Most folks who decide to give the Primal Blueprint 30-Day Challenge the old college try do so to correct an underlying health issue. Maybe their cardiologist’s recommended dietary plan hasn’t been improving their lipid numbers as promised, or perhaps they’re sick of fighting a losing battle with diabetes by submitting to a daily pharmaceutical cocktail that appears increasingly ineffective. Gentle (or not so gentle) prodding from coworkers and loved ones with incredible results is another common motivating factor. But, above all, most people get involved with this Primal stuff because they want to lose weight without stressing over calorie counts, fat grams, and endless hours on the treadmill. And in order to do that – in order to lean out effortlessly and maintain that leanness – it’s vitally important that you dial in your carb count.
I’m a big guy (okay, obese, if I’m being honest) who’s getting smaller fast. I adopted the PB a couple weeks ago, and I’ve already dropped twenty pounds, going from 300 to 280. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m just confused. How does that work? You always hear that initial weight loss for the really overweight is fast, but why? Is it really just water weight? It seems metabolically impossible that I’ve actually burned that much body fat… I can’t help but feel a bit let down if all I’m doing is losing water. If there’s one thing I learned from your writings, it’s weight isn’t just weight (and calories aren’t just calories). So… what gives?
I mentioned a few of the working hypotheses for avoiding leptin resistance in my posts last week, including fructose and lectin avoidance, getting adequate nightly sleep, and eating at or above maintenance levels – or at least throwing in periodic carb refeeds – but there’s even more involved in establishing a good relationship with your leptin levels and leptin sensitivity. Depending on your general approach to life, this could be good news or bad news. It’s either more stuff to worry about, or more ways to buttress your health. As I alluded to last week, experimenting with carb refeeding and leptin manipulation within the broader Primal Blueprint eating style is butter on the steak (because “icing on the cake” just won’t do for us Primal folks).
Part of the allure of the Primal eating plan is that it’s effortless. There’s no calorie counting, no stressing over macronutrient intakes – eating PB simply means choosing to eat real, whole foods that man has been eating for tens of thousands of years. You can go higher carb or lower carb (I initially recommend low carb, just because it makes losing weight and stabilizing your metabolism incredibly easy, especially for folks coming off the SAD), and as long as you’re eating real foods you’ll be getting healthier and losing body fat.
This isn’t enough for everyone, though. To go back to yesterday’s “hormones as software” analogy, some people are hackers who relish digging deep into the fine print of software manuals discussing human nutrition and hormonal responses. Others – the bulk of my readership – are cool with using their standard-issue, factory Mac or PC to reap the basic benefits of Primal living, while others prefer learning Unix and taking night classes in comp sci down at the local community college after work. They’re the ones who spend the time to fiddle with the programming language of our bodies in order to become real hormonal hackers. I get that. I love that stuff, too, if only to able to take the information and distill it for a large audience. Though one can see tremendous results with minimal effort following the simple principles of the Primal Blueprint (i.e. how I approach my own eating habits and how I recommend others do as well) digging deeper into the science of leptin and how carb refeeds impact leptin levels can unlock an entirely new level of fat loss (and understanding of why that fat loss is occurring).
Just about every physiological process occurring under the hood can be attributed to one hormone or another. Hormones are like software programs, directing our bodily processes, modulating our reactions to foods, and guiding energy metabolism and balance. We don’t consciously control our hormonal responses – that is, we don’t think to ourselves, “Hmm, let’s get some testosterone flowing,” or “Insulin: release!” But we can heavily influence our hormonal responses through the things we do, the stress we undergo, the foods we eat, the weights we lift, and the sleep we get.
One crucial hormone that we’re still learning about is leptin. We do know a few things, however. Leptin is the lookout hormone – the gatekeeper of fat metabolism, monitoring how much energy an organism takes in. It surveys and maintains the energy balance in the body, and it regulates hunger via three pathways:
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