Eating to Increase Your Metabolism [Pt 1]

January 2, 2013

We have all known someone with the ability to eat large amounts of calories, not even workout, and still look lean and defined year round.

By chance, these people have a revved up metabolism. What often happens to these people is they are lean when they are young, then at some point their metabolism slows down and they put on weight.

In fact, this was more often than not the case a couple generations ago.

teenager were lean in the 50's

[This picture was taken in the late 1940’s at Playland in Rye Beach, New York. Up until the late 1980’s, the majority of teens were lean without even trying.]

All Young Adults Were Lean in My Dad’s Generation

My dad was born in 1940 and grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. He stayed lean while eating a boat-load of food in in his teens and 20’s. I used to think current childhood obesity rates are because of the activity levels of young people back then compared to now, but have since changed my mind.

My dad’s sister (my aunt) ate until she was stuffed 3 times per day, was inactive, and stayed lean into her late 20’s as well.


You Really Can’t Blame Carbs Either

Back in the 50’s when my dad was in his teens, dinners typically had a large amount of carbs. Meat was always served with a large portion of carbs. I think my grandma served potatoes with almost every meal back then.

They ate large volumes of carbs and stayed lean.

1980’s = Beginning of Widespread “Leptin Resistance”

You have probably know about insulin resistance…and my guess is that you have read about increasing leptin levels while dieting using cheat meals. This is something different altogether.

Those with leptin resistance typically have plenty of leptin in their body, but it doesn’t work properly to regulate body fat. What sucks is that cheat meals won’t do anything to help with leptin resistance.

[Speaking of the 80’s…some stellar anthems came out of that decade. Here’s an incredible live performance of 1988 mega-hit Never Tear Us Apart. In my opinion, one of the best songs ever written.]

Leptin Resistance Makes Calorie Reduction Difficult

A simple way to look at leptin is that it is your hunger hormone. When you eat a large amount of food, or have a extra body fat, your body releases leptin as a signal to eat less. This is one way the body regulates body fat.

If you are resistant to this hormone, your hunger continues despite adequate calories or excess body fat.

Leptin Resistance Sets Off a Nasty Chain of Events

Here’s an interesting study —>Circulating leptin levels predict the development of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged men: an 8-year follow-up study

This study suggests leptin resistance and insulin resistance usually work as as team (in a bad way). Leptin resistance makes you hungry, you eat more, insulin resistance causes you to store more body fat, etc. This study also showed that those with leptin resistance were more likely to have abdominal obesity and high blood pressure.

Metabolism Goal #1: Increase Leptin Sensitivity

One of the keys to a strong metabolism and the ability to stay lean without counting calories…is increasing your sensitivity to leptin. In part 2 I’m going to talk about what it takes to get your leptin sensitivity (and metabolism) back to a normal range.

I’m going to lay out a 2 month game plan to get your metabolism rocking again. This way when you reduce calories, you will create a calorie deficit, and you will lose body fat.

Note: You have to be willing to eat more and you may even add a little body fat when repairing your metabolism.

Once your metabolism is recovered, your body will respond to good strategic fat loss routines. If you are someone who can’t get lean on a low calorie diet…the next post is going to help you in a big way.

Click Here for Part 2…

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Georgina D January 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

For the past year I have lived on a lowcarb 1200calorie days & exercising minimum 4x per week and cannot lose weight…I think I may have sluggish leptin sensitivity.. dontt know how will handle eating more & putting more weight on. But I need to lose 7kg to be in my healthy weight range. I hope it helps!!

Mitch - Home Fitness Manual January 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Rusty, I’ve seen old family photos of my grandparents, and even of when my parents were younger, all of them looked lean instead of having a surplus of weight.

Growing up I always had a serving of meat with a carb. That’s just how the family did it. Today, I think it has to do a lot with the quality of the foods that are available. This, I’m sure is why Leptin sensitivity can be such an issue.


Alykhan - Fitness Breakout January 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm


I agree with Mitch’s comment that the makeup of food, in particular, the lack of whole, unprocessed foods in the modern diet, is likely the culprit. This is probably the biggest change between now and then.

Looking forward to the next two posts in the series!


Kris Gunnars January 3, 2013 at 3:40 am

Great article, Rusty.

Have you seen any of the work by Dr. Robert Lustig?

He believes that excess Fructose, mainly from added sugars and HFCS, which is a pretty large part of the diet today, is to blame for both insulin resistance and leptin resistance.

He says over time, eating fructose in the context of excess calories, may be the main culprit behind weight gain by disrupting these major hormones.

Niko - No Excuse Fitness January 3, 2013 at 4:43 am


Great advice about leptin. My normal practice is to eat clean for 5 and a half days. At 6:00pm on the evening of the 6th day I reset my leptin levels with a massive cheat meal (excess calories, dessert, the full works). Then I fast till 6:00pm the following night (credit to Eat stop Eat). I find this method satisfies my cravings and keeps me lean all year round (read under 10% bodyfat).


Kelly Fitzsimmons January 3, 2013 at 5:22 am

Hey Rusty,

High fructose corn syrup in our sodas leads to leptin resistance. Increased levels of insulin also block leptin at the brain.

Bring on Part 2.

D.J. January 3, 2013 at 5:59 am

Intermittent Fasting…. Google it… apply it to your life immediately.

Raza January 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

It’s probably because of all the processed food we eat. My parents were born in Pakistan and they’re pretty lean. There weren’t a lot of processed foods back when they were growing up… same with my grandparents.

Asian countries that eat lots of rice and bread don’t have the same weight problems we do here in America. I’m not sure if it’s related, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Harold Coral January 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I’m 28 yrs old. I’m 5.6″ and my average weight is 130-135 lbs. My metabolism is extremely fast. I want to weight around 150 of good weight. Rusty, what do I do??

CrossFit Gold Coast January 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

It’s interesting how the increase in leptin resistance started occurring within a few years of the whole ‘low-fat’ movement that began in the late 70s.

Of course, ‘we’ know that fat doesn’t make you fat and that ‘low-fat’ products are absolutely loaded with sugar, in particular fructose and it’s derivatives.

It’s not rocket science that excess sugar consumption makes you fat. However in my opinion there’s a significant connection between the increase in fructose consumption in particular, and obesity.

We’ve seen time and time again significant fat loss with our clients after they switch to a primarily paleo diet which is inherently low in fructose and where fructose laden processed foods have no place.

It’s a fascinating and really timely/relevant topic. Anyway, great article Rusty. Really looking forward to reading the next instalment. Cheers.

Martin Hahn January 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Alway useful information. I’m getting amazing results. Thank you.

shametris January 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm

@ Georgina D. I actually increased to a 1500 calorie diet and lost weight. I not only lost weight but found that I was starting to burn off everything I ate too quickly. The difference is, when I followed a low calorie diet, I wasnt getting full well rounded meals and I wasnt eating 6 meals per day. I was also doing a ton of meaningless snacking. I thought I was eating healthy snacks but most of them had sugar added. When I cleaned my diet and increased to 1500 cals, it was clean lean meat, steamed veggies with no seasoning or fat added, and a complex carb in most of my meals. I was eating more but leaning out!

Dan January 4, 2013 at 6:51 am

Rusty, I have a high metabolism. I eat the daily recommended calories and more, every day but I don’t seem to put weight ON. It’s a bit of a problem as I’d like to go to the gym and such to build muscle but it’s a problem because I’m not exactly of a build to go to the gym. I am 18 but somehow underweight for my age. Got any tips for putting weight on?

d.j January 4, 2013 at 10:02 am


Jared January 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm

still, there’s a difference with stuffing yourself at mealtime of whatever you plate is filled off or grazing all day on junk food

my father is overweight and eats all the time, biscuits, chocolate, bread and jam but I always tell him that he “doesn’t eat enough”

what I mean is that at mealtime he just eats a small portion of meat and some salad and says “I’m stuffed” then gets hungry during the day and stuff himself with junk.

I don’t think he needs to diet, he just needs to stop grazing the whole day and stuffing himself with big meals at mealtime. I would suggest him to back off the candy bar, the coke and the bread and jam and have instead 20 ounces of meat with a huge serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m pretty sure he would get lean in no time.

The point is, he has a maintenance of 2300 calories circe. Even stuffing himself of meat and potatoes at meal time he would no get more than 800 calories per meal plus a 400 calories breakfast.

But if he eats 300 calories at lunch and dinner, then it’s easy by grazing the whole day on chocolate, candy bars, coke, crackers, french fries to eat more than 3000 calorie a day

And this is the big difference with the old generation. They stuffed themselves at meal times with meat, potatoes, rice, milk. Nowadays people, young adults too, eat little at meal time and then stuff themselves the whole day with pringles, bars, coke and so on. Whenever they go or whatever they do they eat. Mealtime is like 30% of the whole caloric intake, the rest if what it’s eating when strolling at downtown, when chatting on the pc, when watching sport or television, when at the theater, when at their friends house. They’re eating all the time, almost every second.

This is the big difference.
I remember spending a month in a friend farm during the summer. I wasn’t counting calories and I wasn’t around cheap junk food calories. I was eating a lot, lot of fresh fish from the lake, lot of fresh meat and fresh homemade salami, sordough bread made into giant loaves that would last a whole week, lot of vegetables from the orchard, apple pie with the fresh fruit, fresh cheese. I was only eating three times a day, stuffing myself at every meal but even without counting calories I was the leanest I have ever been.

Jared January 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm

by the way
people were definitely “more active” in the 1940-1980
you don’t need gym exercise or sport to be active
what really makes the difference is NEAT (non exercize activity thermogenesis) and nowadays we’re extremely sedentary because of the small things we do or don’t do.

For example when there were no computers and most families didn’t own a television, there weren’t many reasons to sit down for hours and even when doing nothing people would stroll, think of something to fix or do.

When there were no cells and emails you needed to walk to a friend house to see whether he was up to something.

When there were no elevators everywhere you needed to take the stairs.

There was a lot more movement involvement because of less technology, less reasons to sit down and more distance between people that required walking/travelling to hang around.

Cleaning, cooking, writing everything required more of a physical effort than nowadays.

David Novak February 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been cutting down the calories since the beginning of Jan, yes, a new years resolution! I know it has only been 4-5 weeks, but it is not working. I am going straight to part 2 to see what it is I can do in order to strengthen my metabolism. I don’t really know much about leptin resistance.

CJ April 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

Maybe this has been my problem all along! I’ve been told I eat “like a bird” (not very much), but I simply cannot drop the weight I need to. I’m sure increasing my activity is an absolute change I need to make, but the information in your article made me think there might be more to it.
Now on to part 2 to find out more!

Ian May 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Your picture of the local swimming pool is very telling and I can recall that scenario well.
Growing up we had very little processed food and nearly all the meals were home cooked. (Mum was a great cook) Sunday lunch was a major meal usually with some form of roast, several vegetables and a dessert.
However I think there is more to it as well. All the males in the family were thin and have remained that way all their lives – I’m close to 70 now. And I note that those shown in the picture above all all male.

But the women in the family became overweight and I am at a loss to explain it. My mother who lived through the war in England was quite slim when she got married in 1943. After she hit the richer diet in New Zealand in 1947 the weight went on and stayed. My sister has had a weight problem right from primary school. She is well over 60 now.

So maybe gender and genetics has something to do with it as well as diet.

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