A little information about burning fat

Of our 100 trillion cells, around 30 billion can store fat.  These fat cells can expand to many times their natural size (in fact, up to 5,000 times).  They can also shrink, but even if they shrink, they are with us for life.  (The only way to make them disappear is liposuction.)

Remember that you do not have to eat fat to manufacturer it.  Excess dietary proteins and sugars can be turned into fat.  Your body even has the ability to convert excess hormones, like insulin, into extra fat.

Your body is basically a living machine; it functions on millions of biochemical reactions.  Every system in your body runs on the series of these reactions, which are usually fueled by the main energy system (Krebs cycle).  These myriad biochemical reactions require a constant supply of nutrients (i.e., vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and water) to run at peak efficiency.  When the levels of these various nutrients fall, the biochemical reactions fall right along with them, which means a slower metabolic rate and excess body fat.  Metabolism is the series of biochemical reactions that takes place inside our systems’ cells to create energy.  Our bodies take the basic fuel components that we give them (carbohydrates, dietary fats, and dietary proteins, a.k.a. food) and break the fuels down to produce the energy we use to keep warm, move muscles, breaths, and blink.  Our bodies either use this fuel on the spot or tore it in fat cells for later use.  Of the energy that is used on the spot, approximately 80% is released as heat, while the rest does the other work.  A fast, efficient metabolism can produce a lot of energy and heat (and consume a lot of fuel).  As a result of 80% of our energy is released as heat, we only have 20% to run our millions of biochemical reactions.  Therefore, energy production (your metabolism) should never be taken for granted.  To give you an idea of how a small change in energy production can affect your energy levels, all you need is a 5% reduction in this system to cause an overall energy deficit of 25%.  That is called chronic fatigue syndrome.

Most people think our digestive systems break down our food and use the broken-down food directly as energy.  They do not.  Our bodies must first convert the carbohydrates, dietary fats, and dietary proteins into a unique universal energy substance.  Scientists call this substance adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Each one of our cells has a tiny biochemical factory that can produce ATP, which is an organic compound that is stored in muscle tissue.  When the brain sends a signal along the nervous system to rigger a muscle contraction, enzymes break down ATP to release the energy required for the job.  In fact, we use so much STP on a daily basis that the total amount required just to get most of us through the day would weight in at an estimated 150 to 200 pounds.  All our energy starts with ATP.  It is the required basic fuel for energy that does not require oxygen (short-term, anaerobic efforts) and for energy,  that does (longer-term, aerobic efforts).  ATP is depleted rapidly.  You are required to move your muscles so often (to pump your heart, scratch your head, and click the remote, move a piano) that although ATP is constantly being made, it is also constantly being used up.

ATP is the basic element of human energy, but our amazing bodies have a complex and wonderful system to keep us moving in a variety of ways.  In essence, we have different gears that we can use, depending on the type of physical activity involved and how much oxygen we need at the time.  Think of it as shifting the gears in a car.

First Gear:  ATP

For immediate energy, we can get along just buy using ATP.  Our bodies make this constantly, but it’s not store as pure ATP in large quantities.  ATP alone can power our muscles when we throw a ball or swing a tennis racquet – EFFORTS THAT LAST FOR LESS THAN THREE SECONDS.

Second Gear:  ATP, CP

For a more sustained effort, the muscles pull in a second fuel component, creatine phosphate (CP).  This is an energy source that can be stored longer than STP and is available to juice up the fuel mix when ATP runs out.  What is really happening is that CP donates its phosphate atom to what is left after ATP is broken down.  We have enough ATP to keep us going for up to 10 seconds.  During this time, we can do a sprint or wrestle a pair of shoes onto a small child.

Third Gear:  ATP, CP, Glucose … and Lactice Acid

If we need energy for more than 10 seconds – say, for up to two minutes – we go into third gear.  At this point, the muscles are using ATP and calling on CP to help make more quick fuel.  In addition, glucose and glycogen (stored sugars) are being broken down to help turn more spent ATP into usable fuel.  A by-product of the glucose breakdown is lactic acid.  Hydrogen ions released from excess lactic acid make our muscles burn – a clear signal to our bodies to either stop what they are doing because they do not have the fuel to go any further or add oxygen to the fuel mix.  Time to take a deep breath and go to the next level.

Fourth Gear:  Oxygen Overdrive (the Aerobic Phase)

If your body’s energy needs are for longer than two minutes, you must add oxygen to the fuel mix in order to carry on.  Let us face it – most of the things we do last longer than two minutes.  This is where conditioning comes in:  Oxygen utilization is a key indicator of fitness.  That is because the more efficiently our bodies can use oxygen, the longer we are able to generate enough energy for long-term, strenuous effort (and the more fat we burn).  At this stage, we are still making ATP, but another part of the muscle cell (mitochondria) kicks in to produce long-term energy.  If combines a number of elements, including oxygen and fatty acids, which burn nicely to produce a sustained source of energy for activity.  THIS IS THE GEAR THAT BURNS FAT.

A Few notes about women and their fat

A woman’s body stores more fat than a man’s, in fact a woman’s fat cell are different from a men’s in both look and performance.  Women’s fat cells:  1) are up to five times larger than men’s; 2) can contain up to twice the fat-storing enzymes; 3) can contain half the fat-releasing enzymes.  The bottom line is that it is easier for women to put on fat and much harder to take it off.  Women have at least 8% more body fat than men have which allows for an extra 120,000 calories for use in needy times.  Another difference is between men and women – a woman needs at least 16% body fat to allow for proper hormonal production.

Yes, evolution has dictated the following difference:

  1. Men carry, on average 40 pounds more muscle than women do;
  2. Men also produce 10 times more testosterone than women do – testosterone is a muscle-building, fat-burning hormone;
  3. Men manufacture up to twice the amount if fat-releasing enzymes that women do – the more of these enzymes, the faster fat is released as fuel;
  4. Men can burn, on average, 30% more calories during exercise than women can;
  5. Men can burn, on average up to 30% more calories while at rest.