Fats that we eat are not the same and neither is the fat in our body.
We have two distinct types of fat and each has its unique properties. One of those fats is actually an energy burner the other is energy storage.
Energy storage = fat!
How does Fat Burn Fat?
The food we eat and drink all has calories. Carbohydrates and Protein have 4 calories for every gram. Fat has 9 calories for every gram. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram.
The foods we eat are all digested differently and are metabolized throughout our body using different metabolic pathways. Even the fats we ingest are treated differently. Coconut oil fat is burned off as energy whereas canola oil fat would first go to our butt’s to be burned off later.
To burn the fat we have stored we have to create an atmosphere of a caloric deficit, ample oxygen supply, and have a healthy metabolism (ie, NOT be starving ourselves) to turn butt-fat into energy.
What is White Fat?
The type of fat we are most familiar with is “White Fat”. We grow it in abundance and it is THAT fat that grows conspicuously all over our body that gives us both our self-esteem issues and health issues. Generally speaking if we are in a calorie surplus ie; calories being ingested is more than being burned – we store fat.
It is the job of the white fat to ensure that we as biological organisms ~ do not starve.
But now it appears this isn’t ALWAYS the case. There is hope that we can force the white fat to turn into the energy burning brown fat.
What is Brown Fat?
We actually have another type of fat – a Brown Fat – that is metabolically active and burns off calories rather than storing them. It does this because its job is to ensure we maintain a healthy body temperature.
This might explain why baby’s are born with an abundance of brown fat and are compelled to eat every 90 minutes or so.
Have you ever noticed how warm your neck always is? That is because you can find the brown fat in the neck and clavicle areas. It is also found marbled within the white visceral fat and around blood vessels keeping your blood and organs warm. As we get older the number of brown fat cells diminish.
Brown fat gets it’s darker colour from the mitochondria inside it’s cells. The mitochondria function is to produce energy for our cells. It does this by taking the glucose from our food and turning into energy.
It seems there are two types of brown fat too. One exists in small amounts mostly in our neck area. This is the brown fat that burns energy without storing it.
Another brown fat is one that is created from existing white fat. One team studying this effect found that exercise caused the muscles to release irisin. This is the enzyme that triggered the white fat cells to turn into energy burning brown fat cells.
They were also able to boost the enzyme’s function in a colder environment. Stephan Herzig at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, hypothesized that the body may be activated to produce more brown fat when the body is put in the cold. (link)
“Based on estimates on animal models, 50 grams of brown fat might be sufficient to increase overall energy consumption in human beings by 20%,” he says. “So you would need to activate a relatively little amount of brown fat to substantially impact overall energy metabolism.”
Other researchers have tested this theory and have found they could induce metabolic increase in test subjects by 80%. One statement outlined that 3 oz of brown fat might be expected to burn off 400 – 500 calories per day.
The experiments involved chilling the subjects but not so they would begin to shiver. It was noted that the more brown fat the test subject had, the colder he could get without shivering, proving that brown fat does keep you warmer.
Shivering will burn even more calories. (link)
These experiments show promise but also bring up the question;
“Are people obese because they have less brown fat OR
do they have less brown fat because they are obese?”
The experiments seem to indicate the latter. Which is good news because by focusing on triggering the creation or activation of brown fat’s it appears that you should be able to crank up your metabolism.
Turn on Your Fat Burning Brown Fat
The clinical trials have so far shown that exercise and cold will trigger the brown fat cells.
When using “cool fat burner” techniques you might want to start cautiously. Cooling your body will force it to burn more calories to try and keep you warmer. This will use the brown fat.
You can sit in a cold environment, take cold showers, or dress in specially designed cold fat burning clothing.
Another study shows promise of being able to stimulate the brown fat using foods.
It is the brain that activates the brown fat based on the body’s need for heat. It’s internal thermoregulatory thermogenesis will call for heat when it get’s too cold. The initial heat is provided by burning stored lipids and if it needs to continue to burn fuel for heat, it will then recruit ingested foods for fuel.
Results after only 12 weeks of training subjects on an exercise bike revealed two important metabolism boosting benefits.
1. Increase in lean muscle
2. The fat became browner and more metabolically active.
The theory is that exercise releases important elements into the blood stream causing the healthier fat to form and the white fat to reduce.