What is white and brown fat?
White fat’s primary function is to store energy in the form of triglycerides, which can be broken down and used by the body for energy when needed. White fat is also involved in the production of hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism.
Brown fat’s main function is thermogenesis, which is the production of heat through the activation of mitochondrial metabolism. It is rich in mitochondria and has a high density of capillaries, which facilitates the delivery of nutrients and oxygen needed for thermogenesis.
What does this mean in ice water immersion therapy?
Turning white fat into brown fat is important because brown fat is metabolically active and can contribute to increased energy expenditure and weight loss.
White fat is primarily responsible for energy storage and can contribute to the development of obesity and metabolic disorders when it is present in excess. In contrast, brown fat burns calories and generates heat through a process called thermogenesis, which can help to regulate body weight and metabolism. However, your body requires both brown and white fat.
Scott Carney, an American investigative journalist had in his TEDx talk listed a couple simple techniques for an individual beginning their journey of cold exposure - “ the key is to suppress the shiver response; that clenching feeling we all have in the cold which is a signature fight or flight response, when you do that you’re trying to heat your body with muscle movement. By redirecting and not shivering you force your metabolism to take over those heating duties. There is also a breathing method of hyperventilating and holding your breath for 3 mins. At a time with empty lungs.”
Studies have suggested that increasing the amount of brown fat in the body may have beneficial effects on metabolism and overall health. Brown fat activation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and improve lipid metabolism, and may play a role in regulating appetite and food intake.
How does one convert white to brown fat?
Exposure to cold temperatures, such as those experienced during ice water immersion, triggers a response in the sympathetic nervous system, which activates brown fat thermogenesis. Brown fat thermogenesis involves the conversion of stored energy into heat, which helps to maintain core body temperature.
During this process, white adipose tissue can be transformed into beige adipose tissue, which is a type of fat that shares some characteristics with brown fat. Beige adipocytes have the ability to generate heat through thermogenesis and can contribute to increased energy expenditure and weight loss.
*It is essential to note that ice water immersion therapy should be done under the guidance of a trained professional and with caution. Always consult with your certified physician before using ice water immersion therapy should you have any prior issues that could put you at risk. Never get into a dangerous body of water. Also, never do deliberate hyperventilation before or during cold water (or any water!) immersion. Start slowly (warmer than colder)—as cold shock is possible; just as with lifting weights or other forms of exercise, you’ll need to find the right temperature for you, yet prioritize safety.