The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #1 – Overview and Basic Needs

April 2, 2012 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #1 – Overview and Basic Needs
Being overweight in America is a national epidemic. It affects citizens of all ages. If you are overweight, then losing weight in a healthy and consistent way is the best thing you can do to help improve your quality of health. It will also benefit almost any other health problem.

Engaging in the process of weight loss is of paramount importance. Changing the dynamics within your body that make weight loss possible requires many aspects of health to work in the right away, especially as time goes along. A healthy process of weight loss offers many health benefits long before an optimal weight goal is achieved.

Individual health challenges that may inhibit weight loss vary from person to person. During the Leptin Diet® Weight Loss Challenge you will learn the most common reasons people struggle with weight loss. Some of these may apply to you and others may not. However, understanding all the key topics involved will help you, as any one of them can throw a monkey wrench in your progress at any time.

Far Beyond Eating Less and Exercising More

Public health officials will preach and use the mantra "eat less and exercise more." After that, the public health pundits think being overweight is a medical problem requiring drugs or surgery.

It's true, eating well is very important. However, eating the proper size meals is also very important. Not snacking is very important. Not eating after dinner is very important. Exercising is very important. OK, we can all agree these things are important.

A third leg to this equation is called metabolic efficiency. It determines how many calories you can actually burn as fuel. A calorie represents the potential energy you can extract from food. Fat has nine calories per gram, protein or carbohydrates each have four. Whether or not you convert calories to energy depends on how active you are compared to how many calories you consume. It also depends on how efficiently your metabolic engines run.

A key theme of The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge is improving your metabolic weak spots so that your calorie burning efficiency improves.

Leptin – King of Hormones

The proper function of leptin in your body determines your metabolic efficiency. The Leptin Diet® represents a strategy for eating in harmony with leptin. This is absolutely vital to improve metabolic efficiency over the long haul as well as create a physiology that has the potential for healthy weight loss.

During The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge I will not be explaining the basics of leptin or the Leptin Diet. This information is readily available on the website for you.

I posted three introductions to the subject, which you can read or watch:
What is Leptin?
The Five Rules of The Leptin Diet
The Mastering Leptin Lifestyle

If you would prefer to watch,click at the bottom of the page for links to videos of these articles.

I highly recommend that you read my books on the subject, The Leptin Diet and Mastering Leptin.

I routinely post breaking news on leptin and weight loss in the Weight Loss News section of our website. This keeps you up to date on the most current science and is my method of keeping you informed about the subject since publishing these books. You will find hundreds of postings in Weight Loss News, and some of these postings are linked in this article.

During The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge I will focus on key topics and help you adopt strategies to improve problems so it is easier for you to lose weight. The goal is not only to keep you moving in the right direction but also give you tools and skills to identify and change what is happening when you aren't losing weight or when you find yourself slipping off a healthy path.

It has been almost a decade since Mastering Leptin was released. During that time thousands of people have put the Five Rules of The Leptin Diet to the test often with amazing results. Yet, most of us struggle with various metabolic issues that go beyond the basics of a good diet and exercise. Helping you understand what your weak spots are and how you can improve them is a key part of The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge. When you can consistently apply this information from month to month, your chances of weight loss success over time greatly improve.

The Nature of Unfit Fat

Approximately 33 percent - 50 percent of the cells within your white adipose tissue (fat) are mature adipocytes or what we might call "grown-up" fat cells. A normal weight person has about 30 billion of these fat cells; an overweight person averages around 75 billion and an obese person can have up to 300 billion.

Within your white adipose tissue are immune system cells, with a large amount of specialized immune cells called macrophages and monocytes. When fat cells expand, they become stressed and release signals to monocytes complaining of their plight. Monocytes respond by secreting monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), which turns on inflammatory processes within white adipose tissue macrophages.

MCP-1 enters your general circulation and recruits additional macrophages to come and help out with the struggling fat cells. The macrophages come to the site of the problem and see fat cells bursting at their seams. This is the equivalent of a sprained ankle but in this case “sprained fat.” To help solve this problem the macrophages actually help fat cells break down fatty acids and release them, trying to prevent the fat cells from dying. This is a highly inflammatory situation within your fat that drains your antioxidants and can contribute to or cause low-grade inflammation anywhere in your body.

Your stored fat is not static. It is constantly being broken down and repackaged. Thus, it is not enough to just break down stored fat, your body is already doing that. You must create metabolic efficiency to the point where the stored fat has someplace to go, instead of just being sent back to storage. Nutrients can help encourage the breakdown of stored fat while in a weight loss mode.

As you lose weight, your fat cells first shrink in size. If you gain weight, fat cells can rapidly enlarge again. As you continue to lose weight, your progress naturally slows partly because you are encountering damaged fat cells that are older and have been previously crammed full of fat. They typically contain higher than desired amounts of fat-soluble toxins, complicating the weight loss process. This is when strategies to improve metabolic efficiency really become important. You actually want new and more metabolically fit fat cells to form, but not while overeating, or weight gain will occur. You also want older fat cells to dump their contents and die, reducing your numbers of fat cells to a more normal level. This process takes months. It is also vital that you process the toxins correctly during this time or weight loss will come to a halt.

The larger your stomach or the more co-existing problems like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POSD) or type 2 diabetes are present, the greater the number of metabolically unfit fat cells you possess. This does not mean you can't make very good progress. It means you have little margin for error and little freedom to go off a healthy plan that is working.

Dietary Supplements as Weight Management Tools

No dietary supplement is a magical weight loss pill. No single dietary supplement product is going to melt pounds from your body. You must eat well and you must exercise. Supplements have little chance to help you when this is ignored. There are no short cuts.

The metabolic stress of being overweight is associated with increased demands for a variety of basic nutrients. You may or may not be lacking these nutrients, but you definitely need to understand what they are.

Various sluggish situations of metabolic efficiency can be improved with dietary supplements. For some people various dietary supplements improve the sluggish issues and simply help make the process easier and progress more consistent. For others such support may be instrumental in making improvement. A good diet and exercise are always the foundation to the solution.

Starvation is No Path to Long-Term Success

Many dieting strategies rely on severe calorie restriction to induce initial weight loss or require significant calorie restriction for an extended period of time. Such strategies can induce weight loss in the short term, as your metabolism is set to burn a higher number of calories for a few weeks.

However, after a period of time your metabolism will slow down and your body will enter low leptin starvation mode. You will run low on energy, have a bad mood, lose muscle and strength, and run the risk of getting sick from depressed immunity – not to mention other potential risks. It is unlikely you will reach your goal weight in this weak and anorexic-like condition. It is certain you will regain weight, sometimes even more than you started with, when you begin eating even normal amounts of food.

The notion that weight loss can be accomplished by eating less and exercising more certainly applies to a junk food consuming couch potato. That idea starts to lose value as you eat better and exercise more – which generally means you will need to eat more to sustain your energy. This does not mean you should use exercise as an excuse to overeat. I am just pointing out the flaw in the public health message "eat less, exercise more," as the foundation of a long term weight management strategy.

I recommend consuming 1,200 – 1,600 calories per day for women and 1,600 – 2,000 calories per day for men. More calories within this range are typically needed if you have physically demanding activities. In some cases you may require more calories than this basic range if your daily physical output is quite high (demanding physical work or higher levels of activity/exercise). These are very general guidelines, though my main point is that eating less than this as the strategy to lose weight is not likely to be successful over the long term.

This is Not a Calorie Manipulation Scheme

If the latest diet fad is not a new way to starve yourself then it is typically a new or repackaged way to manipulate the fat, protein, or carbohydrates in your diet. While such strategies can induce your body to lose weight, they may not be healthy depending on what is being recommended and how long you do it.

A diet too low in fat will cause you to have no energy and can make you very depressed. A diet too low in protein will cause your liver's metabolic drive to slow down, and with it your metabolic efficiency. A diet too low in carbohydrates will dehydrate your muscles and stress your heart and kidneys.

A diet too high in fat will clog you metabolic organs. A diet too high in protein will poison your brain. A diet too high in carbohydrates causes insulin resistance and leads to type 2 diabetes.

So how do you determine too high or too low? It will vary from person to person and you definitely need to understand what amounts of which calories work best for you. It is not one size fits all.

The quality of calories you consume is also extremely important.

Protein Basics

For the purpose of weight loss, your minimum protein intake should be ½ your ideal body weight in grams of protein per day ranging up to ¾ of your actual body weight in grams of protein per day, which amounts to approximately 30 percent of your calories. Individuals with liver or kidney disease may not be able to metabolize this much protein and would need guidance from their doctor.

Higher protein intake is metabolically activating to your liver and if your liver is in good shape it can increase your metabolic rate by 30 percent for as long as 12 hours. Higher protein helps preserve your muscle and bone during weight loss and helps you deal with stress.

This higher protein amount requires that you have adequate nutrients to healthfully process the protein such as magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Exercise is critical so that the protein is put to use.

High quality whey protein is a superior food for metabolic activation and I highly recommend it for breakfast most days of the week. It can be made into a smoothie with the beverage of your choice and a serving of fruit – oftentimes a banana to help keep your potassium levels up.

How Protein Helps Weight Loss

Fat Basics

I recommend 25 percent - 30 percent of your calories from fat. In a 2,000 calorie diet, this means 500 – 600 calories from fat, or 55 – 66 grams of fat per day. In a 1,600 calorie diet that's 45 – 55 grams of fat per day. Ideally, 1-3 grams of that fat should be the omega-3 oil DHA.

DHA lowers inflammation within white adipose tissue. A number of studies show that DHA boosts adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is another important hormone coming from fat that is vital for healthy blood sugar regulation and inflammation reduction in your cardiovascular system. DHA lowers signals from leptin-related genes that are behind the excess production of leptin that causes leptin resistance.

A key feature of DHA is that it works in harmony with saturated fat intake so that saturated fat intake, in moderation, is not harmful to your health. With adequate DHA you can eat half your fat grams in saturated fat. When your diet is too low in saturated fat you may have trouble sustaining energy between meals, which will cause you to be tired and eat more carbohydrates. Round out your fat intake with olive oil. Minimize intake of vegetable oils and packaged foods, salad dressings, or baked goods that contain vegetable oils.

Most individuals who eat too much fat are eating too much cheese, so cut back cheese portions at any given meal to 1 – 2 ounces. Butter and cream have some interesting properties that when used judiciously can help you feel full faster. The value of olive oil as a monounsaturated fat is partly due to its unique antioxidant properties, which are based on the squalene contained in its fat.

Saturated fat is vital to human health. It is actually a premium fuel source for your energy. Its intake is highly associated with pleasure, which indicates its evolutionary importance to continuation of the human race.

Wherever we find disease in modern Western society, including obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, we find an over-consumption of saturated fat, a lack of DHA, increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, and too much vegetable oil.

Every place DHA goes in the body, healthier fat metabolism follows. This is proven beyond any doubt for the health of your circulation, heart, brain, liver, pancreas, and especially the fitness of white adipose tissue.

My overarching point is not to live in fear of fat but to use it wisely.

Maximizing DHA Intake Supports Weight Loss
Low-Fat Diets Do Not Facilitate Weight Loss

Carbohydrate Basics

Carbohydrates make up the balance of your calorie intake. As a general rule these should be about 40 percent of your calories. You can decrease them to 25 percent or 30 percent of your calories, while increasing protein, which can sometimes help weight loss kick into gear.

A considerable body of research has evolved around the concept of the glycemic index. In theory, lower glycemic index carbohydrates pose less stress to your ability to regulate blood sugar.

I agree with the glycemic index in general, but would like to add one caveat. The glycemic potential of any food will be increased if you eat a lot of it by itself and will be decreased if you eat it with other foods containing fiber.

The important point is that adequate fiber is essential to slow the rate of sugar absorption from your intestinal tract. Just as we need DHA to help metabolize saturated fat, and magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants to help metabolize protein, so it is that we also need fiber to help metabolize carbohydrates.

Refined Carbohydrates and the Fast Track to Disease

Fiber Basics

Dietary fiber is one of the fundamentals of a healthy diet. Although it is a form of complex carbohydrate, it is so complex that it is not digestible for use as energy like other carbohydrates (fruit, bread, pasta, etc.). This can confuse consumers a bit, as fiber "calories" must be listed as carbohydrates on food and supplement labels, yet they are actually a “no calorie” type of food.

Our government recommends 25 grams of fiber per day. Americans eating the typical refined food diet get about half that amount of fiber. The American Cancer Society recommends 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day, based on research indicating that higher fiber intake may reduce the risk of various forms of cancer1. The FDA allows a health claim for certain types of fiber, like psyllium and oats, for the reduction of heart disease. Two Wellness Resources products containing fiber qualify for this heart friendly claim (Fiber Helper and Daily Protein Plus - Original).

In terms of using fiber to support weight management I recommend 35 – 60 grams of fiber per day. A lack of adequate dietary fiber will eventually stall any weight loss efforts. Science continues to prove that the higher the fiber intake, the greater the amount of weight lost. I also like fiber because it is the key prebiotic for friendly flora growth, a sponge for toxins and cholesterol, a tool to help regulate food cravings, it improves ease of bowel movements, and reduces the amount of food needed at a meal to get a normal full signal.

Fiber can be mixed in a whey protein drink or it can be mixed in water and consumed before meals. Cutting back on refined sugar while increasing fiber intake can have a rather dramatic impact on your ability to lose weight. When adding supplemental fiber, gradually increase your amount each day until you reach the desired intake. Too much too fast may cause gas, bloating, or other digestive discomfort.

Those prone to constipation may need some natural laxative support when boosting fiber – although the higher fiber by itself typically keeps everything moving better once regularity is established. Extra magnesium and/or vitamin C also helps sluggish bowels.

Fiber, Leptin, and Weight Loss
Protein, Fiber, & Weight Loss – The Evidence Continues
Supplemental Fiber Helps Lower Cholesterol and Boosts Weight Loss


Magnesium is a vital cofactor in more than 300 enzyme reactions, many of which are central to the utilization and production of energy. Magnesium is the foundation of your alkaline reserves. It acts as a buffer so your body can maintain an alkaline pH while performing needed metabolic chores, which often involve acid chemistry, such as handling the higher intake of protein to facilitate weight loss. A lack of magnesium2 creates a body chemistry at risk for developing the full blown metabolic syndrome, of which obesity is a part.

Additionally, numerous studies show that magnesium lowers the inflammatory signals CRP, TNFa, and IL6. Magnesium also supports multiple chemistry reactions that facilitate antioxidant function, in turn resulting in less inflammation. Evidence shows that magnesium, like DHA, is a vital nutrient for adiponectin production. Supplemental magnesium3 has also been shown in overweight people to upregulate 24 genes and downregulate 36 other genes in a manner consistent with improved metabolic gene signaling.

A key feature of magnesium is that it enables your body to handle the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. This allows your body to tolerate the stimulation of both brown and white adipose tissue, which is vital to the fitness of fat.

Doses of magnesium up to 800 mg a day are typically quite helpful in improving sluggish metabolism. Some individuals are limited by bowel tolerance as to how much magnesium they can take.

Magnesium Intake Linked to Diabetes Risk
Magnesium – The Anti-Inflammatory Mineral


Being overweight is a pro-inflammatory condition that places an extra demand on antioxidants4. When antioxidants run low, inflammation accelerates. This is a nasty catch-22 that locks in inflammation while handicapping metabolism. Cell energy production (calorie burning) simply cannot occur at an optimal pace when antioxidants are lacking. The U.S. Center for Disease Control has documented that overweight and obese adults are woefully lacking in many antioxidants as well as B12 and folic acid. It is also clear that obese children and adolescents lack antioxidants6.

As a compromised antioxidant status persists, other serious metabolic problems7 are more likely to occur, including high blood pressure, coronary artery problems, and type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin C may be especially important as a cornerstone for antioxidants in the context of obesity. This is because most mammals synthesize vitamin C from sugar, but humans have an abnormal genetic mutation that prevents this. This will cause cravings for sugar when what you really need is vitamin C. Some researchers believe this issue is so important it is helping to cause the obesity epidemic8.

Overweight people must have more antioxidants in order to get a good response to exercise. This is due to poor oxygen utilization in cells, which is common in overweight people. Ironically, simply boosting exercise without supporting antioxidant needs can actually worsen free radical damage and induce greater levels of inflammation – the opposite of what any person would like to have happen.

I recommend a comprehensive array of synergistic antioxidants as a foundation for healthy weight management, including basic antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenes9. The majority of supplements a person might take to assist metabolism typically contain antioxidants. Top additional choices include nutrients like quercetin, resveratrol, tocotrienols, and grape seed extract.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D has now been conclusively linked to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. One study, Vitamin D deficiency is the Cause of Common Obesity10, makes the case that the lack of this one nutrient may be at the root of our societal epidemic of obesity. It is clear that vitamin D helps slow down the increase in the number of fat cells11 that accompany gaining weight.

Vitamin D is the key nutrient that enables your body to tolerate inflammation, literally preventing an inflammatory forest fire. Vitamin D and magnesium deficiency have been clearly established as mutual deficiencies in highly dysfunctional fat.

Higher vitamin D levels also support higher adiponectin levels. Whereas lower levels of vitamin D are associated with leptin resistance and low adiponectin, driving weight management problems.

A half hour of sun exposure gives you 10,000 IU of vitamin D. Overweight individuals should get at least 2,000 IU per day and likely need doses ranging from 4,000 IU – 8,000 IU per day to support healthy metabolism. The winter months are especially problematic.

Vitamin D Status Linked to Dieting Success
Overweight Postmenopausal Women are Low in Vitamin D
Low Vitamin D Linked to Obesity, Low HDL, and Increased Cardiovascular Risk
Low Vitamin D Causes Faster Weight Gain in Children


A lack of calcium can cause an elevation of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in your brain, in turn causing you to have cravings for carbohydrates. NPY simultaneously stimulates the production of new fat cells12. Calcium is known to help bones; the osteocalcin produced by bone also acts as a hormone in white adipose tissue to boost adiponectin and in the pancreas to boost insulin production. Calcium also helps regulate energy production and has been shown to participate in the formation of adiponectin13.

Newer science shows that supplemental calcium and supplemental vitamin D, in combination, can increase the rate of fat burning in humans, regardless of carbohydrate cravings. Studies show that higher calcium intake is associated with better weight loss over time.

Supplements of Calcium Help Weight Management in Postmenopausal Women
Dairy Prevents Bone Loss During Weight Loss
Bone Health Can Help Prevent Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

B Vitamins

B vitamins are fundamental cofactors in how your body prepares any type of calorie to be burned as fuel. They are also instrumental in how your cell engines actually produce energy from calories. B6, B12, and folic acid are required for protein metabolism to work properly.

Thus, when you increase protein intake to assist weight management you need an adequate supply of B vitamins for best results. Vitamin B12, folic acid, and B6 are needed to lower a natural byproduct of protein metabolism called homocysteine14. Elevated levels of homocysteine are clearly linked to obesity and more serious metabolic problems. For example, B12 is especially lacking in overweight women with PCOS15.

Folic acid is needed to activate a core cellular signal16 (AMPK) that synchronizes energy production in every cell of your body. I will talk about this in much greater detail in a future article in this series. In fact, when parents lack B vitamins their children are more likely to have faulty metabolic wiring leading to increased risk for easy weight gain.

A multiple vitamin and mineral supplement17 has been shown to help obese women lower blood pressure and inflammation over a 26 week period. This study highlights the need for the most basic of dietary supplements to assist metabolism to work better.

Your Nutrition Foundation

The first step to adopt a weight loss strategy is to create a physiological environment in which weight loss can take place. The Leptin Diet is an eating strategy that facilitates weight loss. Eating higher quality food and exercising are of course essential. Additionally, we see that many basic nutrients are lacking in overweight people. Ensuring adequate intake of all of these helps your body get and stay in a weight loss mode.

There are many other roles for nutrition in helping weight management. These include thyroid support, extra support for stress, boosting fat metabolism, reducing fluid retention and inflammation, etc. Such strategies may be quite helpful and can be readily added to the basic nutrition support recommended herein.

In the coming weeks, I will explain twelve important issues that impact your ability to lose weight. I will outline them in their general sequence of importance to help you get on track as quickly as possible.

The goal over the next twelve weeks is to provide enough information and practical strategies so that you can truly take charge of your metabolism. This should make it much easier for you to get in a weight loss mode and stay in it consistently until you reach your goal weight.

Until you have reached your goal weight and maintained it for one year, you are at risk for relapse – with plenty of fat cells willing to expand at a moment's notice. Managing leptin efficiently is a lifestyle, not a short-term dieting strategy. As the years go by and you have improved your metabolism significantly, you will be more than happy that you invested time to understand an issue that is vital to the quality of your future health.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Fiber Helps Prevent Cancer  Toxicol Sci.   Williams GM, Williams CL, Weisburger JH.
  2. ^ Lacking Magnesium Contributes to the Metabolic Syndrome  Magnes Res.   Belin RJ, He K.
  3. ^ Magnesium Improves Metabolic Gene Signalling in Overweight Individuals  Am J Clin Nutr.  Chacko SA, Sul J, Song Y, Li X, LeBlanc J, You Y, Butch A, Liu S.
  4. ^ The Lack of Antioxidants, inflammation, and Obesity are Birds of a Feather  Asian Pac J Cancer Prev.   Suzuki K, Ito Y, Ochiai J, Kusuhara Y, Hashimoto S, Tokudome S, Kojima M, Wakai K, Toyoshima H, Tamakoshi K, Watanabe Y, Hayakawa N, Maruta M, Watanabe M, Kato K, Ohta Y, Tamakoshi A; JACC Study Group.
  5. ^ Multiple Antioxidants and B Vitamins Lacking in Overweight US Adults  MedGenMed.   Kimmons JE, Blanck HM, Tohill BC, Zhang J, Khan LK.
  6. ^ Obese Children and Adolescents Lack Antioxidants  Int J Food Sci Nutr.  Puchau B, Ochoa MC, Zulet MA, Marti A, Martínez JA, Members G.
  7. ^ Antioxidant Status and the Risk for Serious Metabolic Problems  Life Sci.   Roberts CK, Sindhu KK.
  8. ^ A Lack of Vitamin C as a Cause for Obesity  Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc.   Johnson RJ, Andrews P, Benner SA, Oliver W.
  9. ^ Carotenes Lacking in Overweight Premenopausal Women  Nutr Res.   Chai W, Conroy SM, Maskarinec G, Franke AA, Pagano IS, Cooney RV.
  10. ^ Vitamin D Deficiency Is The Cause of Common Obesity  Med Hypotheses.  Foss YJ.
  11. ^ Vitamin D Helps Regulate New Fat Cell Formation  Nutr Rev.  Wood RJ.
  12. ^ NPY Causes Cravings Via an Expanding Waistline  The FASEB Journal  Kaiping Yang, Haiyan Guan, Edith Arany, David J. Hill, and Xiang Cao.
  13. ^ Calcium Helps Produce Adiponectin  Metab Syndr Relat Disord.  Banga A, Bodles AM, Rasouli N, Ranganathan G, Kern PA, Owens RJ.
  14. ^ Homocysteine and Obesity  Indian Heart J.   Karatela RA, Sainani GS.
  15. ^ B12 and PCOS  Reprod Biomed Online  Kaya C, Cengiz SD, Satiroğlu H.
  16. ^ Folic Acid Activates AMPK  Horm Metab Res.  Buettner R, Bettermann I, Hechtl C, Gäbele E, Hellerbrand C, Schölmerich J, Bollheimer LC.
  17. ^ Mutli-Vitamin Supplements Help Obese Women IMprove Metabolism  Asia Pac J Clin Nutr.   Wang C, Li Y, Zhu K, Dong YM, Sun CH.

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