The Basics of Body Fat

Losing weight is never an easy journey to jump start. With all the fad diets and new workout programs found at gyms and even ones you can do in your own home it can make it very stressful to start the process of losing weight. Basic lifestyle changes can help you shed some pounds although, if you are looking at more than 10 to 15 pounds there are many other things you must commit to in order to be successful in your weight loss journey.

How Did We Become the “Fat America?”

We have been termed a “fat America” because the high rates of obesity in the United States. Statistics show that over 65% of all Americans living in the United States are considered to be obese or overweight. That’s more than half of the adult population! With these high statistics it’s no wonder that we are termed a “fat America” and that number continues to rise as obese teenagers move into adulthood. If you are overweight or considered obese and want to be seen for you and not as the statistic, the sooner you start working on yourself and changing your lifestyle the better.

Aside from physical appearance, there is another factor that is the number one method used to determine if a person is overweight or obese. This is the Body Mass Index or BMI. You may have seen these charts hanging in your doctor’s office from time to time. The BMI chart is calculated using a person’s height and weight to determine whether they are at a healthy weight, overweight, or underweight. Adults who fall in the “overweight” category will have a BMI between 25 and 29.9; adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered “obese.”

Regardless of your situation, whether it be health related or just the simple fact that you want to lose weight, the important thing is that you are aware of what body fat actually is so you know how to get rid of it and prevent it from coming back.

What Happens to my Body When I Gain Weight?

When a person has gained weight, they may be asking questions such as “what are fat cells,” “what is happening to my body,” or even “how do fat cells work?” These are typically questions that only your doctor can answer although, there is plenty of information on the Internet from reputable websites. Trust your doctor FIRST AND FOREMOST as he or she has the most accurate information.

Fat tissue can be found in many different places all over your body. Fat is mostly found under the skin as well as on top of each of the kidneys. There is also some stored fat in the liver and small amounts in your body’s muscle. Your gender plays a huge role in where fat is stored on your body.

1. Adult women tend to carry more fat around her hips, waist, breasts, and buttocks which creates a “pear” body shape.
2. Adult men tend to carry more fat around his abdomen, chest, and buttocks which creates a rounder, “apple” body shape.

Some facts about fat cells:

• The sex hormones testosterone and estrogen play a significant role in where fat is stored on the body.
• During the last trimester of pregnancy, fat cells are formed in the fetus and then later on when puberty starts and our sex hormones are more present
• During the puberty stage, the difference in where fat is stored in men and women begin to set in.
• As your body begins to store more fat, the number of fat cells will stay the same and don’t form after the onset of puberty. Instead, fat cells will get bigger.

The Basics of Body Fat

There are two types of fat tissue in the body: white fat and brown fat. White fat is very important for heat insulation, energy metabolism, and mechanical cushioning. Brown fat is found between the shoulders in newborn babies and is extremely in making heat. Because adults have no brown fat, white fat will be the focus of this section.
Fat cells make up fatty tissue which is a very unique cell type. Fat cells are essentially tiny plastic bags that hold one small drop of fat. White fat cells are larger with 85% made up of one large fat droplet. This makes up the majority of the volume of a white fat cell. The other 15% is cytoplasm.

When you eat fatty foods full of triglycerides, it goes through the stomach and into the intestines. When these foods enter the intestines, the following process occurs:

1. Large drops of fat are mixed with bile from the gall bladder. This mixture will then break up these large fat drops into many smaller fat drops which will increase surface area of fat.
2. Enzymes are secreted by the pancreas which attack the surface of these smaller fat drops and breaks them down into the two parts they are made of, fatty acids and glycerol.
3. Each of these parts is then absorbed into the lining of the intestine.
4. The intestinal cells are assembled into packages of fat molecules along with the protein chylomicrons. This coating of protein allows fat to be dissolved easily in water.
5. The proteins are then released into the lymphatic system. They don’t get deposited directly into the bloodstream because they can’t be passed through the capillary walls due to their size.
6. The lymphatic system will merge with the veins where these large proteins can pass into the bloodstream.

The interesting thing about this process is the fact that these fat molecules are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol only to be rebuilt. Why does this phenomenon happen? To put it simply, these fat molecules are too big to cross through cell membranes. In order for them to pass through these cell walls they must be broken down. As these fats are transported within the bloodstream, these few, large fat cells are needed as they won’t attract many extra water molecules as smaller fat cells would.

How our Body Stores Fat

When eating a meal or a candy bar, there is a presence of fatty acids, amino acids or glucose in the intestines. This will stimulate the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin itself acts on cells in the muscle tissue, liver and fat tissue. It is the “boss” as it tells these cells to do the following three things:

• Absorb amino acids, glucose and fatty acids.
• Stops the breakdown of amino acids, fatty acids and glucose; changes glycogen into glucose; turns fats into glycerol and fatty acids; and changes proteins into amino acids.
• It starts building glycogen from glucose; fats from fatty acids and glycerol; and proteins from amino acids.

The activity level of lipases depends on the amount of insulin within the body. If insulin is low, then the lipases are inactive; if it is high, then the lipases are very active. Fatty acids are absorbed from the blood into muscle cells, fat cells and liver cells. These cells are stimulated by insulin to make fatty acids into fat molecules which are them stored as fat drops.

It is possible for these fat cells to take up amino acids and glucose that have been absorbed into the bloodstream after eating and convert them into fat molecules. It is more efficient for the body to store fat in a fat cell rather than converting carbs or protein into fat. For example, if you have approximately 11 grams or about 100 calories of fat floating around in bloodstream, fat cells can store these calories using about 2 to 3 calories of energy. However, if you have those 100 extra calories or approximately 25 grams of extra glucose in your bloodstream, it will take about 23 calories of energy to change this glucose into fat and then store the fat cells. Fat cells will grab fat and store it rather than carbs because it is much easier to store within the body.

How Our Body Breaks Down Fat

When you don’t eat your body can’t absorb food. If your body doesn’t absorb food then a very small amount of insulin is present in your blood. If your body is regularly using energy and you’re not eating this energy comes from your body’s internal storage source of fats, carbs and proteins. Because of this, several different organs in the body will secrete hormones.

1. Pancreas will secrete glucagon.
2. The pituitary gland will secrete the growth hormone and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone).
3. The adrenal gland will secrete adrenaline.
4. The thyroid gland will secrete the thyroid hormone.

These hormones will begin to attach the cells of the muscle tissue, liver and fat tissue and has the opposite effect on our bodies and the process of breaking down fat than insulin. When you’re not eating or are exercising regularly your body will draw on any internal energy storage in order to provide your body with enough energy to manage daily activities. The body’s main source of energy is glucose and some of the cells in your body can pull energy from glucose, such as brain cells.

The Process of Breaking down Fat into Healthy Energy

There are several steps that the body takes to ensure that your body is able to maintain energy.

1. First line of defense to maintain energy is by breaking down carbs (glycogen) into simple glucose molecules. This process is called glycogenolysis.
2. Next, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol. This process is called lipolysis.
3. Fatty acids are then brown down to obtain energy or it can be used to make glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. During this process, amino acids are used to make glucose.

Within the fat cell, other types of lipases work in breaking down fats into glycerol and fatty acids. They are activated by several different hormones such as epinephrine, glucagon, and growth hormone. The result of this is fatty acids and glycerol will be released into the body, traveling to the liver and through the bloodstream. Once these have reached the liver, fatty acids and glycerol can be broken down even further or the body can use it to make glucose.

Losing Weight and Losing Fat

One thing you have to realize is that fat won’t go away on its own. You are ultimately responsible for lifestyle choices you make to maintain a healthy weight. Since your weight is ultimately determined by how quickly you store energy from the food you consume and how quickly you use that energy, it is important to know how the body works to both store and break down fatty acids and fat cells to better understand how your body manages your food intake. The following is a list of ways to help you maintain a healthy weight and even lose some of the extra fat being stored in your body:

• Eat a well-balanced diet. Consume an appropriate amount of protein, carbs and fat.
• Do not eat in excess. To maintain a healthy weight, limit your calorie intake to approximately 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day.
• Include a regular exercise regimen into your daily routine.

Another thing to understand is that there is such a thing as good fats and bad fats. There are fats that can heal your body and fats that can kill your body. Most people are unaware of this small but extremely important detail when it comes to the types of fat that you can consume. Many people will opt to go for foods that are 100% fat free thinking this will combat their “fat problem” when in fact those foods are filled with sugar. Examples of bad fats include:

• Trans fats
• Saturated fats
Examples of good fats include:
• Monounsaturated fats
• Polyunsaturated fats

Understanding how fat is broken down and how your body uses fat is important when starting your weight loss journey. Exercise and dieting aren’t enough: knowing how your body works and functions during weight loss is just as important so you know what to eat and what to stay away from.

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