Everything you need to know about thermogenesis

Have you ever heard the term “thermogenesis”? Chances are that unless you work in the health and wellness industry, it sounds like a scary science term or some kind of rare disease. Well, we are pleased to tell you that it is neither of those, but instead, a practice you should be adding regularly into your wellness routine for a plethora of reasons. To break it down for all of us, we enlisted our favorite nutritionist and author of Body Love, Kelly LeVeque of BeWell by Kelly, to tell us the what, how, and why behind thermogenesis (and all the reasons why you should give it a try). Get ready for some serious science, ladies…

“Thermogenesis is the metabolic process where your body burns calories to produce heat.”

So, first things first: What exactly is thermogenesis? Thermogenesis is the metabolic process where your body burns calories to produce heat. It occurs when you work out, eat spicy food (ever find yourself sweating after slurping Tom Yum?), or expose your body to cold temperatures, explains Kelly. And if you’re looking to reap the benefits, cold temperatures are key (not Thai food)! From cold showers or ice-baths to the polar bear plunge and cryotherapy, exposure to cold temperature can challenge your cells through a process called hormesis. Hormesis is the phenomenon in which low doses of toxins (in this case, cold temperatures) produce stimulating and beneficial effects, says Kelly.

“Exposure to cold temperature can challenge your cells through a process called hormesis, the phenomenon in which low doses of toxins produce stimulating and beneficial effects.”

And yes, there are reasons you are seeing cryotherapy chambers pop up all over Los Angeles! Studies suggest simply being exposed to the cold can cause fat loss, decreased muscle pain, inflammation relief, improved immune system, increased circulation, increased thyroid function, better complexion and a reduced appearance of cellulite.

To appreciate how this works you must understand the difference between your white fat (white adipose tissue) and brown fat (brown adipose tissue). Brown adipose tissue, also known as BAT, is the thermogenic fat that produces heat via energy producing mitochondria. When exposed to cold, we stimulate our active brown adipose tissue to increase energy expenditure, glucose uptake and triglyceride uptake. To simplify it, brown fat isn’t just a storage fat cell. Brown Fat is an active fat cell that can burn energy; both glucose and triglycerides. Brown fat burns fat and exposure to cold temperatures makes our BAT more active. Exposure to cold can help BAT cells uptake 12 times (!!) more glucose, helping to bring down elevated blood sugar.

“Exposure to cold temperatures increases the release of adinopectin, a hormone that breaks down fat and transports glucose into muscles, which can have a muscle repair effect and enhance recovery.”

Exposure to cold temperatures also increases the release of adinopectin, a hormone that breaks down fat and transports glucose into muscles, which can have a muscle repair effect and enhance recovery. The transport of glucose into muscle cells also helps to bring down elevated blood sugar. So, it is no surprise that low adiponectin levels have been associated with diabetes and obesity, says Kelly.

“Cold showers are expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.”

And it’s not just the body that is supported by cold therapy… The mind is too! Cold showers are expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect. A 3-week cryotherapy study showed that almost 35% of people with mood and anxiety disorders experienced a 50% decrease in symptoms. The cold also increases the release of our happy hormone norepinephrine

Looking to boost your fat burning, immune system and your mood? Turn your shower nozzle to the coldest setting for the last 2 minutes letting the water hit your collarbone and the nape of your neck. Looking for more? The treatment to book is whole body cryotherapy, a two to three-minute intense exposure to freezing nitrogen gas with temperatures ranging from minus 184 degrees to minus 264 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pretty fascinating stuff, right? So, who’s taking a cold shower and cryotherapy sessions like we are this week…

Will you incorporate thermogenesis into your wellness routine?

And, what other health and nutrition topics would you like to see us cover with Kelly here on the site? 

Let us know in the comments below!

XO Team LC

P.S. Want to learn more about Kelly’s view and all things nutrition and wellness? Pick up a copy of her new book Body Love by clicking here.

Photo: instagram via @marianna_hewitt
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