survival hormone, so when you lose weight through restricting calories, leptin levels decrease, causing an increase in cravings and food seeking behaviours. Lower levels of leptin also lower metabolism in order to preserve food and energy stores. Fasting has the same effect.

The production of the leptin hormone in the body is also based on size and number of body fat cells. Therefore, less fat/body fat percentage, less production of leptin.

If this is true then that means that people with a higher body fat percentage have higher levels of leptin. So then why are most people at a higher body weight still hungry, even though they have higher leptin levels which should increase satiety and fullness?

The reason for this is leptin resistance, which can develop when the body has constant high levels of leptin, causing the body to resist and ignore the signals of leptin.

Since leptin is such an important signalling molecule for the brain, when leptin levels stay low for a long period of time, other important hormone levels can start to change in response. This includes sex and other metabolic hormones, things that when thrown out of balance can have a bad impact on the body.

Cheating to Increase Leptin

Over time our bodies get used to a routine, causing it to adjust metabolism and hormone levels. For those trying to lower their body fat level with any method, your body will lower metabolism and hormone levels in response. This is how we reach plateaus in fat loss, and as mentioned in other articles on plateaus, the best way to move on from a plateau is to change your routine periodically.

Cheat meals or cheat days can be used to raise leptin levels to shock the system, increasing metabolism and spiking up leptin levels. Doing this once or twice a week is enough for most people to raise leptin levels again and stop the body from getting accustomed to a routine, which can lower the metabolism and hormones that could potentially help you continue to lose weight.

Cheating can be increased (raise leptin levels more often) depending on the intensity of exercise and how extreme the dieting is. The more intense your program or routine, the more you may need to spike your leptin levels to continue your progress.

Don’t increase your workload on a cheat day in an attempt to compensate for the extra calories consumed, because it defeats the purpose of raising your calories in order to increase leptin levels. Even though exercise increases metabolism, the fact that you are burning more calories will lower leptin levels.

Here's a workout you can at home:

In summary

Let’s recap the main points:

  • Leptin is a hormone released mainly from fat (adipose) tissues.
  • High leptin levels and fuel stores signal ‘fullness’, whereas low leptin levels and fuel stored signal ‘hunger’.
  • When you eat fatty and high carb foods, have an increase in insulin levels or stress, leptin levels rise.
  • When you are hungry, dieting or fasting, exercising, sleep deprived or have unbalanced hormones, leptin levels fall.
  • Constant high leptin can cause leptin resistance, one of the main causes of weight gain.
  • Occasional cheat meals and cheat days can spike leptin levels, preventing your body from getting used to a routine and promoting continued fat loss.

References:

  • Margetic, S., Gazzola, C., Pegg, G. G., & Hill, R. A. (2002). Leptin: a review of its peripheral actions and interactions. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 26(11), 1407-1433.
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