How to Use Brown Fat to Lose Weight

How to Use Brown Fat to Lose Weight

There are two types of fat in your body: white fat and brown fat. White fat is primarily used for energy storage. Brown fat is primarily used to keep your body warm. It burns up calories to create heat. The amazing part about brown fat is that you can use it to burn the fat inside your body. Keep reading to learn more.

White fat is converted into brown fat

People who have more brown fat tend to have a lower total body mass. White fat can be turned into brown fat. This is done through a variety of mechanisms in the body. I will be discussing these methods in a moment, but first let’s look at what we know about brown fat from a scientific standpoint so far.

Brown fat is a relatively new concept

Babies hold their brown fat stores in the upper back region. This is used to keep them warm because their muscles aren’t developed enough to shiver when they get cold. It was initially thought that babies lost their brown fat stores within the first year after birth and that adult humans only had white fat, since we can shiver to warm ourselves up when we need to.

The recent discovery of brown fat in human adults has ignited a lot of research into its relationship with weight gain. Why didn’t we spot brown fat in adults earlier? Because it forms at some of the most unlikely of places: near the collar bone and neck, between the shoulder blades, and surrounding the spinal cord and kidneys.

Exercise burns white fat or sugar

Our bodies get energy from food. We also get energy from oxygen, but oxygen is combined with lipids (fat molecules) to give our bodies the energy to move or function. That is why non-aerobic activities like weight training rely on glycogen (sugar stores in the muscles, blood and liver) while aerobic activities like running rely on oxygen and fat stores.

Food is stored as energy, glucose and then fat

When you eat a certain food, it is broken down into smaller particles in the digestive system. Protein is broken down into amino acids. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars. Fats are broken down into fatty acids or lipids. The nutrients from food are sent to the mitochondria in the cells so that they can be converted into energy. Excess nutrients are stored as glycogen in the muscles and in the liver. Once these storages are full, excess nutrients get stored as fat to be used in times of famine.

Two types of fat storage

When these nutrients are stored as white fat, they are stored to be used as energy. When they are stored as brown fat, they are stored to be used as heat when you get cold. Certain stimuli can change the way that these fat stores are arranged so that white fat becomes brown fat or vice versa. If your body senses the need for more brown fat, it will convert some of its white fat for that purpose.

Does more brown fat lead to more calories being burned?

The answer is an exciting yes. This is why there is such a strong correlation between the amount of brown fat and total body mass. The more brown fat you have, the more likely you are to have less white fat. Why is this? Brown fat burns calories. It turns them into heat. The greater your brown fat stores, the more efficient your body will be at using calories as heat instead of causing you to shiver when you get cold. This is how you can convert some of your white fat into brown fat:

Take cold showers

When you put your body in situations where is gets cold, it will activate brown fat to burn up calories for heat. It will also adapt to the cold by turning more white fat into brown fat so that it is better able to turn calories into heat in the future. The more often you take a cold shower, the more regularly you will burn these calories and the more calories will be burned each time.

Will regular cold exposure really make me burn more and more fat each time?

The Journal of Clinical Investigation studied 12 healthy men who had low or undetectable levels of brown fat. The researchers placed them in a cold room that was 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit). This is not very cold, but cold enough to cause the body to warm itself up. At the beginning of the study, the participants burned 108 more calories than what they would have at normal room temperature. At the end of the 6 week period, the participants burned 289 more calories, compared to normal room temperature. The participants burned more than twice as much of the amount of calories after 6 weeks.

This confirms that regular exposure to colder temperatures increases brown fat formation, and brown fat formation leads to greater calorie burn rates. All of the participants lost weight by the end of the study.

The same study confirmed that chili peppers also stimulate the formation of brown fat, but more on that later.

How to take a cold shower

The idea of switching from hot to cold water can be very daunting. The good news is that you can do it in smaller increments to help you get acclimatized.

For the first few showers, gradually decrease the heat at the end of the shower until the water is completely cold. Stay in the shower for as long as what you can tolerate. A minute or two is enough to activate brown fat and help you get used to it. Once you are used to that, let the second part of your shower be completely cold. As more brown fat gets activated, it will become easier. Once you are used to that, you can move on to taking completely cold showers.

Cold showers are very beneficial

Cold showers are good for you. They help to increase your metabolism and fight off depression. The coldness stimulates the release of endorphins, similar to exercise. These endorphins will help to elevate your mood. Your body’s metabolism is naturally boosted whenever it needs to warm itself up or cool itself down. Cold showers will also give you a burst of energy and wake you up in the morning. The metabolism-boosting effects of cold showers can last throughout the entire day.

Other ways to use cold temperatures to activate brown fat

Cold showers aren’t the only places where you can use colder temperatures to burn fat. You can also lower the thermostat at work (if you have that option), turn down the air-conditioning at home or try to wear less clothing to stimulate your body’s natural heating processes. Remember to never push your body past its limits and always do things in moderation. Too much of anything is bad for you if you take it too far.

Foods that stimulate brown fat activation

It would seem natural that colder temperatures stimulate the formation of brown fat, but surprisingly, there are foods that trigger a similar response. In the above study, for example, spicy foods like chili peppers increased brown fat formation. On top of that, the body burns calories as a direct thermogenic response to those foods. Thermogenic means to create heat using energy. Thermogenic foods, like chili peppers, increases heat in the body. The increased heat leads to the consumption of calories. Thermogenic foods are known to stimulate the metabolism because of this mechanism.

Chili peppers are one of my favorite foods – especially since they make a great alternative to salt as a flavoring for food. Have you ever noticed that you start to produce a light sweat after eating food that is very spicy? This happens because of the thermogenic effects of that food. Heat requires energy and the body burns calories when producing heat as a response to those foods. Chilies are also great because they can kill off unwanted parasites in your gut if you eat them in high enough quantities. Other spices that are thermogenic include tumeric, curry powder, cinnamon and garlic. Coconut oil, green tea and apple cider vinegar are other foods that have a thermogenic effect on your body.

Lean proteins are also thermogenic. About 20% of the caloric content of lean meat is burned while trying to metabolize the meat. I like to imagine that I get a 20% calorie discount on lean meats. This includes fish and white meat.

Cold showers and thermogenic foods are not a complete solution to weight loss

While the increased activation of brown fat will help you to burn more calories and improve your overall metabolism, this is not enough to help you lose weight on its own. These methods should be seen as boosters that help to give you some additional assistance along your weight loss journey. No weight loss regime is complete without addressing the causes of the weight gain. If the above methods increase caloric expenditure by 200 calories per day but you are still eating 500 more calories than what you need per day, you will still be gaining weight.

Combine cold showers and thermogenic foods with a nutritious, calorie-controlled diet and exercise plan to lose weight and improve your overall health. Always consult with your doctor or medical practitioner before embarking on any new lifestyle changes. Every little bit of healthy change can add up to great changes.