Understanding your body fat and how to use it to lose weight.
You may be reading the title and thinking “How is my body fat supposed to help me get slimmer?” No, it isn’t a typo. Some of the fat in your body actually helps you lose weight. You just have to know which kind of fat is the good fat and which is the bad stuff. So read on and we’ll explain everything you need to know.
Types of Fat
While there are multiple subcategories of body fat types, your body is ultimately comprised of two types of fat: White fat and brown fat. These two types of fat amass in different locations in the body, serve different purposes, and are found in much different concentrations. These differences are very important for understanding your body fat and ultimately using your fat to your advantage.
White adipose tissue (aka “white fat” or “WAT”) has two main functions, which are to store energy and produce hormones. White fat is the bad guy. It’s the type of fat that can accumulate all over your body and what makes you overweight along with causing other serious health problems. When you “get fatter” your body is essentially taking unused calories (energy) and storing them as adipose (fat) tissue. Unfortunately, white fat is by far the more abundant of the two types of fats. According to WebMD "A 150-pound person might have 20 or 30 pounds of fat," "They are only going to have 2 or 3 ounces of brown fat." While it is necessary to have some white, a vast majority of people have more of it than they need.
Brown adipose tissue (aka “brown fat” or “BAT”) is the good kind of fat, and while it may not be as abundant as white fat, it has an important and powerful effect on the body. Its main function is to create body heat via thermogenesis (thermogenesis is the fancy scientific term for “creating body heat”), and the way brown fat creates heat is what makes it so useful for weight loss and fat loss in particular.
When brown fat is activated for the purpose of thermogenesis, it breaks down fat cells, in a process known as “Lipolysis”, and uses those broken down fat cells as energy to create heat. This is what makes brown fat so useful. Lipolysis, via BAT stimulation, burns off stored fat for fuel. Exciting news, right? Later on we will go over ways to activate your brown fat.
Brite fat (“Brite” meaning “brown in white”) is an occurrence when certain white fat cells are recruited by brown fat cells and “browned”. These Brite fat cells then take on the same role as brown fat cells and use energy to create heat.
Activating Your Brown Fat
While brown adipose tissue is naturally stimulated throughout the day under certain circumstances, there are ways for you to increase the amount of activation of your brown fat.
Considering the purpose of brown fat (creating body heat), it makes sense that being exposed to cold temperatures would induce BAT activation. Sure enough, a 2013 study found that people in a room set at 19⁰C had increased BAT activation and higher energy expenditure than people kept in a room set at 24⁰C.
How to use temperature to burn fat: Using temperature extra calories can be as simple as turning down the thermostat. Try keeping the room temperature between 65⁰F and 70⁰F, as opposed to 70⁰F to 75⁰F. Or, try lowering the temperature to 65⁰F for an hour or two every day.
This form of brown fat activation is especially useful in the winter when it’s already cold, because when you keep the room temperature lower in the winter, you actually save money on your heating bill. It’s like you’re being paid to burn fat!
In case you didn’t already know, exercise is good for losing weight (Surprise!). There are many positive effects of exercising, but one of those effects is the browning of white fat cells. When you exercise, white fat cells are browned and then play a role in heat production. Obviously, exercise is a must for weight loss and overall health, but now you know how brown/brite fat is connected to the process.
While it is no secret that diet is the most important aspect of weight loss, most dieting tips revolve around calorie reducing calorie intake or increased satiety. What many people don’t know, is that certain foods can actively help you burn fat by activating your brown adipose tissue. Here are some of the foods/food components that can stimulate brown fat.
Capsaicin: Capsaicin is an active component in most peppers, and is what makes peppers spicy. Researchers have found that capsaicin not only burns your tongue, but burns fat as well. To incorporate capsaicin into your diet, try cooking with peppers (bell peppers do not contain capsaicin), or use cayenne pepper to season food.
Tea: Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, and understandably so. Not only does it have endless delicious variations, but it is a nutritional powerhouse. Tea contains specific antioxidants known as “catechins”. Among many health benefits of catechins, is the ability to activate brown fat and aid in weight loss.
Apples: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, in more ways than one. Apples are one of the best sources of a substance called “ursolic acid”. Ursolic acid has been shown to help increase muscle mass and brown fat. However, to reap the benefits of ursolic acid in apples, you have to eat the peel, where the substance is concentrated.
L-Arginine: L-Arginine is an amino acid that is found in food and made into arginine supplements. Studies have shown arginine to promote growth of brown adipose tissue while inhibiting white fat accumulation. It also plays a role in muscle building. Arginine is very abundant in foods such as turkey, nuts, and seeds.
The Actual Effect of Brown Adipose Tissue
While brown fat mass and activation varies by person (leaner people tend to have more brown fat), the positive effects of brown adipose tissue can be utilized by almost anyone. Some studies show that brown adipose tissue, if properly stimulated, can burn several hundred extra calories per day. So if you utilized some or all of these brown fat techniques over a long enough period of time, you could see major changes in your body composition due to the power of brown adipose tissue. That being said, it is important to remember that you must be in a caloric deficit to lose weight (burn more calories than you consume). If you are consuming more calories than you burn, you will gain weight no matter what diet or exercise routine you implement. Also, these tips for activating your brown fat absolutely should not be used in place of a good diet and exercise. They are intended to assist you with your fat burning goals.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love eating meat. I used to enjoy just about every kind of meat there is with no remorse (sorry PETA). However, the idea of being vegetarian became too tempting to resist, and considering that I recently started this blog, I thought I could take my vegetarian transition and make it into an experiment. So I traded in my chicken and steak for beans and seeds, and decided to see how much weight I could lose on a vegetarian diet. To truly highlight the effect of my diet, and not just my exercise routine, I decided to leave my workouts the way they were and only change what I was eating.
What did I eat?
As weight loss challenge, I knew that I had to consume less calories than I was burning, i.e. a caloric deficit. Considering how much I work out (5 days at the gym and two jiu jitsu classes per week), I wasn’t too worried about my calorie expenditure, so the focus for me was to find foods that either had less calorie density or kept me fuller longer, that way I could decrease my calorie intake. Before I went vegetarian, I was eating a standard American diet. I ate out often, consumed plenty of processed food, and had meat every day. These foods are not only high in calories (usually low quality calories), but they aren’t particularly satiating.
When I converted, I told myself I was going to make vegetables the center of my diet. Now this may sound like the obvious thing to do, Vegetarian= lots of vegetables right? Not necessarily. Some vegetarians give up meat but still eat massive amounts of junk food. Removing meat doesn’t automatically make your diet healthy. Cookies, cakes, and candy are all vegetarian after all.
These are a couple of typical meals I ate during the diet. (Those are mushrooms, not steak)
I made a point to avoid these unhealthy foods and ramp up my intake of fresh veggies. Most of my meals were centered around sauteed or steamed vegetables ( I ate an obscene amount of mushrooms). I also allowed myself to eat as much fresh fruit as I wanted. Some people worry about the sugar content, but I decided the nutrient density of fresh fruit was worth the high sugar content. Besides, fruit contains plenty of fiber to help combat the effect of the sugar while satiating my hunger.
My go-to snack was a custom made trailmix from a website that lets you create your own unique trailmix blend. Click here to check out the site and create your own trailmix. I am an affiliate with them but I genuinely highly recommend their product. Very delicious!
What about protein?
Many people argue that vegetarians don’t get enough protein, but this simply isn’t true. With nuts, seeds, and legumes, protein consumption is not an issue (I also sometimes drank a whey protein supplement after my workouts to make sure I didn’t lose too much muscle during the diet). I will admit that I did lose some muscle mass during the diet, but that was because my focus was on weight/fat loss and I wasn’t worried about losing a little strength.
In the end, I dropped about 15lbs and 2% body fat within a month's time. I would highly recommend a vegetarian diet to anyone who wants to lose weight. However, just cutting out meat won't be enough. You have to be a good vegetarian. More veggies, less junk food. For more dieting tips check out my other post, "Fundamental Keys to Dieting Success".
Being vegetarian really helped me lean out and it may be able to help you too!
If you want to try being vegetarian, but love meat (like myself), try to go a week without meat. If one week is manageable, aim for a full month as a vegetarian. You may find you like a life without meat.
Let me know what you think about the article! Leave a comment, send an email, or connect via facebook. Feel free to share this post with anyone who's interested in being a vegetarian!
Author: Justice Yordi
Does your ab routine consist of doing a billion crunches? Maybe you rely on planking to build your abs. Well it’s 2017 and planking is no longer cool, and crunches just don’t cut it. So what needs to change?
In my opinion, ab routines are neglected by many people, which is ironic considering that anybody would love six-pack abs. So many people automatically turn to crunches for abs, which is understandable because it’s the one ab exercise that just about everybody knows. Don’t get me wrong, if you have relatively weak abs and can only do a handful of crunches, then it’s a decent place to start. If you’re like me however, and have been doing ab exercises for a while, then you can probably do over 15 sit-ups no problem.
What You Need to Know
Let’s address a few important things before suggest any specific exercises. First, ab exercises do not specifically target belly fat. Your ab routine should not be centered around burning belly fat. Your body will burn fat as it deems fit, and the most important aspect of fat burning is your diet. However, you do have control over where your body builds muscle, which is brings me to my second point. Your abs are like any other muscle, and the ideal rep range for strength and/or muscle mass gains is around 6-12 repetitions. If your fitness goal is muscle endurance or strictly weight loss, then by all means, do sit-ups until you feel like puking (don’t actually go that far). If you want to build muscle, gain strength, and really make your abs stick out, then it’s time to change how many reps you are doing during your ab workout.
Sit-ups are Too Easy
See the picture at the top of this post? Those are my abs (sorry for showing off), and I never do crunches or planks. I do exercises with higher resistance and stay within 6-12 repetitions. That way I maximize the growth and strength of my abs. Sit-ups are just too easy.
What exercises do I recommend?
There are hundreds of different effective ab exercises you can do, and as long you do the right amount of reps, feel free to experiment and switch things up from time to time. These are a few of my favorites:
Weighted Knee Raises
To do knee raises, I will hang from a pull-up bar and lift my knees to my chest. In order to make the exercise harder and more effective, I like to hold a dumbbell with my feet as i lift my knees. Try it out with various dumbbells and find a weight that works for you.
A Russian twist is when you are in a sit-up position with your back about 45 degrees off of the floor, but instead of sitting up and down, you rotate your torso while keeping your legs in place. In order to make this exercise more intense, I do this exercise while holding a medicine ball (affiliate link to buy your own medicine ball).
An ab roller is a very good piece of exercise equipment. It’s small, relatively cheap, and it’s something you can either do at home or bring with you to the gym. Plus, it’s a great exercise. You take the roller, roll yourself flat, then use your abs to roll yourself back up. Here’s an affiliate link if you want to buy your own ab roller.
Give these exercises a try and let me know if you like them!
So you're thinking about adding resistance training or weight training to your exercise regimen. Or maybe you just started to lift weights. I know what it's like to be a weight lifting beginner, I've been there. So I'd like to share with you 5 pieces of advice for any weight lifting beginner.
1. Weight lifting IS for you
No matter who you are; male or female, big or small, weight lifting can fit your needs and goals. Weight lifting is good for so much more than building big muscles (although it definitely is good for building big muscles). Weight lifting gives you functional strength, improves muscular endurance, and despite what many people think, it is an exceptional tool for weight loss.
Let's face it, if you workout at a typical gym, the free weight area can be intimidating. As a beginner, it seems like everyone is stronger than you and they all know what they're doing. And no matter what gym you go to, there is always at least one person that looks like a professional bodybuilder. Don't be afraid to pick up some weights and get your workout in. In my experience, the people using the free weights at the gym are not only accepting of everyone else, despite their strengths and weaknesses, but actually pretty friendly. If you go to the gym consistently enough, you will probably end up befriending some of the people that you were initially intimidated by.
The nice thing about weight lifting (and exercise in general) is that there are countless ways to do it. There are thousands of different exercises, and each exercise has dozens of variations. Find exercises you like, and do them the way you like to do them. Try to make weight lifting fun, and if you really don't enjoy it but still want to stick to a lifting routine, try to make it as painless as possible.
(If you want to learn some new exercises or exercise variations, Bodybuilding.com has a great database, that I sometimes use.)
4. Nutrition is very important
I know you've heard it a million times, but nutrition is important. As a beginner, you will most likely see quick gains in strength in muscle despite your diet, but that progress will slow down as your body builds new muscle and learns to utilize that muscle more efficiently. The more experienced you get, the more you need to pay attention to what you eat if you want to make progress. Also, if you are using weight lifting as a weight loss method, you need to know that you have to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, no matter how often or intensely you workout. (A caloric deficit means that throughout the day, you are burning more calories than you are taking in.)
5. Results take time, effort, and consistency
As I previously stated, you will probably see rapid gains in strength and muscle as a beginner. Unfortunately, it becomes more and more difficult to pack on muscle, build up endurance, and lift heavier weights. You will have to have to put in more time and effort to see results, but if you are consistent, you will achieve your goals.
Now go out and start lifting weights!
Losing weight has been the most discussed topic in the world of health and fitness for a long time. Almost everyone at some point in their life finds themselves wanting to lose a little body fat, or drop a few pounds. In today’s society, it seems people are always scouring the internet for “weight loss secrets” or “tips and tricks for losing weight”. Everyone wants to lose weight fast and they want it to be easy. Many people try fad diets that don’t work, or start eating and drinking weird foods and supplements, thinking it will magically shrink their waist. This isn’t to say that all diets and supplements are ineffective, but many of them aren’t necessary and some are actually detrimental to your health. So just what is the secret to healthy eating and losing weight? I believe the best strategies for dieting are based around fundamental concepts. These concepts are my keys to dieting success.
The dieting question that people ask me the most is “what do you eat?” Typically they are expecting me to spew out some strict meal plan, but I usually reply with “healthy food,” which leads to the follow up question “what do you consider healthy?” As soon as I start listing off healthy foods, “broccoli, oats, beans, apples, etc.” people realize they already know that the foods that I’m listing are healthy. So why did they ask in the first place? They thought that I had some special meal plan that takes years of research to come up with. When in reality, I mostly eat foods that everyone already knows to be good for you. You don’t need me to tell you that vegetables are good and candy is bad. It’s common sense. People need to realize that making healthy food choices doesn’t require a degree in nutrition. However, not all common sense is created equal. Something that’s obvious to me may not be obvious to someone else, which brings us to the next key to success.
No you don’t need formal education in nutrition, but having nutritional knowledge is definitely a plus. The more you know, the better. If you are ever curious about something or feel you should know more about a certain topic, research it. Educate yourself.
While common sense can answer a lot of questions, some things aren’t so obvious. Let’s use peanuts as an example. You know that peanuts have vitamins, minerals, and protein, but they also have a lot of fat, and you have always been told that fat is bad. So are peanuts good for you or bad for you? If you do the research, you’ll find that most of the fat in peanuts is healthy fat and that you just need to be careful about eating too many because while they are a healthy food, they do contain a lot of calories due to the fat content.
The big disclaimer here is to be careful about where you get your information. Typically, if you want to learn about something, you will look on the internet or ask someone you know for answers. Very few people actually contact a certified dietician for their nutrition questions, and that’s okay. Just make sure your source is reputable, and always cross check your facts with other sources to be sure.
(P.S. If you're looking to learn more about nutrition in general, I highly recommend you check out NutritionFacts.org. They make very informative and well put together videos.)
The last key to dieting success is self-discipline. You could know everything there is to know about nutrition and dieting, but without self-discipline it wouldn’t matter. You need to have the self-discipline to stick to your diet, the strength to not give in to temptation (an occasional cheat meal isn’t a huge deal, just don’t make it a habit), and the patience to see the results through. In my opinion, self-discipline is the most important key. Most people have the common sense and knowledge to maintain a healthy diet, but so many people lack the self-discipline to consistently make good dieting choices.
If you can implement these concepts in your endeavors, you too can achieve dieting success.
What Is Meal Prepping?
While the concept as a whole might seem somewhat self-explanatory, meal prepping is an intricate and typically well-thought-out process. Meal prep days are usually done one day a week - preferably on Saturday or Sunday due to time constraints - and involve making some or all of your meals for the week. Taking a few hours out of your weekend to prepare these meals makes it easy to control your portions, cravings, and ultimately helps you make healthier eating decisions. Whether you’re trying to bulk up, slim down, or simply maintain, a weekly meal prep day will absolutely help you attain your goals on a daily basis.
How Do I Start?
First things first, you need to decide what exactly your goals are, and what type of diet will help you achieve them. Once that information is quantified the process begins to get a little more complex. You now have to scour the internet, cookbooks, or wherever else and find an assortment of recipes that are both healthy, and (hopefully) delicious.
Personally, I like to use the recipes as somewhat of a guideline; once I have found something I really like I will introduce it to other meal combinations, which helps the meals from getting too boring or repetitive. Fundamentally, the main objective for meal prepping is to make dishes that support your healthy lifestyle, but it’s equally important that you enjoy them!
Once you’ve outlined your goals, found your recipes, and purchased the food, it’s time to start cooking. Personally, I like to keep it simple and focus on the incorporation of three major groups into each of my meals: protein, carbs, and vegetables. Examples of some healthy options I frequently include are:
Protein: Chicken Breast, Lean Beef, Turkey Breast, Tuna, Salmon, Hard Boiled Eggs, Beans, Nuts
Carbohydrates: Wild/Brown Rice, Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Whole Grain Products
Vegetables: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Spinach/Kale, Green Beans, Asparagus
Once everything has been chopped, seasoned, grilled etc. It is time to begin portioning each meal into individualized storage containers (Affiliate link). This part is very important, and it is key that you have an accurate understanding of the portion size for each meal in order to actually derive any real benefit from preparing meals in this manner.
If your goal is to stay within a certain macronutrient range using either a generic kitchen scale, or simply using a downloadable phone app like MyFitnessPal can be very helpful in tracking your progress. If you do decide to use a scale however, it is important to remember:
1g of Protein = 4 Calories
1g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1g of Fat = 9 Calories
After everything is put into containers, labeled, and stored in the fridge the job is done! The hard part is over, and now you no longer have to rely on your willpower or energy levels throughout the week in order to stay on your diet. Now, when it's time to eat, you simply have to throw the container in the microwave, sit back, and thank yourself for all the work you did on Sunday. Ultimately, meal prep is about making your life easier, and it should certainly do just that, so give it a shot, and let us know what you think.
As an amazon affiliate, sales do lead to a commission which supports the blog. Much appreciated!
Author: Fit Carrot Crew
We all want to be healthy, and we have all thought about making better choices for our health, but when it comes to exercising, there always seems to be something holding us back. So what’s stopping you from exercising? We’ve come up with our top 3 problems when trying to start and stick to an exercise routine and how to deal with them.
I don't have enough time!
. We’ve all heard it before “I want to exercise, but I don’t have time”. Now this is more of an excuse than a problem, but we will address it anyway.
First, take into consideration that according to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report published by the U.S. government in 2008, you should aim for a minimum of “150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking”. That’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of brisk walking. Anyone who says that they don’t have 150 minutes per week to spare is lying.
However, let’s say you want to go above and beyond those guidelines, and you want to exercise 60 minutes per day, 5 days a week. Even then you should be able to manage it, considering that one hour is about 4% of a 24 hour day. If you still don’t think you can fit 60 minutes of exercise into your day, there are a few things you can try:
When you stop and think about how long it takes to get a good workout, you’ll probably find that time isn’t much of a problem at all. Just an excuse.
I don't know how to work out!
Sometimes, people have the time to exercise and the desire to get in better shape, but don’t know how they should actually do it. Maybe you are too shy to lift weights at a gym, or maybe you find jogging to be extremely boring (I used to feel the same way).
Luckily, there are a million ways to exercise. The important thing is finding a method that works for you.
If you like games, look to sports for a way to get active. Shoot hoops at the rec center, or throw a Frisbee around with a friend. Looking to build muscle? Buy a gym membership, or purchase your own weights and lift at home. Feeling adventurous? Invest in a bike or canoe and explore nature and be healthy at the same time! The options are limitless.
Exercising should not be a chore. It should be fun and engaging; something you can do with friends or family, or enjoy alone. As long as you are making your body work at least a little bit, exercise can be whatever you want it to be.
I'm not seeing any results!
So now that you admit that you have enough time to exercise regularly, and you know how you want to exercise, the next step is to give your body time.
If you are trying to get fit, you will not see results overnight. Too many people quit their exercise routine after a couple weeks because they aren’t seeing any results.
DON’T GIVE UP.
When it comes to improving fitness, losing fat, building muscle, etc., results take time. How much time? Well it depends. There are is endless number of variables that play a role in changing the composition of your body. It depends on what you are doing for exercise, how long you do it, intensity, the list goes on. As a very general rule of thumb, you should expect at least a month to go by before you see any noticeable changes to your body.
If you’ve been exercising regularly for a month and still haven’t seen results, there are a few things you can do:
Once you start to see results, don’t look back. Keep exercising and keep making progress. Eventually you will get into a rhythm and exercising will become second nature.