When it comes to talking about weight loss and fat, the conversation usually goes in one of two directions. Either you’re discussing the benefits of adding healthy fats to your diet in order to lose weight, or you’re talking about reducing body fat percentage, which some experts point out can be a better way to track progress than overall body weight or BMI.
But there is a third, much less discussed, type of fat you should know about: brown fat.
While it can’t be tracked in the same way as overall body fat percentage, according to Candice Seti, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach known as a “weight loss therapist,” implementing strategies to boost your brown fat can help with weight loss.
“When we talk about body fat, we’re almost always talking about white fat, or white adipose tissue,” she says.” It’s the kind that’s just underneath our skin that we’re always trying to reduce.” She adds that part of this type of white fat is visceral fat, which wraps around internal organs and can do major damage, especially to your cardiovascular system.
Brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, however, is primarily located in the neck and shoulder area and makes up only a few ounces of your body weight. What it lacks in mass, however, it makes up for in strength.
“Brown fat generates heat, in a process called heat production, where it’s burned,” says Sethi.” In fact, brown fat can produce more calories than any other substance in the body and burns a lot of calories in the process.”
Everyone stores large amounts of brown fat at birth, but it decreases as they age. Experts point out that babies are more susceptible to cold than adults because their nervous systems are immature, they have less body hair and less muscle development, for example, they can’t warm themselves by shivering. So, brown fat can help your baby regulate heat until they’re older.
However, while you may have already exceeded your baby’s brown fat stores, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn on your current brown fat stove. Sadie recommends four main strategies to activate that big time calorie burner.
1. get cold.
Exposure to the cold is the #1 way to build brown fat because your body needs to heat itself in response to the cold and if possible, it will recruit other available fats.
This means that when you feel cold, your body may convert white fat to brown fat, thus increasing your calorie burn rate. And you don’t need to risk a low temperature to get this effect. You can turn the thermostat down, stay outside longer when it’s cold, or use cold water instead of hot for a few seconds at the end of your shower.
2. EAT ENOUGH
Sethi says that brown fat is produced when the body reaches the point of fullness when eating. Aim to feel comfortable and satisfied after you eat. If you’re still a little hungry, you probably haven’t eaten enough to kick-start your brown fat transformation.
Also, the more you try to eat the right amount, the better this process will be. Recent studies have found that brown fat works with certain hormones in the gut to control hunger signals. Therefore, it can actually help you develop better habits when it comes to choosing the right portion size.
3. eat an apple.
Maybe the old adage should be modified to “An apple a day can help you lose weight.” just make sure you include the peel.
Apples with the skin on provide ursolic acid, a natural compound that has been shown to not only increase brown fat, but also muscle mass and strength. This is especially important for weight loss because muscles also burn calories at a faster rate, so you get the best of both worlds with a humble apple as a calorie burner.
There are many reasons to include more physical activity in your day, from improved mood to better memory to lower risk of chronic disease and lower risk of obesity. Now you can add “brown fat creator” to the list.
“This should be a no-brainer because it’s on the list for everything health-related,” says Sethi.” But it could be beneficial here because of an enzyme called irisin. This enzyme is released when we exercise, and it’s been shown to turn white fat cells to brown.”
But be sure not to exercise in the heat, she adds. This can actually prevent the activation of brown fat, so exercise at the coolest temperature possible.