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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

        More by this author

        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

        How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only? The Truth of Rapid Weight Loss: How to Actually Shed Pounds Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

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        Last Updated on September 28, 2020

        The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

        The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

        At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

        Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

        One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

        When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

        So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

        Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

        This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

        Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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        When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

        Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

        One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

        Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

        An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

        When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

        Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

        Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

        We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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        By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

        Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

        While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

        I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

        You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

        Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

        When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

        Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

        Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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        Con #2: Less Human Interaction

        One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

        Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

        Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

        This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

        While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

        Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

        Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

        This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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        For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

        Con #4: Unique Distractions

        Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

        For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

        To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

        Final Thoughts

        Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

        We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

        More About Working From Home

        Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

        Reference

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