What About Fat Cells?



 Doc, would you please try to explain in layman's terms exactly how fat cells work and  what happens when you start to burn body fat. I heard a statement that the fat cell has to get moved into the muscle cell for it to be released or burned. Thought you could explain a  little better.


 A club member once told me, I  haven't LOST any fat... I know EXACTLY where it went! I got a chuckle out of that because I  got the joke, but truth is, most people really don't know how fat cells work, how the fat burning process takes place, or where the fat goes when it's burned, so this is a really good question.

 When you lose body fat, the fat cell also does not go anywhere or move into the muscle cell to be burned,  as it was suggested. The fat cell itself, unfortunately stays right where it was under the skin in your thighs, stomach, hips, arms, etc. and on top of the muscles. Which is why you can't see your muscle definition when your body fat is high. Fat is stored inside the fat cell in the form of  triaglycerol. The fat is not burned right there in the fat cell, it must be liberated from the fat cell through complex pathways. When stimulated to do so, the fat cell simply releases its contents triglycerol into the bloodstream as free fatty acids (FFA's), and they are transported through the blood to the tissues where the energy is needed.

 A typical young guy stores about 60,000 to 100,000 calories of energy in body fat cells. What triggers the release of all  these stored  fatty acids from the fat cell?  Ahhh, that's what we all want to know, right? Well, it's simple. When your body needs energy because you're consuming  fewer calories than you are burning creating an energy deficit, then your body releases hormones and enzymes that signal your fat cells to release your fat reserves instead of keeping them in storage. Got it !

For stored fat to be liberated from the fat cell, hydrolysis,lipolysis or fat breakdown, splits the molecule of triaglycerol into glycerol and three fatty acids. An important enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) is the catalyst for this reaction. The stored fat (energy) gets released into the bloodstream as FFA's and they are shuttled off to the muscles where the energy is needed. As blood  flow increases to the active muscles, more FFA's are delivered to the  muscles that need them.

An important enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), then helps the FFA's get inside the mitochondria of the muscle cell, where the FFA's can be burned for energy. If you've ever taken a biology class, then you've probably heard of the mitochondria. This is where energy production takes place and this is where the FFA's get burned for energy. When the FFA's are released from the fat cell, the fat cell shrinks and that's why you look leaner, because the fat cell is now smaller. A small or empty fat cell is what you're after if you want that lean, defined look. It was once believed that the number of fat cells could not  increase after maturity, only the size of the fat cells could increase or decrease. We now know that fat cells can indeed increase both in size (hypertrophy) and in number (hyperplasia) and that they are more likely to increase in number at certain times and under certain circumstances, such as:

 1) during late childhood and early puberty
 2) During pregnancy
 3) During adulthood when extreme amounts of weight are gained

Are you still with me? I know that last part may have sounded fairly university but that's as simple as
I can make it.


 Remember, body fat is basically just a reserve source of energy and  fat cells are the like the storage tanks. Unlike a gas tank in your car which is fixed in size, however, fat cells can expand or shrink in size depending on how full they are. Picture a balloon that is not inflated. It's tiny when not filled with air. When you blow it up with air, it can expand 10 or 12 times it's normal size, because it simply fills up. That's what happens to fat cells  They start as nearly empty fat storage tanks when you are lean, and when energy intake (food) exceeds your needs, your fat cells fill up like balloons filled with jelly. Then when you get leaner, you don't actually lose fat cells, you shrink or empty out  fat cells.

Now  Remember :

 1. Calories count ! The trigger for your body to release adipose from fat cells is an energy deficit. You have to burn more than you eat. Hormones can also play a role in whether the fat  is released from the cell.

 2. Cut calories conservatively. Starving yourself may cause quick weight loss at first, but never works long term because it actually decreases the activity of fat burning enzymes that release fat from the cells. to avoid this "starvation mode" use exercise to burn fat, not very low calorie crash diets.
3. Get control of your weight NOW TODAY ! If you are gaining weight, and especially if your weight is climbing upwards out of control, make a decision to STOP RIGHT NOW. Your fat cells might be multiplying, making it more difficult to burn fat in the future. NOW is the time!

 4. If you've already lost weight, you must be forever diligent. Your fat cells are not gone, they have merely emptied out. Fitness is not a 12 week program, its a  lifestyle. To stay lean you have to eat clean and stay active.

 5. Genetics are only a minor factor.  You may not have control over how many fat cells you were born with, but you do control  the major  factors that determine how much fat you store, lifestyle, exercise, nutrition, eating habbits and mental attitude. Genetics are not an excuse. Your past is not an excuse. Your present condition is not an excuse. You can either make excuses or  get results, but you can't do both. Good Luck...


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