RYAN GROLL – BS/MS EXERCISE SCIENCE
Now that we are getting closer to the summer, I get more and more questions related to fat, and how do you burn the greatest percentage during exercise. To better understand fat storage and fat burn, you need to have an understanding on how your body works in relation to fat. This month I want to start a trend that over time will teach you more than you will ever know about body fat and how to ultimately burn what you want and store little to no fat in the process. This will not take one simple article, but a series of articles over the entire summer. As the months go on, remember to check back with me and get the latest research on fat physiology.
Everyone is born with fat cells, and until pre-adolescences they are continuing to develop more fat cells. Some develop at a higher rate depending on lifestyle & habits, meaning how they eat and their activity levels. Once they have reached a mature enough age the body stops the production of fat cells, and the number that you are left with is permanent. This number can range anywhere between 40 – 100 billion cells. Now, as you age the fat cells will either enlarge or decrease in size dependent upon, again, lifestyle. This means that at an early age you must take control of your life with good eating habits and exercise regularly to keep the number of fat cells lower. Once an adult, you now are given a hand, and how you play it is up to you.
There are 3 types of fat in our bodies; deep fat, superficial subcutaneous and deep subcutaneous. Deep fat, also known as visceral fat surround the organs, which cannot be pinched. This fat has a greater blood supply and is rich in beta-receptors. Visceral fat is also more responsive to cortisol and less sensitive to insulin, making this type of fat hard to store and easy to burn. Superficial subcutaneous fat is the ‘waistline’ fat, which most definitely can be pinched. It has a decrease in blood flow (cold fat) and is rich in alpha-receptors. This type of fat is less sensitive to fat burning catecholamine’s and cortisol and more insulin sensitive, making it easier to store and more difficult to burn. An exerciser’s nightmare! The third type of fat is deep subcutaneous, a hybrid of the first two. For the sake of time, we will talk on the first two types and how our bodies regulate them. Before going any further, I just want you to remember the words I put in bold; alpha and beta-receptors. Alpha-receptors are those that determine when fat will be stored. The greater the alpha-receptors are in an area the higher the potential fat storage. Beta-receptors are the opposite of alpha, they determine when and how much fat will be burned. Think; alpha = anti-burn and Beta = burn. Our genetics determine how much alpha and beta receptors we have in our bodies and where they are all located.
OK, if your follow thus far I’m assuming you understand everything, if not, go back up and re-read slowly J
Fat must go through a series of events in order to be ‘burned’. First, fat must be released from the fat cell itself (Lipolysis). From the release the fat travels thru the bloodstream and then enters the destination cell where it will then be ‘burned’ by the mitochondria (lipid oxidation). Having greater blood flow will have an increase in the rate at which fat is delivered to the cell. Having mitochondrial density will increase the rate at which the fat is then burned. In simple terms, increase your cardiovascular activity to increase blood flow and increase strength training to increase mitochondrial density. This will lead to a fat burning furnace!