Last week’s Performance Tip focused on the three types of fat cells and how they impact fitness:

  • White fat - primarily used for storage, dominates our waist, hips and thighs and is largely responsible for obesity.

  • Brown fat - metabolically active, found along shoulder blades, neck and spinal cord, converts food into heat and protects us from obesity. Unfortunately, we have only a tiny amount of brown fat cells - about 50 grams.

  • Beige fat - discovered in 2015, metabolically similar to brown fat. What makes beige fat novel, is under the right conditions, white fat can be transformed into beige fat via a process called browning. In other words, white fat can become fat burning engines. 

Converting “Bad fat” Into "Good fat"


Scientists have identified a number of ways to convert white or "bad fat" into beige or "good fat". One of the most effective ways is to simply lower the temperature of your environment. At lower temperatures, your body needs to generate more heat so there is an increase in browning. Researchers have suggested that just two hours of exposure each day to a temperature around 66° may be enough to transform white fat into beige fat. Alternatively, taking a cold shower or ice bath increases the transformation. Exercise is another way. Some studies report during exercise your body produces a protein called irisin that stimulates browning. Finally, certain supplements such as the hot agent in red pepper can increase browning and fat burning.


Because browning represents an innovative approach to weight control, I would expect drug companies have high interest in developing drugs that stimulate browning. I am also surprised no one yet has marketed a new diet in which you exercise in a cold shower while munching on red chili peppers...

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