Want to Be a Fat-Burning Pro?
Wouldn't it be nice if your body could be burning fat all the time? Well, the good news is that there are ways to fine-tune your body into being a fat-burning pro.
But like all good things, this process isn't necessarily an easy one. Rather, it takes months of hard work and much more than restricting calories and exercising to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. Here's how to do it.
But first, what does “burning fat” actually entail?
The well-known burning fat process is actually a complex mechanism known as fatty acid oxidation. Essentially, this procedure is the body’s ability to oxidize (or burn) fat to use as fuel, instead of the usual method of burning carbohydrates. Obviously, this makes the process very alluring, as this is the primary way for you to lose fat throughout your body.
Fatty acid oxidation takes place over three distinct steps:
Lipolysis → This process occurs within a triglyceride when the fatty acids are separated from glycerol molecules. In order for the fatty acids to be extracted, an enzyme call lipase is required to complete the task through hydrolysis.
Mobilization → The second step of fat oxidation occurs when the fatty acids are transported to the bloodstream. Once in the blood, fatty acids will circulate bound to serum albumin, a protein. Serum albumin will help shuttle the fatty acids to a cell in the body that requires the energy from the fat. Fatty acids rely on the protein to help them move throughout the bloodstream because blood is largely comprised of water, which repels the non-water-soluble fat. Serum albumin is the solution to that problem and can easily transport multiple fatty acids along the way.
Oxidation → Finally, after the fatty acids are deposited in the cell and stored in the cytoplasm, they will be oxidized in the mitochondria for energy. But, fatty acids can’t enter the mitochondria on their own. Fatty acids rely on a special bodily contraption called the carnitine shuttle, made up of another amino acid called acetyl L-carnitine. (Click here to learn more about why acetyl L-carnitine is vital in the fat-burning process.) Once the fatty acids finally enter the mitochondria, they go through a very complex process called beta-oxidation.
Why you're struggling to burn fat:
Unfortunately, given the long and complex nature of fat oxidization, many people have difficulty doing it well. The fat oxidation process can easily be interrupted by many different factors.
Some reasons you might struggle to burn fat include:
1. Unhealthy mitochondria:
If your mitochondria are not utilizing fat appropriately, this will also cause holdups in your ability to burn fat. Unsurprisingly, your mitochondria are very complex, and mitochondrial damage is fairly common. (Click here to learn more about mitochondrial damage and its effects on your body.) Some factors that can lead to damage of your mitochondria include:
Certain pharmaceutical drugs- Some pharmaceutical drugs, such as antibiotic treatment, have been linked to damaging mitochondria throughout the body. Mitochondria evolved from free-living, aerobic bacteria, causing them to be a target to antibacterial drugs.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS)- As the mitochondria produce ATP, they also produce ROS, which are harmful free radicals that can cause damage to the mitochondria and the rest of the body. Without proper antioxidant amounts in the body, ROS damage can be widespread.
Environmental factors- Toxins and heavy metals have all been linked to mitochondrial damage. Pesticides like rotenone and paraquat are widely recognized toxins that will cause mitochondrial damage. Heavy metals contain pro-inflammatory ions that can damage mitochondrial DNA and cause carcinogenesis and apoptosis.
Genetic factors- It requires around 3,000 genes to make a mitochondrion. Around one in 5,000 people have a genetic mitochondrial disease that impairs normal function. But about one in 200 people carries DNA mutations that can potentially lead to pathogenic mitochondria.
Aging- As we age, mitochondrial function declines, and the frequency of mitochondrial mutations increases. This decreased mitochondrial function can lead to an age-dependent decline in overall organ function. In a revealing study, a team of researchers showed that the muscle tissue of a 90-year-old man contained 95% damaged mitochondria compared to almost no damage in that of a 5-year-old.
2. Genetic variation:
There are several different kinds of genetic variations that can limit your body’s ability to oxidize fat. For example, many individuals have genetic variations affecting the production of the acetyl L-carnitine and thus the carnitine shuttle.
If you have this unique gene sequence, you will have trouble getting fatty acids into the mitochondria to be used as energy, which will obviously affect your ability to burn fat. Luckily, through supplementation, there are ways to remedy such fat burning altering genetic variants.
3. Dietary issues:
Another important factor in fat burning is exercise. There are several dietary factors that impact fatty acid oxidation rates:
If your diet is high in carbohydrates, your fat oxidization rates will be suppressed. Conversely, if you limit your carb intake, you will boost fatty acid oxidation. This is why a diet like the paleo or Mediterranean diet is so beneficial for weight loss. By limiting your carbohydrate intake, you subsequently force your body to rely on fat for energy.
But even following a low-carb diet, you may still be ingesting too many calories to support fatty acid oxidation. By reducing your calorie intake, your body will be forced to rely on fat stores to use for energy. This will boost the burning of fat throughout your body.
4. How often you exercise:
How many times per week you exercise is one big factor behind your ability to oxidize fatty acids. In fact, regular physical activity is one of the only ways you can increase fat oxidation during exercise. When you work out frequently, you will up-regulate the enzymes that transport fat, increase the mass of your mitochondria, and increase blood flow- all of which will boost your fatty acid oxidation rates.
Research has found that working out 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes for 4 weeks can increase fat oxidation rates and cause positive changes to your enzymes.
5. Your insulin levels are irregular
The hormone insulin is what promotes the storage of nutrients in your cells. But when insulin levels are heightened, it encourages incoming food (including fat) to be stored in the body and prevents the burning of fat for fuel.
Insulin is triggered to be released when blood sugar rises, which is a side effect of a diet full of carbohydrates. If your insulin never gets the opportunity to lower, your body will not be able to burn fat for fuel. Insulin levels can be heightened for several different reasons:
Sickness- When you catch a cold or virus, your body releases hormones that will increase your blood sugar and affect insulin levels.
Stress- Stress triggers your fight or flight response. This results in the release of hormones that elevate blood sugars and subsequently raise insulin levels
Too little sleep- Your body relies on sleep to help our bodies reset and regulate our hormones. Without proper sleep, insulin levels can get out of whack.
Caffeine- Too much coffee or other forms of caffeine has been found to raise blood sugar and insulin levels. This is because caffeine can stimulate the release of stress hormones that raise blood sugar.
6. How you exercise
Several factors relating to exercise will impact how your rates of fat burning:
The amount of time you spend exercising will affect how well you burn fatty acids for energy. The longer you spend exercising, the more likely you will be able to burn fat. This is because a quick workout won’t give your body the opportunity to rely on fat stores.
The way you exercise will also impact how well your body oxidizes fat. For reasons not quite established, running and walking result in higher fat oxidation than cycling. Researchers hypothesize that this is because walking and running have greater power output per muscle fiber than cycling.
Exercise intensity is another way exercise method will influence fatty acid oxidation. Surprisingly, low to moderate exercise is the most effective at using fat for fuel. The more you intensify the exercise, the more you shift to using glycogen and glucose as fuel for your body.
The bottom line:
We all aspire to be pros at burning fat. It’s one of the most efficient ways to lose weight. But given the complex nature of the process, it’s much more than just diet and exercise. Rather, your entire body must be in tip-top shape.
It is impossible to oxidize fat and lose weight without repairing your mitochondria and metabolism in order to bring it back to an efficient state. Being on the roller coaster of dieting, losing weight quickly, and then regaining is very damaging to your metabolism. And unfortunately, the longer you stay on this roller coaster the harder it is to fix your metabolism.
Healthy weight loss by restoring your metabolism back to health may take a year or longer by healing and restoring your metabolism and dialing in your nutrient status, thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones.
To learn more about how to optimize fat oxidation within your body, click here to contact us, or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary discovery call with Dr. Johnson.
The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!