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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

Fat Cells Used to Be Our Friends, Now They’re Enemies

Fat Cells Used to Be Our Friends, Now They’re Enemies

Fat cells and muscle cells might look nearly the same from the outside. They’re both part of your body and just below your skin. They both even can be clenched with your fingers. The muscles might be a little bit harder to clench – but this isn’t too much of a difference, am I right?

Yet, it is. I remember back when I first started working out, with an obsolete, rusty barbell at my friends place. I was sixteen years old. Back then I told my friend: “I don’t want to get any skinnier. I just want to convert my fat cells into muscle cells!” I was being serious. Me and my friend both thought it was a reasonable goal. It wasn’t.

I’ve wasted countless of hours on trying to build muscle mass while simultaneously losing fat. It wasn’t worth it. Here’s the unparalleled reason why.

Fat Cells: Old Friends – New Enemies

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    Fat cells used to be our friends. Back in the days of our ancestors, when food were scarce, we had to be able to massively store energy. Nobody in the tribe knew when we had to go weeks without food. That’s the reason why our body is inclined to store fat and minimize muscle growth. Our body is conditioned to be an energy storage machine and not an energy waster.

    Nowadays fat cells are our enemies. Most people want to lose a couple of pounds of fat. Not only because obesity, due to our sedentary behaviour and our eating choices, is contributing to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and artheriosclerosis. But also because being overweight resonates neither with our feminine nor masculine ideal of beauty.

    How To: Fat Cell

      The fat cell is divided into multiple parts. There is the purple nucleus, the green mitochondria, the blue Golgi apparatus and the yellow, gigantic, fat storage unit. The last part is what makes the cell full of lipid unique. The fat cells are your body’s energy storage.

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      Fat cells participate in hypertrophy. Which means they increase their fat storage until they can’t physically increase in size anymore. Then your body creates more fat cells. You want to keep the amount of fat cells close to the optimum in your body. Because the fat cells in your body are yours to keep for a lifetime. The storage inside your fat cells can be lost. But fat cells, after they’ve been created, immediately get replaced after their death.

      Even worse: Fat cells produce a protein, that inhibits your body from breaking down the fat storage. Your organism creates a set point. This means that once you’ve been overweight it’s far easier to reset into your old, unhealthy habits again. That’s the reason why 40% of obese children become obese adults.[1]

      If we apply this knowledge to dieting, we know that it’s crucial for you to keep your diet sustainable. Because if your diet isn’t, your body is more than happy to keep adding the lost fat again to your organism. This is called the Yo-Yo effect, which has been shown to increase all-cause mortality.[2]

      Fat cells also have other crucial factors. They’re turning androgens into estrogens. They’re contributing to the production of estradiol. This is not only bad for men, as we want to be full of testosterone. But this is also bad for women, as it’s a major risk factor of infertility.[3]

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      How To: Muscle Cell

        Muscle cells look quite differently than fat cells. They’re also quite different in their functioning. Muscle cells are the individual contractile units within a muscle. A muscle in your body, like your biceps, contains hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers.

        The contraction of your skeletal muscle fibers (muscle fibers are a synonym to muscle cells) lead to a movement in your joints. The main task of your muscles is to move your body. In comparison to fat cells, muscles don’t store energy, they need energy for their functioning.

        When muscle cells are contracting, they’re releasing myokines.[4] This is the way muscle fibers communicate with the rest of your body. Myokines affect most organs, but are famous for their interaction with the glucose and fat metabolism. Which means the muscles are communicating with your liver and your fat cells, to release glucose and fats in the blood stream. This is energy for the muscle cells to use. This effect of the myokine regulates glucose and lipid metabolism and therefore counteracts inflammation. This may help slow down aging.[5]

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        The Starting Point

        The anatomy and the function of fat- and muscle cells are vastly different. Due to this reason, it’s physically impossible to convert fat cells into muscle cells.

        Don’t waste your time on improving both. Trust me, I’ve tried this before. I was following a rock hard diet, I maximized my protein intake (don’t do this!) and trained up to 10 days a week. I didn’t see results. Sustainability is the holy grail. Eat healthier every single day and don’t go into a massive calorie deficit.

        If you’re just starting out and aiming for a better body, do this: Eat one extra portion of vegetables for dinner and go for a 10-minute walk afterwards. This is easily doable – and that’s a huge advantage. The average gym-goer quits after 3 months. The reason: He didn’t build a fundament of healthy habits.

        Don’t have enough time to go for a walk and cook? No excuses. The average American watches more than 4.5 hours of television a day.[6] You have to create healthier habits.

        If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life. – Tony Robbins

        Once you’ve got into a habit of doing this, you can slowly try to increase the volume. This will make the whole journey of eating healthier and exercising a voluntary, fun decision. If you’ve got the financial means, you can hire a competent personal trainer or an online coach. The accountability, knowledge and guidance of the trainer will vastly speed up the process.

        Reference

        [1]NCBI: Obesity in Children
        [2]NCBI: Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling.
        [3]Green BB, Weiss NB, Daling JR: Risk of ovulatory infertility in relation to body weight. Fertil Steril 50:721, 1988
        [4]NCBI: Skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ: PGC-1α, myokines and exercise
        [5]NCBI: Skeletal muscle: an endocrine organ
        [6]Business Insider: The average American watches so much TV it’s almost a full-time job

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        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

        What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively 7 Super Fast Remedies for a Pulled Muscle in Neck Is Building Muscle Possible in Your 40s? (Build Muscle the Batman Way) How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet How to Gain Muscle Mass Naturally (A Step-By-Step Guide)

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        How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

        How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

        Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

        But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

        Sight – Visual Stimulation

        The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

        1. Maximize your exposure to light.

        Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

        Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

        2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

        Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

        Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

        Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

        3. Take note of your environment.

        Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

        By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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        Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

        What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

        4. Engage in conversation.

        Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

        Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

        Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

        Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

        5. Listen to upbeat music.

        Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

        Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

        Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

        If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

        6. Work your nose.

        Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

        If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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        Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

        Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

        If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

        7. Have a good breakfast.

        Start off with the most important meal of the day.

        Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

        Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

        Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

        20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

        8. Drink lots of water.

        Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

        So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

        How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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        Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

        3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

        9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

        Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

        Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

        Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

        25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

        Touch – Tactile Stimulation

        Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

        10. Splash cold water on your face.

        Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

        This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

        5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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        11. Use acupressure.

        Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

        Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

        12. Get moving.

        Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

        And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

        You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

        Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

        Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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