By Michael Colgan, Ph.D.
Thermogenesis is the creation of heat in the body. It occurs when you eat and when you exercise, but also through an extraordinary mechanism involving brown adipose tissue (BAT), which permits the production of heat directly from body fat by bypassing the steps of the energy cycle (1).
A hibernating bear, for example, can lose 300 pounds of fat while it sleeps through the winter. Its body converts body fat to BAT, then creates the heat required to prevent freezing to death in the winter. And the bear does not have to move a muscle!
We are not as efficient as bears at burning fat with BAT. Nevertheless, the amount of BAT in the body of a 40-year-old man or woman is still sufficient to use 10 to 15 percent of their total energy.
But you have to get your BAT moving. Turn up the inner heat. Exposure to cold is very effective. It’s a bit extreme, but it works.
I am busy at my annual task of convincing clients to sit and meditate under a freezing waterfall, or lie in the snow in swimmers by the pool (frozen). These are popular methods for fat loss. I wear a 30-below suit with hood and balaclava so they don’t notice my hysterics.
Usual weight loss programs don’t activate BAT at all. Quite the opposite! If you go on a sudden food restriction diet, the body automatically turns down its heat production and its energy production as a defense mechanism to conserve its fat. That’s why dieters generally feel cold and tired.
You Can Increase BAT Activity
If you can’t face the freeze, there are several things in natural foods that raise BAT activity nicely. The best known is caffeine from coffee. Controlled studies show that a cup of ground arabica coffee on an empty stomach in the morning increases thermogenesis and burns body fat for up to four hours afterwards (2,3).
Green tea also has a separate thermogenic effect, originally thought to be because of its caffeine content. Recent studies, however, show that a group of chemicals called catechins in green tea are mostly responsible. The main catechin in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), induces thermogenesis by itself (2-3).
In a placebo-controlled study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, two groups of 19 healthy, middle-aged men used a moderately reduced-calorie diet, plus tea for 12 weeks. Green tea extract was added to the tea of 19 subjects to yield high levels of catechins. Tea without the extract, containing only low levels of catechins, was used by the 19 controls. The group consuming tea with high catechins lost an average of 5.4 pounds of body fat, approximately twice the body fat loss of the control group. Much of the loss was visceral fat from the belly and fat from the thighs.
The researchers concluded: “Body weight, BMI, waist circumference, body fat mass, and subcutaneous fat area were significantly lower in the green tea extract group than in the control group” (4).
You don’t have to freeze off the flab. Lose that belly fat nice and easy with Isagenix. Brain Boost & Renewal contains high levels of EGCG from green tea, and e+ shot contains both green tea caffeine and catechins. Take both before your workout and green tea with every 400- to 600-calorie meal or an IsaLean Shake to support improved weight loss. It’s a great way to fine-tune abs and buns for the summer, with the bonus of a better brain.
1. Stock MJ. Thermogenesis and brown fat: relevance to human obesity. Infusionstherapie, 1989;16(6):282-284.
2. Wolfram S, Wang Y, Thielecke F. Anti-obesity effects of green tea: from bedside to bench. Mol Nutr Food Res, 2006;50(2):176-187.
3. Nagao T, Komine Y, Soga S, Meguro S, Hase T, Tanaka Y, Tokimitsu I. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(1):122-129.
4. Nagao T, Hase T, Tokimitsu I. A green tea extract high in catechins reduces body fat and cardiovascular risks in humans. Obesity, 2007;15(6):1473-1483.