We could not live without lifesaving body fat! Too much fat poses definite health hazards. One type of body fat helps you maintain or gain weight. Two other types enable you to rev up your fat burn and lose weight! We need all three! The key is having just the right amount, the right distribution, and the right composition, in just the right places!
What Shapes Fat?
Genetic, lifestyle, metabolic, and environmental factors all contribute to fat composition and location. In this article we explore natural but scientifically validated ways to improve our fat burn capacity. To understand the principles regarding fat metabolism we need to review the types of body fat.
Adipose tissue means “fat” but usually refers specifically to tissue made up mainly of fat cells such as the yellow layer of fat beneath the skin. It is found around internal organs. Adipose tissue contains many small blood vessels. This tissue surrounds internal organs and offers some protection if these organs are jarred or impacted. Besides protection, it provides insulation. Additional adipose tissue stores nutrients. Therefore, adipose tissue is essential.
In order to have optimal fat burning metabolism you need to understand the types of body fat. In healthy individuals, adipose tissue constitutes 20–33% of body weight depending on age and gender. Men ideally have less body fat than women do.
White (WAT) fat provides insulation and, by storing triglycerides, serves as an energy depot. As well, it stores several hormones and many pro-inflammatory compounds or proteins. White fat generates a few helpful hormones like leptin and adiponectin. Leptin helps us to control appetite by at least two different mechanisms. Adiponectin improves the ability of the cells to respond to insulin. Additionally, adiponectin improves fat burning in skeletal muscles.1,2,3
WAT cells stuff themselves with fat molecules to store up energy. Too much WAT results in obesity. Unfortunately, an excess of white fat manufactures a whole arsenal of pro-inflammatory messengers that fuel inflammation. Persistent inflammation fuels chronic diseases. Excess white fat, for example, contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes. Sadly, obesity and inflammation cause the leptin receptors in the brain to become less responsive to the hormone leptin.
The brown color comes from its density, its large quantity of mitochondria, and its rich vascularization. Brown adipose tissue acts as insulation creating warmth. It protects from obesity through the activation of energy expenditure. Unlike white fat, the main function of brown adipose tissue (BAT) is to burn calories. Unfortunately, as we age, we lose some of our brown fat.
Several years ago, scientists discovered a third type of fat — beige fat — which is in between white and brown fat. Under certain conditions brown fat can appear in WAT. In a process called “browning”, white fat can be turned into beige fat. The more brown fat appears in WAT (i.e. as beige fat), the more calories burn! Certain lifestyle practices can encourage the browning of white fat!
Boost Your Fat Burn Metabolism!
Unlike white fat, both brown and beige adipose tissue possess thermogenic properties which mean they generate heat and boost the basic metabolic rate and the burning up of calories! In contrast to white fat, BAT and beige fat-derived metabolic factors are gaining increasing attention for their anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects. Human BAT is metabolically highly active tissue with a respiratory capacity up to 50-fold greater than WAT!4 The browning of white adipose tissue into beige fat has shown great potential as an anti-obesity strategy in numerous preclinical models.5 This is because beige fat activates a protein that works to burn calories and generates heat in the body.6
So, how to get brown!
1. Keep Cool
Reduce the temperature in your house to 66 Fahrenheit for at least 2 hours.7 Exercise in cool or cold weather. This turns up the thyroid activity and increases basal metabolism rate! As long as you are appropriately clad, autumn and winter exercise is great! Cold exposure of 43 degrees Fahrenheit for ten days dramatically alters the composition of intestinal bacteria to burn fat more efficiently. This cold exposure also improves glucose metabolism and reduces body weight.8
2. Hydrotherapy Boost
Take a cold shower. Why? The activation of sympathetic nerves helps to convert white fat into beige fat, which is more metabolically active.9 Of course, not everyone should do this. Take a warm shower for 2 minutes and end up with cold for one or two minutes. Focusing the shower on your mid spine will produce a greater effect! We would not recommend this treatment for anyone who has anemia, neuropathy, hypothyroidism, hypertension, or blood vessel diseases.
3. Move to Live!
Exchanging sedentary behavior for even low-intensity physical activity reduces the amount of adipose tissue. Persistent endurance exercise training encourage the genes in WAT that promote the browning of fat (to make brown fat) and consequently promotes fat burning.10 It also reduces the size of fat cells, their fat content, and increases the activity of the mitochondria or cellular power plants.11
4. Exercise Before You Eat
A nice stroll after you eat does wonders for your digestion. For weight loss, try exercising before you eat. People can burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach.12 Performing exercise on an empty stomach provides the most desirable outcome for fat loss. However, if you have pre-diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, or diabetes, be sure to exercise also after you eat. Post-meal exercise helps the blood sugar.
5. Go Vegetarian
When compared to participants who ate a conventional low-calorie diet, vegetarians who ate a low calorie diet nearly doubled their weight loss. Both groups experienced similar reduction in subcutaneous fat stored under the skin. Only the vegetarian group manifested greater reduction in intramuscular fat (fat inside the muscle) and subfascial fat (fat that lines muscles). This has big ramifications in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This is significant because subfascial fat has been linked to insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.13
6. Carbs to the Rescue!
Eating an ample amount of proteins significantly speeds up your fat burn. Consuming wholesome carbs can actually help your brown adipose tissue to burn fat more efficiently. Good carbs can be as effective as sitting for several hours in a cold chamber! 14 Fiber-loaded carbs contain many B vitamins essential in metabolism of fatty acids.
Legumes contain significant levels of resistant starch which increases satiety and has a lower glycemic index. Resistant starch produces a smaller rise in blood glucose than high starch food such as white potatoes and refined grains.15 Stay away from refined carbs: sugar, fruit juices, refined grains, and pasta. Whole grain and legume pasta are much better for your health.
7. Watch Your Fat Intake
Not only does consumption of high-calorie foods lead to an increase in white fat cell production (the type prominent in obesity) but it also leads to the dysfunction of brown fat cells.16 How? A high fat diet causes brown fat cells to lose their mitochondria. Consequently, this reduces their ability to burn fat to produce heat! Overeating fats coaxes the brown fat into a death spiral. You do not want your brown fat going white!
Generally, adults need at least 15-20% of your calories coming from healthy fats to prevent a deficiency in essential fatty acids. Consuming saturated fats (fats solid at room temperature) make it more difficult to control appetite. In contrast, a modest amount of monounsaturated fats– such as in almonds, avocados,and olives–improves fat burn. Chewing nuts and avocados instead of drinking them in a smoothie improves satiety and metabolism.
8. Enjoy Berries and Grapes
Why? Because their regular consumption converts excess white fat into calorie-burning ‘beige’ fat. Precisely, polyphenols in fruit, including resveratrol from red grapes and blueberries, increase gene activity that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body will not get obese. Polyphenols help to convert white fat into beige fat which burns lipids off as heat – reducing the risk for obesity and metabolic dysfunction.17 Beware of consuming fruit juice regularly because too much increases blood fats known as triglycerides.
9. Enjoy Seeds
Omega-3 fatty acids are able to stimulate the activation of brown adipose tissue. Chia seed and flaxseeds are rich plant sources for omega-3 fats. Since sesame seeds are rich in protein and fiber, they help to curb hunger and improve metabolism.
10. Clock Work Efficiency
Regularity for meals and sleeping improves the efficiency of brown fat. Why? Circadian rhythms govern the metabolic processes in BAT! Additionally, circadian clocks control the enzymes, hormones, and transport systems involved in metabolism (including fat burning for energy).18 An irregular schedule promotes obesity and diabetes. See How to Diffuse Your Body’s Time Bomb.
Hunger and appetite regulating neurons in the brain can encourage white fat to turn brown! Eating too few calories can prevent white fat from turning brown. However, eating just enough food to satisfy hunger—prompting the action of the neurons—turns white fat to brown. In contrast, overconsumption of food increases white fat and interferes with brown fat’s ability to burn calories.19
12. Cook with Turmeric and Ginger
Curcumin, commonly used as a spice in cooking, has potential value as an anti-obesity agent. Curcumin activates BAT metabolism. A recent clinical trial assessed the safety and effectiveness of 30-day treatment with curcumin combined with phosphatidylserine (a type of lecithin). The study was conducted with overweight subjects undergoing weight loss by diet and lifestyle intervention. In this study, curcumin administration increased weight loss, enhanced the fat mass loss, and induced a reduction in waist and hip circumference.20 Additionally, curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Exposure to light degrades the effectiveness of curcumin. A note of caution: Habitual use of curcumin- containing foods may reduce iron absorption. Individuals on blood thinners should not use ginger or turmeric.
13. Ursolic Acid
Ursolic acid also increases skeletal muscle, brown fat, and energy expenditure in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity. These effects are linked to greater strength and exercise capacity, reduced obesity, improved glucose tolerance, and decreased fat in the liver.21
Where can we find it? In the skin of apples, bilberry, cranberry, cherries, pomegranates, and prunes. Juice of these fruits possesses no ursolic acid. Herbs containing ursolic acid include basil, elder flower, peppermint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, and marjoram.
14. Sleep Tight
Good sleep boosts your metabolism! Did you know what for a 150-pound person, the estimated calorie burn over a 7-hour night of rest is just over 440 calories? That’s a 40-minute jog on a treadmill!22 The deep slow-wave sleep improves growth hormone production. This hormone from the anterior pituitary increases the burning of fatty acids and improves protein synthesis.
Sleep in a cool environment is going to be more effective in burning fat than sleeping in a warmer room. High-quality sleep, a consistent, regular sleep-wake cycle, and protecting daily circadian biorhythms from disruption help encourage melatonin production. For more information on how sleep impacts appetite and weight, see The Forgotten Key to Successful Weight Loss.
15. Nudge Your Melatonin More
Melatonin is a hormone produced and released from the pineal gland. This hormone stimulates the appearance of beige and brown fat which burns fat calories instead of storing them.23 Exercise in bright morning sunlight is the best way to do this. Shutting off blue light devises in the evening also increases melatonin and boosts the metabolism. If this is not possible, use blue light filters on your devises in the evening. For more information, see New Light on Diabetes and Insulin Resistance!.
Central nervous system stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, stress, certain NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), calcium channel blockers, and bright lights at night (including moonlight) reduce the levels of melatonin. Ironically, many sleep medications shut down the body’s natural production of melatonin causing dependency and eventually addiction to the sleep aid.
Adequate vitamins, B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), and folic acid are also important in the synthesis of serotonin and therefore melatonin synthesis as well.
Genetics do play an important role in fat composition and one’s risk for obesity. Lifestyle factors and scientifically validated natural remedies can help in winning the battle!
Key words: fat burn, fat burning diet, weight loss, fat burning zone, far burner, fat burn at night, metabolism, metabolism boost, white fat, beige fat, brown fat, how to increase brown fat
- Mandal A. What Does Leptin Do? Feb, 26,2019 www.news-medical.net/health/What-Does-Leptin-Do.aspx↩
- Balasubramanyam Ashok. Adiponectin: A Fat Cell Hormone That Promotes Insulin Sensitivity, Medscape, October 9, 2019 www.medscape.org/viewarticle/438373↩
- Fang H. Adiponectin Regulation and Function. 2018 Jun 18; 8(3):1031-1063. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29978896↩
- Porter C. Human and Mouse Brown Adipose Tissue Mitochondria Have Comparable UCP1 Function. LSCell Metab. 2016 Aug 9; 24(2):246-55.↩
- Keifer F. The significance of beige and brown fat in humans. Endocr Connect. 2017 Jul; 6(5): R70–R79. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510441/↩
- Breus M. Is It Possible to Lose Weight While You Sleep? June 27, 2019. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201906/is-it-possible-lose-weight-while-you-sleep↩
- Cohen P. Brown and Beige Fat: Molecular Parts of a Thermogenic Machine. Diabetes 2015; 64:2346–2351. diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/diabetes/64/7/2346.full.pdf↩
- Chevalier C. Gut Microbiota Orchestrates Energy Homeostasis during Cold. Cell, 2015; 163 (6): 1360. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26638070↩
- T J Bartness, V. Neural control of white, beige and brown adipocytes. International Journal of Obesity Supplements 2015; 5: S35 DOI: 10.1038/ijosup.2015.9↩
- Sepa-Kishi DM. Exercise-Mediated Effects on White and Brown Adipose Tissue Plasticity and Metabolism. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: January 2016 – Volume 44 – Issue 1 – p 37–44. ↩
- Lehnig AC. Exercise-induced adaptations to white and brown adipose tissue. J Exp Biol. 2018 Mar 7; 221(Pt Suppl 1). pii: jeb161570. doi: 10.1242/jeb.161570.↩
- Gonzalez JT. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. British Journal of Nutrition. 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114512005582↩
- Taylor & Francis. “Vegetarian diets almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, study finds.” ScienceDaily. 12 June 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170612094458.htm↩
- Technical University of Munich (TUM). “Food activates brown fat: How brown adipose tissue reacts to a carbohydrate-rich meal.” ScienceDaily. 29 August 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180829115544.htm↩
- Crosby G. Ask the Expert: Legumes and Resistant Starches. Nov. 16, 2015. www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/16/ask-the-expert-legumes-and-resistant-starch/↩
- Ippei Shimizu. Vascular rarefaction mediates whitening of brown fat in obesity. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2014; DOI: 10.1172/JCI71643↩
- Washington State University. “Scientists turn white fat into obesity-fighting beige fat: New twist on health benefits of resveratrol.” ScienceDaily. 18 June 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150618174205.htm↩
- Froy O. The Circadian Clock in White and Brown Adipose Tissue: Mechanistic, Endocrine, and Clinical Aspects. Endocr Rev. 2018 Jun; 39(3): 261–273. ttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6456924/↩
- Hai-Bin Ruan, O-GlcNAc Transferase Enables AgRP Neurons to Suppress Browning of White Fat. Cell, 2014; 159 (2): 306 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.010↩
- Hamza El Hadi. Food Ingredients Involved in White-to-Brown Adipose Tissue Conversion and in Calorie Burning. Front. Physiol., 11 January 2019. www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2018.01954/full↩
- Kunkel S. Ursolic Acid Increases Skeletal Muscle and Brown Fat and Decreases Diet-Induced Obesity, Glucose Intolerance and Fatty Liver Disease. Plos/OneJune 2012. ↩
- Breus M. Is It Possible to Lose Weight While You Sleep? June 27, 2019. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201906/is-it-possible-lose-weight-while-you-sleep↩
- Aroa Jiménez-Aranda. Melatonin induces browning of inguinal white adipose tissue in diabetic fatty zucker rats. Journal of Pineal Research, 2013; September DOI: 10.1111/jpr.12089↩