The Five Rules of The Leptin Diet

By Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

January 12, 2009

The Five Rules of The Leptin Diet
There are five simple rules that form the core of The Leptin Diet®. The quality of the food you eat is of course important. What is interesting about The Leptin Diet is that it is just as important when you eat as what you eat. The Leptin Diet is the secret to getting more energy from less food. The scientific principles upon which it is based are unlikely to ever change. This is not a fad diet, a calorie manipulation scheme, or a starvation routine masquerading as a diet. It does not involve deprivation of pleasure.

The underlying principles of The Leptin Diet apply to everyone, whether you need to lose weight or not. It is a lifestyle for eating properly grounded in the science of leptin. It is something you can do happily and healthfully over the long haul. The Five Rules of the The Leptin Diet: Rule 1: Never eat after dinner. Rule 2: Eat three meals a day. Rule 3: Do not eat large meals. Rule 4: Eat a breakfast containing protein. Rule 5: Reduce the amount of carbohydrates eaten. Let's take a look at each of these rules a little more closely.


Allow 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Never go to bed on a full stomach. Finish eating dinner at least three hours before bed. One of leptin's main rhythms follows a 24-hour pattern. Leptin levels are highest in the evening hours. This is because leptin, like the conductor in the orchestra, sets the timing for nighttime repair. It coordinates the timing and release of melatonin, thyroid hormone, growth hormone, sex hormones, and immune system function to carry out rejuvenating sleep. It does this while burning fat at the maximum rate compared to any other time of the day. And it does this only if you will allow it, by not eating after dinner.

It is pretty obvious when this isn't working so well. Your extra cravings for food may begin around 4 o'clock in the afternoon and certainly later in the evening. These cravings are powered by a misguided leptin signal to eat, causing strong urges that often overwhelm your will power and self control. If you are in this situation you will find yourself circling the refrigerator and cupboards, like an animal hunting its prey. You will find excuses to obtain food and often will then plop yourself in front of the TV and begin to eat. This is the leptin nightmare, the drive to acquire food even though rationally you know you don't need it. Make every effort to not eat after dinner at night.


Allow 5-6 hours between meals. Do not snack. It is vital to create times during the day when small fat blobs, known as triglycerides, are cleared from your blood. If triglycerides build up during the day they physically clog leptin entry into your brain, causing leptin resistance – meaning that leptin cannot register properly in your subconscious command and control center. Your metabolism is not designed to deal with constant eating and snacking. Doing so confuses your metabolism and results in you eating much more than you really need.

Eating too often is like a repetitive strain injury, like tennis elbow but in this case leptin elbow. Yes, you are supposed to get a snack between meals – but it is supposed to come from your liver. This is how your body naturally clears triglycerides from your blood. Besides that fact that these fat blobs confuse leptin, they are also headed in the direction of your hips, thighs, and stomach. So breaking them down and clearing them out is vital, and this only happens when you allow 5-6 hours between meals. When you clear your circulatory highways of extra fat during the day then leptin works better. When you do a great job during the day then you are much more likely to break down and burn stored fat from your hips and thighs while you are sleeping. Snacking turns out to be one of the worst things you can do. It doesn't matter how many calories you snack on, when you snack you throw powerful hormonal switches that cause leptin to malfunction. The fictitious idea that snacking is needed to stoke your metabolism or maintain your blood sugar is in no small part behind dietary advice that has helped cause an epidemic of obesity.


If you are overweight, always try to finish a meal when slightly less than full, the full signal will usually catch up in 10-20 minutes. Eating slowly is important. As you improve you will start getting full signals at your meals – listen to this internal cue and stop eating.

One of the traits of the non-obese French population, that is before the American junk food industry swooped down upon them, is that their people listen to the internal full signal. In America, especially in those who are overweight, portion size is determined by what is available – this is called the see food diet – what you see is what you eat. Unless you are a super active individual with very high physical output of energy, the fastest way to cause leptin problems is to eat large meals. It does not matter if the meal is composed mostly of fat, carbohydrate, or protein. Consistently eating large meals is the easiest way there is to poison your body with food.


Your metabolism can increase by 30% for as long as 12 hours from a high-protein meal; the calorie-burning equivalent of a two to three mile jog. A high-carbohydrate breakfast such as juice, cereal, waffles, pancakes, or bagels does not enhance metabolic rate more than 4%, especially when eaten with little protein. This rule is especially important for individuals who struggle with energy, food cravings, and/or body weight.

In general, it is a necessity for anyone over the age of 40. While some people may be able to run their metabolism just fine on a higher carbohydrate breakfast for a number of years, this tends not to be the case for any person struggling with their weight. The two signs of a poor breakfast are: 1) You are unable to make it five hours to lunch without food cravings or your energy crashing. 2) You are much more prone to strong food cravings later that afternoon or evening. Eggs are a good breakfast, just not smothered in butter and cheese. Cottage cheese is another high protein breakfast food, and along with a serving of complex carbohydrate or fruit makes a great breakfast. Even a few tablespoons of peanut butter or almond butter (not half the jar) on a piece of toast could work well, especially if you are in a hurry. I like high-efficiency whey protein for quick and easy breakfasts, such as our Daily Protein Plus. It is quality protein that gets your metabolism started on the right foot and will keep you more stable during the day.


Carbohydrates are easy-to-use fuels. If you eat too many of them there is no need for your body to dip into its savings account. It is very important that you eat some carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are needed or your thyroid turns off, electrolytes become dysregulated, muscles weaken, growth hormone is not released correctly, fat is not burned efficiently, there is an unsatisfied feeling after a meal, your heart can become stressed, and your digestive system may go on the blink. I certainly do not advocate a no-carbohydrate diet. You don't want to make yourself into a carbohydrate cripple. However, most overweight individuals eat two or more times the amount of carbohydrates they are able to metabolize.

If you are trying to lose weight an easy way to do this is what I call the 50/50 technique. Look at the food on your plate. You want to see a palm-size portion of protein (a 4-6 ounce portion for women; 6-8 ounce portion for men). And then you want to see a palm size amount of the carbohydrates, a 50/50 visual. This way there is no calorie counting. Compare the protein (chicken, meat, turkey, eggs) to the carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit, corn, squash, etc,). Fill up on fiber rich vegetables as desired. If you think you really need more food than this, then take a tablespoon or two of good soluble fiber before you eat, like our Fiber Helper or our LeptiFiber, and you will not only feel more full on less food but your insulin and leptin response to your meal will be smoothed out and in many cases enhanced.

In summary, one key take home message about the science of leptin is that it is just as important when you eat as what you eat. Eating throws powerful hormonal switches. Make sure you throw them at the right time so that your body can do what it was intended to do. When you eat in harmony with leptin your head will feel clearer and your energy better, your cravings will go away, and your health will improve. There is a lot of power in these five simple rules.

More Information About Leptin

Leptin books: Mastering Leptin – The original breakthroughs and how leptin relates to all aspects of health. Contains extensive scientific documentation (ideal for health professionals and those who want to understand the detailed science). The Leptin Diet – An easy read that explains the Leptin Diet Five Rules as well as how leptin and other hormones behave in your body, so that you can understand how and why you crave food and how to be in charge. Supplements to support leptin management and thyroid: Weight Loss & Leptin Thyroid & Metabolism

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