Jan, 2015

Nutrition Hack 2 Brain Hack to Control Insulin and Leptin

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Hacking your brain biochemistry for nutritional success.

Dr. Paul MacLean MD (Yale University) was one of the first doctors to talk about the human brain having three distinct behavioral areas. Behavioral rather than anatomy. I like this guy because he did most of his research out of Seattle, yay West coast:)

Seth Godin popularized this concept by talking about the reptile brain, the Labrador retriever brain and finally the human brain. Dave Asprey (The BulletProof Diet) also does a great job explaining this in unscientific language in his book The BulletProof Diet; lose up to a pound a day, reclaim your energy and focus, upgrade your life.

Insulin and Leptin impact your Labrador retriever brain. If you can control that you’ll never need to diet again. To be successful in getting to an ideal body weight and staying at an ideal body weight make sure these two hormones don’t control your brain.

We need to keep our very emotional Labrador retriever brain in check and keep our Spock brain (human brain) fully engaged if we’re going to beat the cravings that destroy our nutritional success.

And if weight stabilization is not enough, when you hack these two hormones, you start to bend your genetics toward longevity and beating disease. You can actually start to re-program your genes.

If you want to find out how that happens, start reading about the very exciting new field in genetic research called Epigenetics.

Now back to how we hack Insulin and Leptin to control our brain.

Insulin triggers your brain to stop eating; so does Leptin but in a different way. The important thing is how these 2 hormones keep your body’s energy “stores” in check.

When we say energy stores, we’re talking about fat.

The average North American will gain 1.5 pounds of fat each year once they hit their 30’s and that will continue until they are nearing their 60’s[1]. Weight gain has become big business! (no pun intended)

We need to unplug from the weight loss game. According to a 2013 study, the weight loss market has grown steadily at 6% a year. I wish my kids RESPs were growing that fast!

Figuring out this “fat hormone” balance is the key to never being on a diet again.

Insulin is released when you eat foods that cause your blood sugar to rise. This is normal and healthy.

But when sugar storage is maxed out in your cells, insulin helps to turn the sugar into fat for long-term storage. That’s what we need to avoid.

We need to eat just enough carbohydrate that we satisfy our body’s need for sugar. Too much and our body will store the extra as fat.

Leptin is produced by fat cells. The more fat cells we have, the more Leptin is produced. As Leptin levels in the body rise, it signals the brain to stop eating.

Insulin and Leptin control is Hack #2 because they are the hormones that put fat on your body (and can prevent you from getting rid of what fat you have). This is the very frustrating reality for people who struggle with weigh gain. If you loose weight too fast Leptin will actually trigger your brain to resist. That’s why after a quick weight loss program people put on weight like crazy, even when they are really reducing calories. Imagine how frustrating that is for someone trying to loose weight.

What is the simplest way to regulate Insulin and take Leptin out of the picture? Eat loads of good fats (see Hack #1) and avoid the carbohydrates that cause the most significant Insulin spikes.

To “max out” hack #2, be absolutely ruthless in removing grains and sugars.

We’re not talking no carb’s, like Atkins.

There are good carbs and bad carbs, just like good fat and bad fat. You need carbohydrates because foods with carbs have vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that we absolutely need for good health. And you need to have sugar sources to replenish glycogen stores in the liver and sugar is a brain fuel.

Radically reduce bread, cereal, and pasta.  Do not make the mistake of resorting to gluten free junk food, which can be almost as bad. Remove grains, grain derived oils, and vegetable oils such as corn, soy, and canola.

Sugar (from good carbs) is not the only brain fuel, like many nutritionist tell us, but the brain does need sugar.

The good carbohydrates are found in veggies and some fruits.

I don’t have a “veggie to avoid list”, as far as I’m concerned as long as you are kind to your veggies in preparation (steam or raw) then you are doing great. I know some “authorities” are against night shades or other vegetables but my experience is we don’t get enough veggies as is, so let’s not take any off our list.

Fruit servings should be limited to 1/day, max 2 (so that mean’s an apple a day, one orange a day, etc. . . ) More than that and you’re consuming too much sugar and your insulin starts activating your Labrador retriever brain. We don’t want that.

So we’re not saying no to all carbs. Just the one’s that overload your body and cause Insulin to store sugar as fat.

And the other great benefit when we remove the grains and sugars, Leptin stays at low levels in the body because the fat deposits aren’t growing.

What if you are already “blessed” with more fat storage than you want?

By avoiding grains and sugars, your brain will be regain its sensitivity to Leptin and your hunger centers will get turned offJ This is hacking your Labrador brain, so you don’t loose all sense of self control and binge on chocolate mousse. Your Spock brain stays fully in charge and you stay on track, reach your weight loss goals and reprogram your genes (so you can fit into your jeans).

Dr. Joseph Mercola writes, “leptin sends signals to your body to reduce hunger, increase fat burning and reduce fat storage. When your cells are communicating properly they can “hear” this message. If you eat a diet that is high in grains then leptin surges. When your body is exposed to too much leptin it becomes resistant to it. When you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat — so it remains hungry and stores more fat.”[2]

This happens no matter how hard you work out or starve yourself. In fact the harder you work out and the harder you starve yourself the worse it gets. So hack #2 is about working with your body, not being in constant opposition to it.

Scientifically grounded nutritional hacks should make your life easier, not harder. Hacking your insulin and leptin regulation will deal with cravings and make your nutritional goals attainable. It may take a couple weeks for your body to get comfortable burning fat as fuel but once you’re there you’ll love the effects.

[1] The average American will gain about one pound of additional weight each year from age 25, or 35 additional pounds by the age of 60; because we typically also lose about a half pound of bone and muscle mass each year — unless we’re physically active, of course — then our body fat is increasing by 1.5 pounds each year from the age of 25 to 60, or more than 50 pounds of fat over 35 years. (http://www.sharecare.com/health/weight-loss/how-much-weight-person-gain-lifetime accessed Jan 17, 2015)

[2] http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/beginner_carbs.htm (accessed January 10, 2015)