Surprising Research on How to Speed Up Your Metabolism

girl in jeans measuring waistMy friends have always been annoyed that I can eat like I do without becoming obese as they nibble their kale salad with dressing on the side and I’m eating my penne pasta in a creamy pesto sauce.They say that it must be hereditary but based on the latest research, I’m convinced that it’s because I keep my bedroom like a meat locker at night and sit in the direct trajectory of the a/c vent all day. Huh??

Don’t think I’m crazy, there’s actually new research to back me up on this. It all began with the discovery of the three colors of fat

Three Colors of Fat


White fat’s what you see on your belly, butt and thighs after too many nachos. It’s main function is to store energy but it also causes heart disease and those lumpity lumps we like to refer to as cellulite. (that I DO have – since I was 17 but that’s a whole other article…)


Brown Fat vs. White Fat

Brown Fat vs. White Fat

Brown fat is the superhero of fats. It’s only job is to store millions of mitochondria, little structures within the cells that produce energy with heat that burn that nasty white fat! Yay! Mitochondria are dark which makes the fat literally brown.

Being thin or chunky has to do with the distribution of brown to white fat. Wild animals have a lot of brown fat since it’s heat producing which get’s them through the winter, it’s what helps bears survive hibernation.

Babies also have a lot of brown fat to keep them warm when they come out of the womb. But as we age, it has always been believed that we decrease our levels of brown fat to almost non-existence.

PET Scan Machine

PET Scan Machine (am I crazy or does this look sexual to you too?)

With the invention of PET scans (positron-emission tomography) we can now see high-definition images of the insides of our bodies. It’s used to diagnose cancer and other diseases and has most recently allowed Amit N. Patel, MD at the University of Utah, to discover that even though old farts like us don’t have a significant distribution of brown fat, we do have plenty of brown fat stem cells which can transform the white fat into good fat and that new fat is called beige fat. (not making this up)


Beige fat is white fat that has been persuaded to act like brown fat. Patel’s research promoted an influx of research around the world and in 2012 a group at Harvard discovered beige fat cells, ones that look like white fat but with a little coaxing can act like brown fat. White fat can literally be burned off by acting like brown fat (a process called ‘browning’). So how do we do that?

Well, it seems that white fat has a weakness for a hormone called irisin. Irisin may transmit signals to the white fat cells that convert them to beige (kind of like those Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to your door every now and then but hopefully a lot more effective) prompting them to burn fat instead of storing it. So how do I get some of this irisin, right?

How To Speed Up Your Metabolism (or promote ‘browning’)

There are two ways to enhance the production of irisin and promote ‘browning’:

1. Aerobic Exercise at a Leisurely Pace

Vigorous exercise doesn’t seem to be necessary. A study published by Paul Lee, MD, PhD has found that pedaling leisurely on an exercise bike significantly increased the levels of irisin in his research subjects. Pretty cool!

Me Reading the Rags on the Exercise Bike

Me Reading the Rags on my Recumbent Cycle (before coffee no less)

After discovering this tidbit I’ve decided to make it a part of my morning ritual to read my mags on the exercise bike instead of at night in my bed. Not in a can’t breath, sweaty kind of way, just leisurely. But exercise isn’t the only way to promote ‘browning’ and increase your metabolism. (and 700 words later here is the meat of it):

2. Lower Your Thermostat – Now this sounds too good to be true but the same research also found an equivalent increase in irisin by making their research subjects shiver for 10 minutes! He did this by wrapping them in water filled blankets and gradually cooling the water to 54 degrees.

Increased brown fat in cold temperatures

Increase of brown fat in cold temperatures

Since Lee’s discovery, people throughout the scientific community have been lowering their thermostats to promote the feeling of chill and, in doing so, burn some calories. And it doesn’t work if you bundle up, you’ve really gotta be cold – otherwise everyone in the northeast would be skinny, right?

So Ladies, try lowering your thermostat a bit or maybe just do away with the cozy comforter at night and sleep with just a sheet. You know how trainers say ‘feel the burn’, well I’m saying ‘feel the chill’! Either we’ll catch pneumonia or shed a few pounds.

Either way it’s worth a shot ! I’ve been busy on the blog and I haven’t been working out so much lately…kim ann mailchimp

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